According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, 5.64 million Australians use the internet to do work, away from their place of work. When the research was conducted, that number amounted to over half of the total number of employed Australians. This means that if you don’t currently work from home, there’s a good chance that one day, you will. The benefits of being able to work from home are well documented, with increased flexibility, productivity, and overall satisfaction being cited (not to mention decreased company costs).
However, for those who want to take advantage of the increasing opportunities to work without having to go to work, things aren’t quite as simple as grabbing a laptop and plugging it into the nearest WiFi network. If you really want to get the most out of working from home, you need the right kind of home office. And what kind is that? Well, that largely depends upon the type of work you’ll be doing. Still, there are a few universal tips for setting up a home office that can get you started on the right path. Here are five of our favourites.
1. Find the right space
Before you slide into your chair and boot up the computer, you need to be sure that you’ve found the right space to convert into a functional home office. Certain areas may seem obvious (a spare bedroom or the garage), but unless you’re willing to try different spots and make note of what they have to offer, you’ll never be sure that you’ve chosen the absolute best spot. So, grab a folding table and do some research. Try working for a few hours in each potential spot. Make note of anything that you immediately notice as a distraction such as noise levels, temperature, and scenery. It is also important to ensure you have full mobile phone reception and internet accessibility in the area you choose, as these will be important in your day to day work. Once you’ve discovered the potential drawbacks of a few locations, you’ll have an easier time making an informed final decision.
2. Plan it out
After you’ve located the best spot, make sure that you take a bit of time to conceptualise your workspace before you make it a reality. Determine how much open desk space you’ll need, and how much storage space your work will require. Take note of the availability (or lack of availability) of power points, and determine what you’ll have to do to make sure that you can get power to all of your devices—ideally without having to involve several metres of extension cords. Decide where your computer, your monitor, your printer, and any of your other tools will sit, and be sure to take your own level of messiness into account. For example, do you constantly have to brush food-wrappers or discarded notes away from your work surface? Then you’d better have a rubbish bin nearby. As for computer placement, be sure that your monitor and keyboard are at the right height to be easily and comfortably accessible, and to help you maintain good posture.
3. Consider lighting
It seems fairly obvious that natural light is preferred in a working environment, but don’t be too hasty. Yes, natural light provides certain benefits in an office space, such as increased levels of alertness and improved focus. However, before you go setting up your desk right in front of that big picture window, consider how glare is going to affect your ability to work. Of course, shutting yourself up in a windowless garage with only a flickering fluorescent bulb to provide illumination can be even worse. If you do end up by a window, make sure that you have curtains, shades, or blinds available to help darken the room when you need to. If you do use artificial lighting, soft lighting will make everything much more comfortable for you. Consider indirect light (such as light that is first bounced off of a ceiling) to reduce shadows and soften light that might otherwise be too harsh.
4. Choose proper furniture
OK, you’ve got the spot, and you’ve got the plan; now you need the furniture. When selecting a desk, be sure to consider factors relating to form as well as function. You’ll need something that has enough room to allow you to accomplish your tasks without feeling cluttered, and having some built-in storage may be important to you as well. Don’t forget that you’ll also be having to look at this desk for days on end, so you should make sure that you like its appearance and that it fits in well with the rest of the area. As for a chair, so much personal preference is involved that we would feel silly trying to recommend anything specific. Just keep in mind, you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable (you’ll be sitting in it for upwards of eight hours per day), without it being too comfortable (it’s hard to accomplish goals when you’re half asleep). Look for something with adequate back and arm support.
5. Personalise it
Once you have everything else set up, have a little fun and make the workplace your own. It’s surprising what a few family photos or desk-top mementos can do for productivity. Remember, you’re working from home now, so give your office that homely-touch and turn it into the kind of place you enjoy spending your time in. After all, if you can’t enjoy your time working from home, then where is the advantage?
As working from home becomes more widely accepted, those who will be able to excel will be those who can create a workspace that is comfortable, organised and efficient. So start scouting out some locations, find the spot in your home that will allow you to get ahead in the world, and “get to work” without even having to get dressed first.