Between remote work, virtual learning, and daily living, the role of our homes is expanding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, while the role of the home is expanding, the space available is not. This leaves families to adjust and adapt their spaces as best they can to accommodate the new demands. As a result, staying organized when you work from home becomes crucial to productivity and mental well-being.
The benefits of staying organized are compelling. A January 2020 study conducted by the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO) found that 55% of organized respondents said they felt more calm and relaxed when organized. Families also indicated they felt less stressed and irritable (49%), felt good about themselves (35%), were self-motivated to clean up (29%), and were more creative and productive (24%) as a result of organization.
Staying organized when you work from home can be a challenge. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially as we grapple with the current pandemic. However, the benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks. Below are tips from experts and fellow WFH professionals to help in your quest to bring organization to your home.
Be a Minimalist
One of the biggest complaints about working at home, especially in a small space, is the stuff that goes along with it. Papers build up, clutter spreads out, and pretty soon your entire space has been taken over.
A Clean Desk Is a Clean Mind
Stasia Steele, Chief Organizing Officer at The Little Details, advises purging everything on top of your desk to reduce visual clutter.
“Give everything a home. Rather than having office supplies scattered around your desk, make sure you have some sort of desk organization for those supplies so everything has a place to live.
According to professional organizer, Ben Soreff of House to Home Organizing, the number one organizing tool is a clear open workspace. His tip is to put projects away when not working on them.
“Often, we leave piles/projects out to remind us to do something but instead we want to focus on the action. Try putting the project away and only leave out on a post it or app the specific action you need to do.”
Let It Go
Getting rid of anything you don’t need can significantly reduce clutter. Soreff suggests that staying organized when you work from home requires you to rethink materials you keep after a project.
“Think about why we are saving the materials…is it for a professional keepsake or is it for reference on the next project? Perhaps you only need to save the actual finished report/project and not the supporting materials.”
Daniel Caughill, author and Co-Founder of The Dog Tale, is also on the minimalist bandwagon as he works out of a one-bedroom apartment in New York City. With his office in the corner of the bedroom, he was finding missing documents under the bedsheets. His solution was to go paperless.
“I have one and only one notebook for all things work, and absolutely anything that ever needs to be written down goes in that. Apart from that, I try to do everything online. Over time, it’s been easy to shift into a completely digital workplace.”
Get Creative with Space
With more uses for the home, families have come up with creative ways to use the spaces available in their homes.
Breakfast Bars Make Great Stand-Up Desks
One of the most popular workspace options outside of a dedicated office is the kitchen breakfast bar. This solution is especially popular for those who like to switch between sitting and standing at their desks. Jesse Silkoff, Co-Founder and President of MyRoofingPal comments:
“I prefer to stand while I work, so the bar area between my kitchen and dining room works perfectly for this. I’ve moved the bar stools, added a lamp and made a little space for my laptop and everything else I’ll need for work.”
New Uses for the Backyard
With several people in the household vying for space, many families find that establishing more seating areas throughout the home is beneficial. During the warm summer months, this means using backyards and patio spaces to offer family members other options for work, school, leisure, or just a change of scenery.
Irreverent Gent’s Dave Bowden has also enjoyed working on the patio after he gave up his office to his wife.
“While we don’t have a big house, we do have a nice patio at the back complete with an outdoor dining set. So, we turned our backyard patio into an outdoor office. The results have been great. Working outside is refreshing and makes the day feel more relaxing, even when I’m busy.”
Check the Closets and Under the Stairs
Sometimes more specialized spaces are necessary to stay organized when you work from home. Author Girish Shukla and his wife managed to carve out practical and imaginative spaces for each of their family members.
“Our first problem was to give both our kids privacy and space to attend online lectures and do classwork without distractions. For this, we built a desk in our walk-in closet. I fixed some LED bulbs in the closet and bought a WiFi extender.”
The creative Shuklas did not stop there though.
“My wife is a medical student and has to attend classes through Zoom calls. So, we converted our ping-pong table into her own personal dissection and experimental table. Every day we use a new disposable sheet to cover the table and discard it safely after its use.”
And lastly, Shukla created his own special spot in the house.
“I have my own workspace set up under my stairs. We have secret cabinets where I keep my stationery, files, and occasionally some snacks! I am a writer, so I thoroughly enjoy having a space that feels like another dimension.”
Leverage Your Vertical Space
If your home has run out of storage spaces, try looking up. Another method to stay organized when you work from home may be to add vertical solutions. According to Emilia Wong, Interior Design Advisor at HomeRenoGuru:
“This could mean installing overhead compartments or shelves for storage of stationery. It could also mean utilizing the wall for work by hanging a whiteboard, which you can use instead of paper. This saves space and is also eco-friendly.”
Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP has a small home office, and his tip is to install high shelves just below the ceiling for storage.
“The shelves can cover your entire office, and they will offer tons of space for storing things without shrinking your actual room space.”
Cooper Haywood, a Financial Analyst with WallStreetZen took vertical space to a new level after he and his girlfriend started working at home.
“We replaced our bed with a murphy bed that folds into a wall and converts into a desk! It was a total gamechanger, it never really occurred to us how much more efficiently we could design our space. I guess necessity really is the mother of invention.”
There’s Always the Car
Peter Mann, Founder of SC Vehicle Hire, advises:
“If you don’t have space in your house, your car might be a good option! I have kids at home and my wife works, so finding my own working space has been a challenge! Once I was driving back from an errand and took a conference call while in the car. I found that I was more productive while in my car because I could concentrate better. I bought a laptop table that you could put on your lap and started doing my work from the car.”
Do Double Duty
While making creative use of spare spaces is a great way to keep work and school out of the main household areas, some families don’t have that option. For these folks, the only way to improve the functionality of their home is to have some spaces do double duty.
Leave It as You Found It
For Shara Ryan, a professional organizer and blogger, the biggest challenge is when your desk doubles as a dining room table or is used for another activity. Her advice to stay organized when you work from home is to keep business materials separate from other things by investing in a work cart.
“Buying a cart on wheels is a great option because you can move it to another room or out of the way when not working. Use stacking file holders, desk organizers, and baskets to keep everything organized.”
On a similar note, Carla Diaz, Co-Founder of Broadband Search uses a bag to store away work materials.
“This makes packing away your work equipment easy. You’ll probably find it gets easier and easier to just leave your stuff on the table. But you need to persevere because this starts to get very messy, and you’ll end up searching for hours if you have important papers jumbled up with other random papers.”
How to Transform Your House into a Studio
One problem that has quickly come to light as more people are working from home is a professional-quality video backdrop. Horror stories about spouses accidentally streaking across camera or toddlers have temper tantrums during video conferences have led many to reevaluate where they take their calls.
One way to solve this dilemma is to add your own backdrop. Most video-conferencing software allows individuals to drop in their own electronic backdrop using a greenscreen. This was the solution of Daniel Webb, Marketing and Social Outreach for Fit Feedback.
“I had to buy a green roller shade, now it’s hanging from the ceiling. I’m quite comfortable with it, and I can really focus on what I’m saying instead of constantly looking to see if everything is in place.”
Molood Ceccarelli, Founder and CEO of Remote Forever has taken the home studio a step farther using an umbrella, ironing board, and a yoga brick.
“I use four small clip-on LED study lights that I have clipped to a regular white umbrella installed in front of me (behind my computer) to get professional studio lighting. Sometimes I use my ironing table as a standing desk so I can be more energetic when presenting online. I already had a portable microphone and high quality headsets. And, let’s not forget that I use my yoga brick on my desk as a way to bring my microphone a little closer to my mouth so that my voice is captured clearly.”
How to Transform Your House into a School
Another dilemma faced by work from home parents is how to get their work done while schooling their kids. With two sons aged 7 and 8 and limited space, Romana King, Director of Content for Zolo, had to make some adjustments to transform her home into a learning and working environment.
What worked for her was converting the dining and family room. In the family room, she added desks with storage for her sons and decorated the area around them.
“The simple process of creating a defined space through visual artwork helps us to detach from work or return to work after a bit of play—a transition that can become quite muddled when tackling work-from-home arrangements.”
King’s office became the end of the dining room table so she could overlook the open-concept space and keep an eye on the kids.
“I would simply pack up three items: notebook, notepad and pen. The dining room table was then ready for family time. The process from work to mealtime is quick and painless.”
Regardless of the tactics you and your family employ, staying organized when you work from home is integral to success. Not only does it keep the chaos of the outside world at bay, it empowers us, keeps us productive, and reduces our stress levels. And right now, we can all use more of that.
Do you have any tips on how to stay organized when you work from home? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!
Images via Canva and Guest Experts
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