How to Establish a Successful Workspace in Your Home
Remote work has exploded in popularity over the past decade, as better technology and more lenient companies have made the arrangement more reliably productive and accepted among the population.
In part pressured by the thousands of dollars a month in regular office expenses a traditional startup would face, more and more entrepreneurs are either starting their businesses from home, or are working remotely toward their broader business goals.
But how can you make sure the workspace you establish in your home can be successful?
Advantages for Entrepreneurs
First, it’s important to note the distinct advantages that working from home can afford entrepreneurs:
- Cost reduction. Working from home spares you several costs, including the cost of an office lease, the cost of supplies, and the cost of utilities, repairs, and maintenance. Of course, you’ll still be responsible for some basics within your own home (including maintenance, utilities, and internet), but these will be far less expensive in the long run.
- Commute elimination. The average commute time in the United States is 25 minutes, which applied two ways amounts to nearly an hour of lost time every day just in getting to and from work. Working from home eliminates that instantly, freeing up hours of productive time every week. Don’t forget, you’ll also save money on gas!
- Working from home also gives you more flexibility; your working hours won’t be set in stone, and it will be easier to move the business if and when you so choose. You’ll have far more freedom in how the business develops, too.
- Remote employees. When you work remotely, naturally, your employees will also be working remotely. This will ensure that your entire workforce is able to reap the benefits of working from home, and you’ll have a wider range of candidates to work with, since you could feasibly work with anyone in the world.
Strategies to Create a Better Working Environment
So what can you do to make sure your working environment can set you up to be successful—giving you all the advantages of a remote work opportunity, without any of the drawbacks?
These efforts can help:
- First, consider decluttering your home – especially the space you plan to use for your home office. Decluttering is the most efficient way to free up space in your home, determine which items you actually need to prioritize, and feel better about the space in which you live. There are several approaches you could attempt here, including working on one room at a time, filling up a specific container (like a garbage bag) of items you no longer need, or evaluating each item individually, based on its own merits.
- Define a specific workspace. Next, you’ll want to define a specific workspace within your house. If you can, choose a room that won’t be used for any other purpose. At the very least, have a specific seat or desk where you can work unabated. This is important for both your productivity and your psychology; having a designated workspace will help you maintain the line between personal and professional tasks, and will help you feel like you’re “at work” when you’re working.
- Invest in good furniture and equipment. Though part of your motivation in working from home is saving money, you should be open with your initial investments. You’ll want to invest in good furniture, including ergonomic chairs and desks, which make your workspace feel more professional and make you more comfortable when you’re working. You’ll also want to invest in higher-quality equipment, including your laptop, an extra monitor, your local network, and other peripherals; higher productivity is always worth the investment.
- Get a window. If you can, try to install a window in your home office – or choose a room with windows already in place. Studies show that a natural influx of daylight can improve workers’ productivity, attentiveness, and feelings of contentment in the workplace. As long as you aren’t distracted by whatever happens to be passing by your home, a window will make your home office more productive.
- Reduce distractions. You’ll undoubtedly be distracted while working from home, no matter how hard you fight against it, but the less distracting your environment is by itself, the better. Most people will be tempted to watch TV if they pass by it on a regular basis, or tempted to grab snacks from the refrigerator if the kitchen is within view. You can mitigate these risks by making sure your workspace is closed off, with as few immediate distractions as possible.
- Create an ambiance. Though you’ll be able to vary it from day to day, try to create an atmosphere that you truly enjoy working in; the type of atmosphere here is going to be different for different people. Some studies show that music at moderate volumes can improve productivity, so long as the music is enjoyable to the listener, but not everyone prefers working this way. You may also want to introduce different scents or different levels of lighting to your environment, so you can maximize your focus and make yourself comfortable.
- Keep supplies on hand. Even if you aren’t sure whether you need them, it’s a good idea to keep some conventional office supplies on hand. Just having a notebook with pens, some sticky notes, a stapler, and a hole punch can come in handy more than you realize. Try to get a printer and/or scanner as well; though most things can be done in a purely digital environment these days, you don’t want to have to run to a store just to print a document when you can do it in a fraction of the time at home.
Establishing Good Work Habits
Having the right environment can do wonders for your productivity, but if you want to stay successful, you’ll also need to build the right working habits:
- Set a schedule. Next, you’ll want to set a semi-firm schedule for yourself. One of the advantages of being a work-from-home entrepreneur is getting to set your own hours, and having more flexibility to change those hours, but the more consistent and defined your schedule is, the better. Having a consistent routine helps you anticipate your work, keeps you productive, and gives you light goals to hit every day. It also helps you solidify the line between your personal and professional life.
- Talk to your family members about work time. If you live with a spouse and/or children, finding quiet time to work could be a challenge. The last thing you want is to have a screaming child burst into your office when you’re in the middle of an important task or phone call. Make sure you talk to your family about the importance of designated work hours, and have a system to indicate when you’re available and when you’re not available (such as an open or closed office door).
- Make new goals every day. For most people, transitioning to a remote work environment makes it difficult to achieve the same level of productivity or efficiency. Without an office to get to or a boss looking over your shoulder, you may be inclined to wake up later, dawdle on tasks, or work on chores instead of getting to your core business. To mitigate the risk of this happening, make sure you have a list of goals to accomplish every day, including high-priority and low-priority items. This should keep you focused on the most important tasks at any given point in time, and will keep you accountable to yourself—even without a supervisor around.
- Dress up. Make sure you keep your professional attire on hand so you can dress up for work every day. Dressing up has a powerful effect on your mind; when you dress in professional attire, you’ll feel like you’re heading to work, and you’ll be more inclined to take your work seriously. It can also make you feel more important. Plus, if you have a conference call over video, or need to leave for an in-person meeting during the day, you’ll be ready for it.
- Maintain human contact. Even if you’re a natural introvert, and the prospect of working by yourself is exciting, there’s a good chance you’ll start to feel lonely if you don’t take proactive measures to secure more human contact. Talking to others over conference calls and instant messages about work-related issues can help, but it’s also important to have in-person contact—especially if you live alone. Go out of your way to have lunch with coworkers, friends, or family members to mitigate those feelings of loneliness and depression. Maintain as much contact with the outside world as possible.
With more than 43 percent of employed Americans spending at least some time working from home, setting up a remote office in your house will put you in good company. As long as you pay attention to the details, and are willing to invest in a specific office-like environment, you’ll have far greater odds of success.