One of the keys to successfully working at home — aside from self-discipline and a strong Wi-Fi connection — is having a comfortable, convenient workspace. And no, the couch doesn’t count.
Follow these six tips to create a home workspace that’ll make you happier and more productive.
1. Consider Your Work Needs.
Before you choose a workspace, consider the type of work you’ll be doing, says Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap. Are you sketching, building spreadsheets, handling clerical tasks, or taking business calls?
Once you answer that question, think about the materials and storage space necessary to do your work efficiently, Delap says. If you’re a graphic designer, you might want a desktop monitor so you can build templates with more ease and speed. Or, if you’re running a business, a dual copier-printer might prove necessary.
2. Designate a Specific Work Zone.
“It’s easy to jump from spot to spot at home and get distracted by counter clutter, home responsibilities, and not feeling in the mood to work,” says Delap. That’s why establishing a dedicated work area is crucial to your success.
When creating your workspace, consider what type of environment you operate best in. Do you need total privacy, a little background noise, or easy access to the kitchen for coffee refills?
Delap says it’s also a good idea to “define what derails you,” so you can eliminate distractions. Is it the growing pile of dishes in the sink, for example, the street noise below your bedroom, or the appeal of the TV? Understanding what facilitates and hinders your work will help you identify the best place to set up shop.
Above all, professional organizer and productivity consultant Jennifer Lava says it’s important to settle on a place you enjoy spending time in.
“If it is pleasant and comfortable, you will be more likely to sit and work in that location,” she says.
3. Work With What You Have.
If you don’t have a spare room to transform into a home office — or even space for a full desk — get creative. Delap recommends using an old armoire as a makeshift office. “When it’s open you are at work, [and] when it’s closed you enjoy an organized, attractive space for other uses,” she explains.
You could also use a rolling file cart to store your laptop, papers, and other work materials, Lava says. Simply wheel it to your dining table or kitchen counter and you have a mobile office.
“When you are done working it can be rolled into a closet or corner out of the way,” she explains.
4. Choose a Filing Method.
Even if most of your work is online, Delap says it’s still a good idea to have a limited amount of storage space for papers that inevitably pile up and crowd your work area. Think: tax documents, pay stubs, bank statements, and bills.
If you have ample shelving or drawer space, opt for file boxes or stylish baskets. For papers you need to have on hand throughout the day, use a desktop file sorter. Make sure you label your files and file boxes neatly and clearly, Lava says; this will make it easier to locate what you need and help you stay organized when new papers pile up.
5. Prioritize Comfort.
Turn your work area into a place you love.
“If it is a room, consider painting it a color you like and make sure there is good lighting,” says Lava.
You should also invest in a supportive, ergonomically correct chair and position your computer to eye-level, Lava suggests.
Other options: brighten your space with greenery, hang a favorite piece of art, set up speakers, or bring in a fan or small space heater. As Delap says, your work area sets the mood for getting things done, so you want to make it a comfortable, inspiring space.
6. Keep it Organized.
For a clean, uncluttered workspace, Delap suggests limiting framed photos and knick-knacks.
She also recommends corralling loose wires, cords, and tech devices into a “technology box” for easy access, and setting up a drop zone for papers you need to file. A discreet wall pocket or hanging file holder will keep your desk clear.