When you’re in a comfortable and inspiring environment, your creativity and productivity levels are at their highest. You might not think about it often (or maybe you do since COVID-19 has dramatically changed how and where we do our work), but your space can have a big impact on how efficiently you work. Here’s our guide to making your environment as inviting, inspiring, and calm as possible.
Design Your Workspace Layout
If you have the luxury of ample space, think about what you need to work efficiently. Would a small workspace in the corner work, or do you need more room to spread out? If a compact space is for you, avoid letting clutter pile up. Have more square footage to work with? You can really get creative! Make the space cozy by adding personal touches or making yourself an inspirational quote board. Incorporating things that speak to your values or how you’d like to be purposeful in your work and life can be motivational.
Choose one or two things that truly make you happy when you see them. A picture of loved ones or pets can do the trick! Maybe you’ve always dreamed of vacationing somewhere—pictures are great reminders of what you’re working toward. Customize some office supplies like mousepads or desk calendars with visuals that bring you joy. Be sure to place them in your sightline so they catch your eye frequently and keep happiness top of mind.
Create as much comfort as possible in your new workspace. Consider your seating: Do you have enough back support? Do you still feel good after sitting for 30-45 minutes? If not, it may be time to rethink your physical workspace. While it’s a great practice to get up and walk around every so often, you may not have this opportunity if you’re working against deadlines or completing other time-sensitive tasks. Be mindful of your posture while sitting (or standing) and use something that offers the appropriate support for your body.
Analyze how your workspace allows you to position your body ergonomically. What are the angles of your elbows, knees, and neck? Do you feel fatigued more quickly than normal? If so, see if slight adjustments can be made to help create more comfort while you work. Maybe there’s a place where you can stand for a while to mix it up and do some micro-movements in your legs and back to keep you alert and focused. Proper computer monitor height is a very common pain point, and it’s easy to fix! Keeping attention on these things will put your mind and body at ease while you’re trying to power through that project.
Plan Out Your Days
People who prefer to know what they’re doing before they clock in (or those who are fulfilled by ticking boxes off a to-do list), typically plan their day the night before. All it takes is a quick check of your calendar and to-do lists, and then you’ll be ready to go for the next morning. This will save you time at the beginning of your day. Consider using a desktop to-do list or a bullet journal to keep yourself organized. Right now, your daily planning may have had to adapt greatly because of COVID-19. Many of us have suddenly found ourselves working remotely and balancing everything else going on at home. The daily schedule you were used to at the office may not fit your needs right now. That’s okay—consider what adjustments you need to incorporate to make your new situation work.
Rethink Your Storage
Everyone organizes differently. Some people need just a few drawers to store files while others prefer decorative folders, pen jars, and brightly colored sticky notes. If you can, use fun pen colors or highlighters to brighten up your paperwork and notes. Find something that compliments your work style. If you are better with color-coded files, add decorative labels or washi tape for some style. Tired of plain and boring water bottles? Decorate a mason jar or mug with pictures and quotes to keep you motivated. Even the basic functions of your workspace have room for personality.
Clutter makes it difficult to function at your highest level of productivity and it creates extra stress you don’t need. Prevent clutter-driven stress by picking up nightly and doing a thorough weekly clean. Before you wrap up for the day, take a minute to clear your workspace of anything non-essential so you can start the next day with ease. If you’ve repurposed your dining room table as your workspace during COVID-19, setting up and breaking down of your temporary work area each night may be a necessity! It can also act as a good physical task to help shut off your work brain like a commute. Take ten minutes at the end of every week to sort through your paperwork. File what you don’t need and recycle or shred the rest. Organize any dangling cords, clear out any trash, and sanitize anything you touch regularly. Your desk, keyboard, chair arms, mouse, phone, and even your drawer pulls could all use a wipe-down.
Digital cleanliness matters too—declutter your computer files! If you no longer need a file, you can either find an organized place to keep an archive or delete it from your system. It will save you time and allow you to find what you need much faster.
Check the Noise
Noises from your surroundings can vary; one day there are hardly any distractions, and the next it’s rivaling a rock concert. These days, if you’re co-working remotely with a spouse or roommate due to shelter-in-place from COVID-19, or if you’re managing children at home while working, noise can be challenging to manage. If you work well with background noises—great! If not, try out some coping strategies like playing white noise like thunderstorms or static can help increase focus and productivity by drowning out any additional sounds. You can also plug in some noise-canceling headphones and listen to your favorite songs to get you through your to-do list. Try a few different soundtracks or playlists to see what works best. Note: what works best in the morning may not always work best in the afternoon. You may need to switch it up after lunch to keep your brain moving.
Keep a Guilty Pleasure
We all have something on our desks that might be unnecessary, but we still love it. It could be a good book, a snack box, a fidget spinner, or a bowl of candy. Keep it! Something small that gives you a boost when you need it most is necessary when you’re out of your normal element. If you aren’t sure how to decorate, look for some external inspiration to get the ideas flowing. Need even more inspiration to setting up and keeping your home office space tidy? You can even read Marie Kondo’s new book, Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life.
Now that you’ve created joy in your workspace, here are more tips on successfully working from home!