For an increasing number of Americans, a 9-to-5 doesn’t involve any commute to work. Video conferencing, online collaborative software, and increasingly reliable messaging systems have made it easier for workplaces to function even without face-to-face interaction. In fact, nearly 50% of American workers have a job that involves some amount of work from home, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Although it’s nice to be able to do your job without ever leaving your home, just plopping down on the couch in your pajamas isn’t always the most productive way to start your day. Designating a space as your home office is a necessity. But it takes more than just a desk calendar and a lamp to get you in business. Here are four tips for a productive home office.
- You Need a Room with a Door.
The biggest obstacle to at-home productivity is distraction. It comes in many forms: a loud neighbor, a sink full of dishes, a television playing your favorite show. That’s why it’s important that you have a space dedicated solely to your job, away from all domestic distractions. Wherever you choose to locate your home office, make sure there’s a door that you can close while you’re working. It doesn’t just keep distraction out — it keeps you in.
- You Need a Real Desk.
No one can see me, you might say to yourself. No one cares if I do this round of work in bed, on my back. No one will know if have my feet up in my La-Z-Boy.
They might not see you, but they might see the results — or lack thereof. Any posture that encourages napping is not good for your productivity. That’s why it’s imperative that you invest in a desk and a chair that you actually want to sit in. Go for something ergonomic and adjustable — something you don’t mind spending time in. Studies have shown that sitting upright is good for concentration, circulation, and what behavioral psychologists call “meta-cognition,” or thought confidence.
- You Need Light… and Preferably a Window.
Sitting in the dark is depressing. It’s also unproductive — according to a recent study by scientists at Northwestern University, workers in offices with no windows and little natural light were less healthy, less efficient, and less likely to sleep well outside of work.
If there’s no window in front of which to place your desk and chair, ensure that your home office is well lit. Invest in a lamp — or better yet, invest in several. Three-point lighting will suffuse the room with light without blinding you from one over-bright source.
4. You Need a Timer.
When you work in an office, the work day has an agreed-upon rhythm. You arrive at a certain time, you have meetings at certain times, and you leave at a certain time, alongside everyone else. But things are a little looser when you work from home. Time can seem limitless, expanding to the horizon of your day. It’s easy to think that you’ll have plenty of time to do everything you need to do… later. And when 5:00 pm hits, you realize you haven’t finished anything.
That’s why every home office should have an alarm clock or timer. You can break your day into discrete parts, and budget your time accordingly. Maybe you only want to spend 15 minutes on email, but you need a longer chunk to brainstorm strategy for a team project. Setting alarms will make you proactive about reaching small, attainable goals — and the constant threat of the ding (or buzz) of the alarm is also a spur to productivity.
Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.