How to Build an Effective Home Office

Everyone's ideal home office set up will be different. It might take a bit of time to adjust your workspace so that it works for you and there's rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. The trick is to find a space that helps you to feel calm, focussed and positive.

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This article was written by Elizabeth Harris, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble is a freelance-matching platform leading the future of work. If you're struggling to find, vet, and hire the right freelancers for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT will help you hire the freelancers you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of freelance experts ready to work for you

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust millions of people into makeshift home offices. Dining-room tables and beds, for example, have taken the place of typical desks and office-friendly ergonomic chairs.

When it comes to working from home, there's a tough compromise between building the perfect workspace and adapting what you've got. An open-plan office with floor-to-ceiling windows, a meditation room and a slide are not really realistic for most of us. Instead, you need to find a way to design your workspace so it fits in your home while also maximizing your productivity.

There are some ways to make this balancing act a little easier. It starts with selecting the right space for your WFH set up, organizing your desk and including items that will prioritize your wellbeing.

Here are the most important things you need to build an effective home office from scratch.

Choose the right space.

The first step in building a home office that puts productivity first is to choose the right space. For some people, the choices might be limited, it will just be wherever you can fit a desk or find some quiet. For others, you might have more options.

If you can, try to find a space that is close to a window with plenty of natural light to help boost your mood and improve productivity. Also, select the room that will make it easiest to separate work and home life. Ideally, it will be a space that is fixed so you don't have to clear away your stuff every evening.

Try to get a feel for your workspace and identify the things you can adapt to influence this atmosphere. You might need to adjust the lighting, play background music or remove distractions. These are all ways you can tailor your space to make it more suitable for working, even if your home office is just your kitchen table.

Prioritize the supplies you really need.

When you're setting up your home office for the first time, ask yourself what you really need to do your job effectively. This can help you prioritize what you buy and should help you get started working immediately. For most of us, it's a desk or flat surface, a comfortable chair, internet access, a laptop or computer and a power outlet. The rest can come later.

This is especially important if you're working on a tight budget. Do you really need a mini fridge or can you use the one in the kitchen? Can you do without all those productivity books that you're never going to read? What about the monogrammed stress ball?

By focussing on the essentials, you can help to keep your workspace clutter-free and get stuck into working as soon as possible. Having a clear, tidy desk, with space to spread out, can also help you to focus better.

Once you have all the essential items, you can then add on extras as you go. Most people will benefit from having a notepad and pen for instance, as well as a desk lamp to reduce eye strain. You might need a printer and shredder or maybe a whiteboard.

The last thing to add is personal items that help you feel more like the space is your own. Some people benefit from having photographs, motivational quotes or objects on their desk to aid focus. Add the things you need to help you feel settled and ready to work.

Add productivity tools.

Productivity tools can also be useful in a home office environment. Exactly what you need will depend on your job but many people benefit from having a calendar, a messaging platform for communicating with colleagues and a pair of headphones.Having a to-do list can also help you to maintain focus throughout the day and improve your time management. This might be a physical to-do list on paper or a digital one. There's a whole range of apps available for setting up goals and task lists. Having a clock or a timer to remind you to take regular breaks and bring structure to your day can also help.

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Consider ways to boost your wellbeing.

To maximize your productivity while working from home, it's also important to take into account your wellbeing. When you're building a home office, think about design elements that will help boost your mood and manage stress.

Research has shown that green design can make a big difference to employee satisfaction and wellness. So-called biophilic design elements like natural materials, plants and water can actually reduce stress and anxiety so they're worth adding to your home office set up.

Plants are perhaps the easiest way to incorporate green design into your home office. Simply looking at a plant has been shown to lower blood pressure while minimizing feelings of stress and anxiety. You could also choose to include natural materials like bamboo, wood and stone in your home office design.

Remember that colors can also influence your mood. Blue interiors have been shown to increase relaxation and calmness whilst also encouraging logic, reason and intellectualism. Neutral tones can also be soothing.

If you want to take your home office to the next level, you could even incorporate smells into your design plans. Research has shown that scent can improve productivity in a big way. A 2020 study revealed that peppermint enhanced alertness and memory of the participants. To achieve this effect at home, consider buying a diffuser, a scented candle or making a simple room spray.

Build a break space.

In a normal office environment, it's unlikely that you'd be at your desk for a full working day. On a typical day, you'd get up to make a drink, have a chat with colleagues, maybe grab lunch out. These activities, however small, all help to get you up and moving around.

When you're working from home, it's much harder to maintain this kind of regular break routine. You need to force yourself to take breaks. This is not only important for your productivity but also for your physical health too.

Having a specific break space that gets you up and away from your desk is really important. This might be your kitchen or the steps to your apartment

Taking a break for some fresh air is a really good idea but, wherever it is, make sure it's somewhere different to where you're working.

Top tip: don't make your bed your break space. Keep your bed separate from your work to avoid sleep disruptions.

Designing the perfect home office.

Everyone's ideal home office set up will be different. It might take a bit of time to adjust your workspace so that it works for you and there's rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. The trick is to find a space that helps you to feel calm, focussed and positive.

As a result of Covid-19, many of us are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future. This means it's really important to build a workspace that is comfortable and convenient. We're in it for the long haul so it's worth spending a bit of time now to get your home office right.

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