Working from home - Is your space helping or hindering you?
Updated: Mar 14
“Working from home is easy” – said NO-ONE ever ! Nonetheless the number of people working from home has increased by a staggering 20% in the last decade, says the TUC. It currently stands at around 1.5 million.
Are you one of them ?
When I first set up my own business I was so excited to be my own boss, doing it my way with no-one to answer to. Whilst there are heaps of benefits to working for yourself I have to say a lot of the time it is really tough with so many differing roles to cover. One area that I have tweaked and tested frequently over the last couple of years is my “office”. Now I say office but what I really mean is laptop space ! Indoors, outdoors , desk, bed, lawn and the list goes on.
The freedom to create the space that WE will flourish and thrive in is definitely an opportunity to grasp. You really do want your "patch" to enable you to be productive and inspired. There are many elements that you can control to edge you into this zone. I’m thinking lighting, sound, temperature, furniture, organisation, storage, etc. which all contribute towards the general ambiance. Whether you are setting up for the first time or been working from home for a while these tips can be applied to your situation.
So here goes, a few pointers to mull over:-
· Carve out your ZONE. If you have a whole room to call your own then this is fabulous and gives you plenty of scope to sculpt an ideal environment. If you don’t have this luxury then there’s plenty of good alternatives. Earmark your space, whether that’s the kitchen table, a corner of the lounge or a section of a spare room. This doesn’t mean that you always have to work in that exact location but it does provide an ANCHOR to base your operation around. For me I’ve set up a camping table in the spare bedroom that can easily be removed when we have guests. Multi-purpose and minimalist suit the needs of my work. What suits you ?
· SOUNDS and SMELLS. Perhaps not an area you have spent much time thinking about to date. Dr. Harriet Short has written a fascinating blog on “The Sounds of The Office” which explores how we respond to varying sounds during the working day. She suggests certain sounds can help us to tune into our more private spaces. This could be particularly helpful if our homes are bristling with distractions such as kids, dogs, blaring tv’s etc. There are some great Apps out there that offer “white noise” background sounds to allow us to focus. “Noisli” is a cracking one which lets you blend sounds such as rain, coffee shop hum or an oscillating fan to create your own soundscape.
Interestingly, Thomas Cooks call centre in Falkirk pipes the smell of coconut oil into the workplace along with the sounds of the seaside and relaxing music. When they enter the building they pass through a passageway filled with bright sunny lighting. There must be something in it. Now the fun part - allow yourself some time to both consider and TEST out what could be of benefit.
· Spend some time pondering over what EXACTLY you need at your desk. A laptop is probably essential but a printer could be located elsewhere, for example. If you currently have an overstuffed office area then your first step will be to DECLUTTER. There’s pretty good evidence that physical clutter distracts us from focusing on the things we really need to get done. If you’re surrounded by piles of papers, unfinished projects and other work paraphernalia then it is a drain on your emotional stamina. Giving yourself an organised clear space to work gives you space to THINK clearly – hugely important.
· You will need to consider STORAGE. However digitalised you are you will probably still have some paperwork and stationary to store. Having purposeful storage that suits YOUR needs is vital. There is a vast array of storage options out there from the traditional style filing cabinets to simple baskets or trays. With G.D.P.R. in mind you are likely to need a lockable filing cabinet / box / drawer and shredder to ensure compliance. (Unless you outsource this). For me the simpler the better. I’ve gone for a metal locking filing box underneath my table and a magazine holder for current projects. My office “Pinterest” board has a few ideas to get you in the mood if you’re struggling for inspiration.
Bring some of the outside in !
Researchers from Exeter University found that a bit of GREENERY near you can increase your productivity. If you‘re usually rubbish with plants then perhaps a cactus. might be just the ticket !
· Our home is full of associations and generally a place we associate with free time. It is likely we need to make a subtle shift of our THOUGHTS in order to work at our best. When you work in a traditional setting e.g. an office, showroom etc. you get into work mode immediately you walk through the door. Working from home requires a bit more discipline. Consider a RITUAL that will let your body and mind know it’s time to get down to some work. This could be putting on certain tunes (Or white noise!), making a cuppa or getting dressed into a particular outfit.
· DISTRACTIONS – it’s easy to see all the “housework”, pet care etc. that needs doing when you are at home for the day. Ensure that you allocate and schedule in time when those household chores will be done. Knowing that it WILL be done later can allow you to put it out of your mind whilst you concentrate.
· Just a quickie but IMPORTANT. Don’t forget to allocate a wee bit of CLEANING time to your desk area so that it stays in tip top condition.
You don’t have to be conventional. We are all so different and have hugely varying requirements. Working from “home” can morph into working from a café, with a friend, at a business community centre (Like Impact Hub ) or the beach. The most important thing is you EXPLORE and find out what works for YOU.
This blog was created initially at my kitchen table, continued overlooking the turquoise Croatian waters and finished up in the spare room with the holiday washing virtually drying on top of me! Fortunately, I can work pretty well in all those spaces. My front runner for focus and creativity (And ultimately getting the job done) was definitely my kitchen table with the garden glowing green in the background, birds tweeting and log fire burning from my noise App and a faint smell of coffee. Oh, and the kids at school was also a great help !
Over to you - what can you do to bring more simplicity, order and inspiration to your "working from home "environment ?
I’d love to hear what you’re up to so do let me know.
If you need a helping hand we can work together online or in person. Check out further details on my website.