As we’ve said in the past, the future is in remote working. But the question remains: How can we create a home office environment that is both conducive to productivity and overall work satisfaction – a place that encourages us as professionals and human beings? Working from home is, in the end, a way of seeing your life wholly; everything is in one place, and sometimes it’s hard to keep all those ends from bleeding together or from spreading us too thin. We have a few tips to help you with that.
1. Incorporate nature
Today we spend most of our time indoors, surrounded by the soft glow of laptops with the dulcet tones of Pandora drifting around us. We don’t often venture outside, at least, not nearly as much as we used to, and that’s a shame. Research has shown that nature has a direct effect on a person’s sense of wellness. Sunlight, in particular, is beneficial. It releases serotonin, a delightful chemical that helps us to wake up in the morning when the sun rises, as well as acting as a deterrent for work dissatisfaction, inefficiency, and depression.
So what do you do?
Choose a workspace with lots of windows, for plenty of access to all that healthy sunshine. And if you want to really make that home office comfortable, you could choose a room with a good view. The elements of the natural world can help alleviate stress and increase performance level.
2. Choose the right colors
Article after article has been written on the science of color, especially in conjunction with productivity, and everyone pretty much says the same thing: Stick with the blues and the greens, the cool colors that inspire serenity. But Angela Wright, an expert on color, had more to add.
Colors, she’s learned, have distinctive impacts on us. For instance, blue is good for the mind, yellows are for emotions, red stimulates the body, and greens promote balance. The colors you choose should encourage the kind of work you’ll be doing. Blue helps you think, but utilizing accents of red or orange with it will help keep you energized throughout the day. So view your office as a cohesive whole, not just one color but a few colors that complement each other and your needs.
3. Keep yourself healthy
There are several ways to keep your health in mind while working from home. Simple steps like avoiding snacking and taking your eyes off the computer screen to give them a rest are obvious, so we have two other less salient options for you.
Since you are no longer obligated to even get out of your PJs to work, you don’t have to commute. Use that extra 20 to 60 minutes to your advantage: you could catch up on much needed sleep or exercise, preferably outside. Remember outside, where the sun shines?
Now for the part that will give you nightmares, the second option that you may have missed: stand up desks. “What?” you say with a laugh. “Stand up desks aren’t scary!” And you’re right. Stand up desks aren’t scary, but the reason you should use one is…(Cue the foreboding organ music.)
Studies have found that those who spend most of the day sitting are 54% more likely to die from a heart attack. The results are the same for smokers and non-smokers, those who exercise regularly and those who don’t. Yep. Your chair is killing you. Have fun trying to sleep tonight!
Stand up desks are a remedy for such a chilling statistic, and while you may not want to fork over the cash for one or build one like Bob Vila, we still recommend getting off your butt often. Taking a break every half-hour to stretch and walk about for a bit and standing while making phone calls are both good alternatives. Working on your feet burns 60 more calories per hour than sitting, improves circulation, relieves your back and your backside, and straightens your posture, and who doesn’t want that?
4. Stay up to date and celebrate your progress
Solid contact through team updates is extremely important. Research suggests loneliness can have major effects on the brain, which can lead to depression and the deterioration of your overall health. One way to mitigate this risk is by feeling connected through reminders of who’s doing what. At Sqwiggle, we use lots of tools, but the best tool for great asynchronous updates is a simple yet powerful tool called iDoneThis.
This awesome tool sends a daily digest of everything that’s been accomplished during the day to everyone on your team! Tools like this are an important part of staying connected with the people you work with.
5. Minimize distractions
It’s difficult to keep yourself focused on work when you’re all alone at home and endless cat videos on YouTube are just a click away, but nothing makes it harder to be pleased with your job than feeling unproductive, so avoiding diversions is key.
Coming up with a routine that suits you is a simple solution. We love the liberty of working from home, but the majority of us need structure or we’ll become ineffectual.
If you have children or roommates and have a hard time keeping them out of your area you could lock them out or make a sign to alert them to your need for privacy.
Establishing that your work space is only for work is also important, not only in keeping curious little hands away from important paperwork, but also for keeping you in the right frame of mind while you’re working. Using that space for other activities transforms it into the room where you waste your life eating cheese puffs and playing World of Warcraft, so don’t hang out in your office, don’t eat meals there, and close the door when you leave.
6. Find a balance
Working from home has a way of encroaching on the rest of our lives. Your work isn’t merely ‘following you home’. Your work has moved in and is crashing on your couch eating Frosted Flakes out of the box, and it’s important for your sanity and that of your family – if they live with you – to fix boundaries.
Set time aside to do non-work related activities, and know when to quit working. Life is more than deadlines, and devoting time to the people we love reminds us of that.