As we head into a new year, many of us are gearing up to increase our productivity for 2018. Maybe you work remotely, want a productive space for your side hustle, or just want to set up an all-purpose workstation. Now is the time to get outfitted so you can start 2018 off on the right foot. Here are our best tips for your home office, including the gadgets and goods you’ll need and tricks for working successfully remotely.
1. Don’t work where you sleep
Forbes reports that according to a 2016 survey of American remote workers, about 91% of people who work from home feel that they’re more productive than when they’re in an office. While that self-reported number may come in a bit high, the overwhelming majority still looks significant. It’s tempting to just roll over, grab your phone, and consider that your commute.
That said, although a study reports that 80% of young professionals work from bed, it isn’t a great idea. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard says, “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.” Get thee to a desk, or at least the kitchen table.
Next: Once you get your workspace figured out, here’s how to maximize it.
2. Work ‘SMART’ for better productivity
The New York Times’ guide to working from home recommends the SMART goal approach. Organize your to-do list into specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound tasks. Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro productivity technique also makes an effective project. It encourages workers to stay focused for 25-minute time slots with five-minute breaks in between. Try the TomatoTimer app to time yourself and stay motivated.
Next: Setting up a dedicated workspace carries other benefits, too.
3. Separate your home office from the rest of your home
According to the Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Being More Productive, “Unless you are careful to maintain boundaries, you may start to feel like you’re always at work and losing a place to come home to.” If you have the room for a dedicated home office, that can help not only increase productivity but separate the “office” from your living space. As The New York Times points out, dedicated offices for freelancers and remote professionals also exist. ShareDesk, WeWork, and Croissant help you rent an office space. Many also have stocked pantries for workday snacking.
Next: Chances are, you’ll need a good desk. Here’s how to choose.
4. Get a good desk and chair situation
Especially if you plan to spend a lot of time at your desk, make sure it fits your needs. The Wirecutter recommends a surface that stands 28-30 inches above the floor, according to Alan Hedge, professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. When you’re sitting at your desk, lean back 100 to 110 degrees. Your eyes should rest in line with a point on your screen 2-3 inches below the top of the monitor frame, and your hands should rest flat on the keyboard and mouse with your elbows bent at about 90 degrees. If they don’t, adjust your chair height accordingly or invest in one that fits your desk better.
Your desk also doesn’t have to be fancy. A slab of reclaimed wood, an old door, or just a re-purposed table might sit at the best height for you. If you’re a crafty type, you can even make your own adjustable desk.
Next: Make sure you have plenty of light.
5. Turn on the lights for better productivity
If you work in an office, you know the quality of light matters. Most workplaces have twice as much lighting as necessary, and too much of it comes from one source, according to Michael Helander, cofounder of OTI Lumionics. That leads to eyestrain and fatigue.
Helander told The Wirecutter to use layered light, through a combination of overhead lighting and lamps. The Spruce recommends avoiding harsh direct light over your work space, which causes glare and harsh shadows. Instead, try a combination of floor and overhead lamps and think about where your light is coming from. Diffuse lighting, or light bouncing around the room, looks the most natural and creates the most calming environment.
Next: You’ll need a way to organize your documents.
6. Unless your office goes paperless, you’ll need a filing system
They may not rank as the most exciting purchase you ever make, but a good filing cabinet prevents clutter and really makes a difference. HGTV recommends prioritizing your files into three types: Action, Basic, and Classic. Your action file drawer should contain those you use regularly, including correspondence and other daily or weekly items. The basic file can house your medical records, credit card statements, and other items you use monthly or so. In the classic file, place those items you have to keep but rarely use, like financial and real estate documents.
Apartment Therapy offers a range of suggestions, from classic to modern, so your storage can fit your lifestyle and aesthetic. Whichever type of cabinet you choose, this system will help you find your paperwork in a flash.
Next: Make sure you manage those cords, to keep electronic clutter at bay.
7. These tools will help keep tech clutter to a minimum
Most of us have computers, a printer or scanner, maybe a document shredder, and other technology cords snaking around the desk area. When organizing your cords, watch out for bending cords in ways that may cause them to break or fray and never snake them under carpets, PC Mag suggests. Leave technical wiring to certified electricians to avoid starting a fire. Something as simple as velcro straps or elastic ties can help bind cords together, keeping them tidier. If you want to get really into it, 9to5 Mac suggests a selection of options, from simple to basically re-configuring your setup.
Next: Don’t forget to personalize your space!
8. Get some plants and some tchotchkes for optimal comfort
Just like the rest of your home, make sure your office matches your personality. While too much clutter can be distracting, photos of family or friends, whimsical pen-holders, or a nice-smelling candle add a pleasant personal touch. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, consider adding a plant to your workspace for more than aesthetic benefits.
According to Science Daily, a recent study found that plants in an office might increase productivity by 15%. The research showed plants in the office significantly increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality. Research analysts suggested that plants increase employees’ work engagement by making them more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work. Remember to purchase plants that do well indoors, and don’t forget to water your green coworker.
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