Want to Work From Home? You Need These 3 Things

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

The rise in technology has allowed you to get work done from almost anywhere. You can check your emails while you’re on vacation, even though you probably shouldn’t. You’re able to work on a presentation while you wait for a flight. And when you really need to focus on an important task, you can leave the noisiness of the office and find a better work spot — which most people do.

Leaving the office behind in favor of a corner coffee shop or your own desk at home is quickly becoming a popular trend, both in the United States and abroad. But in order to keep it from being a fad and making it sustainable over the long term, workers who want to stay remote will have to invest a bit of energy to make sure their home office is still conducive to productivity. Otherwise, a lack of focus will mean that employees or their bosses will hit the brakes and order everyone back into their cubicles — voluntarily or not.

That’s where the employee needs to take responsibility. Working from home is great, but it’s no longer up to your HR manager to make sure you’ve got an ergonomic chair and that your desk is the right height. Anything might seem better than the fluorescent lights you sat under before, but getting proper lighting in your home office can still be a major challenge. Though these things might seem like general comfort items, they’re also some of the details that will be the difference between great productivity and subpar performance.

Luckily, researchers continue to give information about which home office environments will yield the best results. If you’re working from home at least one day per week — and at least 25 million Americans are — then you’ll want to make sure you’re making the best decor choices.

Why is environment important?

It’s true, you could probably make do with a folding chair and your laptop on a coffee table one day per week — at least for a while. But sooner or later, that setup is probably going to stop being effective. “Working from home isn’t as easy as it sounds. In place of the challenges of the office and commuting, you have the perils of boredom, losing focus — and the temptation to take the dog for a walk!” said Jack Stevens, a home decor expert, said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet. “Making sure your home office is as conducive to productivity as possible is vital: it will help you get what you need to do done, on time and to a high standard.”

Home offices need to be ready in order for large numbers of people to start working from home in an effective way, Stevens said. “I believe businesses all over the country are increasingly coming round to the idea of home working — the technology is here, and people are starting to expect this flexibility to be a standard feature of working life.” OKA Direct, the United Kingdom-based furniture and decor retailer Stevens works for, put together several tips for how to minimize distractions and ensure you are set up to do the best work possible. It builds on previous information we’ve put together at The Cheat Sheet about key office essentials you’ll need in your new work zone. Here are a few additional tips, along with an infographic with more details. 

1. Good lighting is a first priority

Source: OKA Direct

Source: OKA Direct

When you first go about setting up your home office, worry about what you’re going to hang on the walls later. It might add to the coziness or man-cave like atmosphere you’re going for, but it won’t help in terms of productivity as much as the basics. “There are three crucial priorities for creating your home office. Every good workspace starts with good light, a practical chair and a solid work surface,” Stevens explains. Working from a recliner isn’t going to cut it — we’ll get to why in a minute. And neither will sitting in a dark room, basking in the glow of your computer screen.

“Lighting is hugely important, both natural and artificial,” Stevens said, making it one of the most crucial aspects to setting up an office. “Too many desks are overlit by bright white pools of artificial light — it’s far better to have a warm, direct but diffused light that keeps the room bright but doesn’t strain the eyes.”

2. Sit up, young man

Now, to that bad news about your La-Z-Boy — if you want to get something besides your fantasy football lineup completed, working from your recliner is probably out. “Productivity depends on posture and positioning — your screen should be at eye level, a meter away, and your feet should be on the floor. Everyone loves the idea of spending more time in their favorite armchair, but the very best office chairs provide firm support as well as comfort,” Stevens said.

In fact, posture is so important to productivity that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration created a graphic to show exactly how you should be sitting at your desk. (Hint: The guy isn’t slouching.) If you’re looking to avoid back pain and neck strain, using this as a rough guideline should help.

3. Get the aesthetics right

Though the main components of your home office come first — the desk, the chair, the light — other factors will play into your ability to focus, too. For starters, if your walls are already a beige, white, or gray, consider painting an accent wall or redoing the paint job completely. Several studies have found that other colors work better for getting work done. But there are other key elements to your work environment.

While office noise can be a huge productivity drain, OKA Direct found that listening to some music in your home office can increase output by 6.3%, since listening in 15-30 minute intervals can help with your concentration. What’s more, working in a space that’s too hot or too cold can stunt productivity — it’s better to take the Goldilocks approach of a “just right” temperature between 70 and 73 degrees.

If you’re looking for additional resources, check out OKA Direct’s post about their findings.

Follow Nikelle on Twitter @Nikelle_CS

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: