Even before the coronavirus pandemic, working from home was becoming increasingly popular. Today it seems to be part of the “New Normal.” For some people, the discipline needed to work from home can be challenging, especially if you have children or other distractions.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make your home, home office, and other living areas blend into your home working space. Some are simple, and others might require a little professional guidance.
Make Your Desk More Efficient
Disorganization is a thief. It steals your precious time and only adds to the stress. Ideally, you want to have your desk with drawers and perhaps even a half-stack filing cabinet or two nearby. Something as simple as installing drawer dividers will go a long way toward helping you keep everything in its place.
If you don’t have filing cabinets or any kind of filing space you could even try installing hanging folder rails in one of the desk drawers. This lets you keep important papers organized and close at hand.
Using The Kitchen Table As A Desk
For some people the transition to working from home is rapid and they simply don’t have the time, space, or budget to invest in an office desk. In times like this, the kitchen table will have to do. Still, without some type of effective organization system, you will likely find a mounding pile of random papers building up around your laptop like some strange stationary bird nest.
Here again, you can use small bins with dividers to keep essential items like writing utensils, paper clips, and thumb drives organized. If you have a half-stack filing cabinet in the house, you might want to also drag it into service. If possible, try to set your kitchen table workspace up to be quickly portable. That way you can still transform it back into a functional eating space to still enjoy some of the “Old Normal.”
Transform An Unused Area Into A Workspace
If you don’t have a formal home office desk, and the kitchen table simply won’t do, you might want to think about other places that you might be able to transform into a workspace. Even something like a disused walk-in pantry, or the breakfast nook can be transformed into a home office space with a little creativity. Ideally, you want it to have some kind of door to help you shut out distractions.
Think About The Background
These days virtual meetings, zoom meetings, and video calls are more popular than ever. If you are going to have to do a lot of virtual meetings, you will need to be conscious of what’s in the background. You don’t want to be in the middle of a virtual chat with your boss while the kids are slap fighting in the background or there are dishes piled up in the sink.
If possible try to make your background look like true office space, even if everything in the foreground still looks like your living room. Shelves with professional books and resource materials or even a tasteful tapestry hanging down all give a professional appearance that says to your co-workers “I have everything under control.” Even if there are some days when you don’t.
Use A Whiteboard For A To-Do List
Hang a whiteboard or dry erase board near your workspace. You can use it to keep track of everything you need to do, as well as the deadlines for each. For some people, this is far more effective than a desk calendar, or the calendar app on your smartphone. With a whiteboard staring at you throughout the day, you will tend to be more conscious of what you need to get done, to find the motivation to make it happen.
Repurpose A Cabinet Or A Cupboard For Work Items
If you truly are forced to use the kitchen table as your desk, it helps to have someplace to store all your work items together. That way you can deploy everything you need quickly in the morning, or at least set up your office space after cleaning up the lunchtime dishes.
Set Up Household Rules
If you have children or just a noisy spouse in the house with you 24/7, then you’re going to need to set up some basic ground rules about things like noise level, and behavior. Ideally, you want to be giving the other members of your home responsibilities of their own to be done during your working hours.
This might be giving your kid’s schoolwork or summer-slide prevention activities like reading a book or using education apps. You might have to bribe them with a reward of a special dessert or extra gaming time at the end of the day if they keep the noise down during your home office working hours.
Avoid Your Own Distractions
The home environment is rife with distractions. Even something as seemingly minor as the TV playing in the background can cause a lack of focus. Especially if it’s an inflammatory news show that’s designed to capture your attention with flashy graphics and breaking-news headlines.
Set Aside Time For Household Chores
Household chores are one of the biggest distractions when you work from home. That sink full of dishes that need to be rinsed and put in the dishwasher might only take you 10-minutes. Then the floor needs to be swept, the laundry could go into the washer, the lawn needs to be cut. On and on it goes until all those 10 and 20-minute chores add up into some seriously lost hours of production.
By setting up specific times to handle all these household chores on Tuesday night, you save yourself valuable office time on Wednesday morning.
Set Up A Schedule And Stick To It
If your employer holds you to strict office hours, it’s a little easier to stay on schedule than if you simply have a loose deadline of when to get certain tasks done. Even if you don’t have a deadline, try to give yourself one, and try to keep yourself to consistent working hours.