Work From Home? Here is how to Separate Your Space

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Work From Home? Here is how to Separate Your Space
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Work From Home? Here is how to Separate Your Space

Not only are more people working remotely, but one Owl Labs study says that half of their respondents indicated that they would not even consider returning to a job that didn’t offer at least part time remote options. Currently, In the U.S. alone, almost 70% of workers are working from home.

Early in the pandemic, you didn’t have to look far to find people making makeshift offices in spare bedrooms, dining room tables, or even closets! Innovation and creativity fueled a new wave of people learning how to work with what they had available and set up a workspace that has been traditionally supplied to them. Almost 2 years later, most people have gotten at least somewhat comfortable with their at home workspace and have been more than willing to share their tips and tricks for making it work at home.

Consider Your Work Needs

Consider Your Work Needs

First things first, you need to consider your professional needs before you start rearranging furniture or emptying closets. For example, a photographer’s workspace will look different than a corporate office workers space and will make use of different technology and gadgets.

To figure out the space you will need, list the technology and other space related needs that you require:

  • Laptop or desktop computer?
  • Fancy audio setup or basic headset?
  • Space for books or paper documents?
  • Physical or digital notepad?

If you have (or plan to have) a desktop computer set up, you may need a bit more space than someone who works from a laptop and the same can be said if you will have paper documents that you will need for reference. For some, the dining room table is a great place because they like to spread out and see everything that they are working on at once. For others, the kids get home at 3:00pm and it is a mad dash to clear the table for homework and supper.

Another aspect to consider would be the need for privacy. While the dining room table is appealing, you may need to have a space to take client or work related calls. Every job will look different but you need to consider what kind of physical space you will need to be productive and comfortable.

Create a Work Specific Zone

Create a Work Specific Zone

When the pandemic first hit, the line between work and home was not just blurred, it was obliterated. Work documents were mixed with children’s homework or pillows were used to prop you up in bed with a laptop. Everyone did the best they could but it is time to make your set up a bit more permanent and reestablish the boundaries between work and personal life.

If you are lucky enough to have a spare room to use as an office space, the boundary is simply an open or closed door. If you have a smaller space, set clear rules for yourself such as an open or closed laptop indicating if you are at work or at home. The more obvious the distinction between work and home, the more likely you are to actually respect that boundary. It is easy to check just one more email or jump on one more call when you have fluid work/life boundaries and that is what you want to try and avoid. Your work zone isn’t just a physical space, you need to respect (or set) reasonable work hours.

Boundaries can also be set by the clothes you wear. While working in your PJs is tempting and sometimes called for, it may be helpful to actually get dressed as if you were going to work to help set the tone. Shut that door, close that drawer, pull across that curtain, figure out your boundaries and make them clear so that you are able to tell the difference between work and personal life.

Get Creative and Personalize

Get Creative and Personalize

Chances are that your home office space is already better than any cubicle in terms of having a personality. Exercise your creative muscles and create a space that you are inspired to work in. Be sure to include pictures of loved ones, plants, fun stationary, even a diffuser or candles if that is your thing.

Pinterest is great for ideas for small home offices, some favourites include:

  • Closet office conversions – removing the doors from a closet can instantly create a dreamy office space that can be hidden away with a sliding door or curtain. With a built-in desk, a couple shelves and a bit of paint, you can have an instant office space. Check out Pinterest for some creative ideas because there is no shortage of inspiring closet offices!
  • Spare room office combo – if you happen to host a lot, chances are that you have a spare bedroom. That space is valuable and you may still want to keep it available to guests but you still need a dedicated and private office. No worries, you can have both! If space is an issue, you can always trade in a bed for futon, daybed or Murphy bed if you want to get really fancy. When company comes, a temporary set up elsewhere in the house will do.
  • Fold up office – Remember the murphy bed suggestion? You can also get desks that fold up! These are more commonly called wall desks and take up very little space. They can be set up in a spare room or even a common area in your home. Instead of clearing the dining room table once a day, you can simply fold up the desk and it will be ready and waiting for you tomorrow.

Get Comfortable

Maybe you have created a cute little nook for work, complete with succulents and a vision board… but is it comfortable? Ergonomics should be a top priority for your workspace. Pinterest images of a laptop in a perfectly lighted Bohemian themed room may look pretty but the natural screen height of a laptop is not designed for long term work and comfort. Consider desk as well as screen height so that your body is properly aligned to reduce injury. You may not think that a desk job could be hard on your body but it can wreak havoc on you if you develop bad habits. Mayo Clinic has a great article outlining the basics of an ergonomic work space.

Part of your comfort also involves airflow and lighting. If the weather allows it, open a window or two and make sure that fresh air is circulating in your space. If opening a window is not an option, be sure to schedule time in your day for a walk or even step outside occasionally. Setting up near windows is a great way to get some natural light which also looks great on video chats. Make sure the light is in front of you to avoid being backlit. You can also invest in a light therapy lamp that mimics natural light if you find your office in a darker basement or closet with little light.

Clean and Organized

Clean and Organized

Home offices are as unique as the people who have them and organizing will look different to everyone. Here are 5 tips to keep your small home office organized and clutter free:

  1. Go paperless: In this day and age, the majority of documents and work can exist in a digital space or be scanned.
  2. Create a filing system and make use of storage containers: For the few paper items you will need, having a small portable filing system will keep you organized and paper off your valuable workspace. Storage containers will also serve this purpose but be sure to label them to find what you need easily.
  3. Have a physical inbox: Even the most organized of us have spaces around our home and cars where paper clutter tends to collect. Anticipate it and have a physical inbox where everything goes and commit to clearing it at the end of each day
  4. Utilize wall and drawer space: From pegboards to floating shelves, you can customize your vertical space while keeping your workspace clear and functional. In the same spirit, having several drawers to keep office supplies will also keep your workspace tidy and decluttered. You may also want to consider cable management to not have cords taking up more valuable space on or around your desk.
  5. Keep a notepad handy: digital or paper, having a place for quick notes will help you resist the urge to have little bits or paper or sticky notes cluttering your space and distracting you.

Find Your Community

You are not the only person working from a home office, people around the world are doing this too and are full of experience and suggestions. Finding (or creating) these groups will help keep you accountable to good home office habits as well as inspire you to make the best use of the space you have.

No matter what kind of space you are working with, you can set up a small home office that works for you.

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