If you’re being financially impacted by the coronavirus crisis, check out these resources from folks in the Plutus Community.
Millions of people are unexpectedly working remotely with little notice or chance to set up a suitable home office. As a result, some of us might need to course-correct and create a better work-from-home space than, say, a blanket nest on the couch.
Fortunately, working from home does have one big upside: you have unprecedented control over your workspace. Now is your chance to work how and where is best for you.
To get you started, I’ve pulled together some of the most helpful tips I’ve learned over 5 years of working from home. Whether your remote gig is a temporary arrangement (thanks, COVID-19) or more permanent, these ideas will help you set up a workspace designed to get more done while stressing less.
Designate a workspace
Not everyone has a whole separate room they can use as a home office. Consider what other spaces in your home could be used as an office space, even temporarily.
Maybe there’s a quieter corner in your room or If you have a bigger closet somewhere in your house, for example, you might be able to clear it out and set up a card table to work as your temporary home office.
Build-in some privacy
Consider your other housemates, too, and how you can ensure you have enough privacy and uninterrupted work time to, well, effectively work. If you live with other adults, this could be as easy as sitting at your desk and putting on headphones; most roommates will understand that means you’re busy working.
If you have a cat or dog, however, consider their habits and whether they’re likely to interrupt you while you’re working. Working with kids at home can be even more distracting. While you might not have a room you can dedicate to a home office, it can help to set up your work area in space that’s out of the way and, ideally, has a door.
Outfit and organize
Then, get your space in order. Collect and organize items you’ll need to complete your work: computer equipment, papers, headphones, and so on. It’s way less disruptive to work in a prepared space than to panic-hunt down headphones for a call that starts in 10 minutes!
Get your digital space set up for you, as well. Set up any account accesses you need to work from home, as well as a password manager to keep these secure. Lastly, start experimenting with different time management and productivity tools that can help you organize and prioritize tasks, such as ToDoist or Trello.
Think about the sensory information you might get at your new workspace. What can you hear, see, or smell — and might that be distracting to you? Setting up shop next to the kitchen where roommates are regularly chatting and cooking, for example, could be more distracting than elsewhere in your home.
Avoid putting anything in your work area that’s not work-related. This means keeping handheld video game consoles, iPads, or even books out of your space.
Same goes for your digital workspace, too! I like to use browser extensions like StayFocusd and WasteNoTime to limit time on distracting or time-wasting sites (YouTube and Twitter for me) during work hours. You can also find apps that control app usage if you’re distracted by video games or applications.
One big distraction could be discomfort: it’s harder to concentrate if you’re too cold or too hot, sitting on a chair that’s too hard, or you’re thirsty.
So outfit your space with whatever will help you feel comfortable and stay focused. I like to keep a sweater and blanket nearby, for example, and fill up a big water bottle to keep at my desk before I start working. You can also invest in an ergonomic keyboard or a more-cushy office chair.
Don’t forget to clean your space regularly. Put items away, throw out trash, clear dishes, and wipe down your area each day. It will help you focus if you clear visual clutter and distractions.
Set remote work boundaries
One of the biggest issues with working from home is that the personal and professional can bleed over into each other. Work emails interrupt you when you’re trying to relax watching a movie, or your friends all seem to text or call you during work hours.
Setting clear boundaries in your physical, digital, and mental spaces can help delineate work from other areas of life and help you stay focused. A separate space for work helps, but whatever your home office setup you can still create better lines between work and personal life.
I like to start my workday with a walk around the block in place of the usual commute, for example. And if I switch to a non-work activity like talking to a friend or reading a book, I’ll move to a different room to do so.
Put your phone on do-not-disturb mode to avoid social interruptions. Talk to housemates, partners, and kids to let them know how you want your workspace and time to be respected.
You’re in control — use that to your advantage
While your new work-from-home arrangement might not be ideal, you can still find ways to use your unprecedented control over your workspace to your advantage.
Having a set place to work is important, but what makes a good work environment is different for everyone. And it could even be different for you on different days, or for different tasks. While I have an at-home office, I often work in other areas of my house because I want to switch things up — or I’m just sick of my desk.
Remember: it’s totally normal to struggle with such a big change in your work schedule and structure. It will take some time and experimentation to adapt to your new work setup. So be open to trying different things to find what works for you, then stick with it.