Our homes are now our offices, and that’s likely to last long after the pandemic is over. The percentage of workers around the world that is permanently working from home is expected to double this year, according to a survey from Enterprise Technology Research.
Productivity from home has been positive, leading to more companies offering long-term plans for remote work. Upwork predicts over 36 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025. That’s a staggering 87% increase from prior to the pandemic!
Since we’ll be operating out of our home offices for a while, it’s important to set the stage for peak productivity. Here is a compilation of some essentials you need to maximize your performance.
Set up a dedicated space
It’s important to have a space that you can designate as an office but keep separate from your living space. Whether it’s a spare bedroom or basement, it’s important to be able to close it off when you are not working. If you can see the laptop open, you are more likely to tackle work in your downtime.
I considered this years ago when I converted the bottom floor of my home into an office. For me, separation is essential, so I literally keep all of my work downstairs and don’t bring anything upstairs into my home. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to separate their spaces physically, so if you are working in cramped quarters, designate a corner of the room or part of the kitchen table/counter that you can treat as separate as possible.
Get a good office chair and desk
There’s nothing more important than an ergonomic chair to support your body so you don’t experience any pain. Since I end up sitting for many hours a day talking to coaching clients, I like a chair that has the ability to change positions so I can sit up or lean back.
Standing desks aren’t just trendy — they can actually affect productivity. A study by Texas A&M University found that employees using stand-capable desks were more productive than their colleagues in seated desks. But the benefits go on. Employees who worked at standing desks sat on average for nearly 1.6 hours less per day than their seated co-workers.
Invest in strong internet and phone service
It’s worth making an investment in your connectivity. Working from home requires attending virtual meetings, so it’s necessary to have a fast, secure, dependable internet connection. Your phone’s cell service is also important. A while back, every time I was in my downtown Chicago office, I noticed calls would drop repeatedly. I changed service providers and never had that problem again.
Let there be light
Good lighting is not only important to avoid eye strain, but in the new normal of constant video conferences, it’s essential to look professional. Avoid sitting with your back to any windows to avoid having your face silhouetted by your web camera. Instead, face the window for natural light. If your lighting needs a boost, use a lamp directly by your face, not to the side and not behind you.
Indulge in a second monitor
I recently added a second monitor to my setup, and it’s been a game changer. It gives you extra space to multitask and work on multiple windows at the same time. Once you get used to it, you’ll find working on just one screen limiting. In some cases, your company may be able to provide you with additional equipment you need to work from home.
Find some audio enhancements
If you are sharing your workspace with your partner, children or roommate, it’s helpful to have some type of noise-canceling headphones for when you have to focus. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, consider a pair of Bluetooth headphones. I love AirPods because they are comfortable. They do have a short battery life, so you may want to have a backup pair that’s charged so you can switch out throughout the day.
Purchase a good coffee machine
We’re all saving money on fewer trips to Starbucks for our favorite hot beverages, so use your savings to buy a good coffee machine to treat yourself. Think of all of the single-use cups you are saving from the landfill, too!
Plants, flowers and whatever else delights you
Research has shown that working near plants can increase productivity by 15%. In addition, plants can increase concentration, reduce stress and improve air quality. Invoke your green thumb and brighten up your space with plants!
In addition to or in lieu of plants, use personalization to create a workspace you welcome being in. That could include photos of your family, a frame with your favorite quote, fresh flowers or a Zen rock garden. Whatever the items, they should help create a peaceful environment for you.
A room with a view
It’s helpful to work near a window to experience natural light and a view. It helps to feel expanse and space rather than enclosure. Again, not everyone has the luxury of choosing their view but natural light should be a determining factor in where you work. While you may think you’ll be more distracted by a window, research from Northwestern University finds that sitting next to a window can increase your alertness.
Set your space up for easy accessibility
Setting yourself up for success can directly affect your efficiency. I always have everything I need neatly organized and in close proximity to my workspace. I have water, snacks, coffee, pens, notepads, charging stations, tissues and a wastebasket all within arm’s reach, and my client files are just one step away.
That’s no excuse to sit and work continuously without breaks, and I encourage you to schedule regular breaks throughout your day that require you to get up and walk, move or stretch. But being organized means you never have to search for something. Creating a thoughtful workspace that fits your needs while maximizing your ability to be productive will make working from home feel less like a burden and more like a luxury.