Millions of Americans are now working remotely, at least some of the time, and as the practice becomes even more accepted in mainstream business culture, you can expect that number to grow.
There are many benefits to adopting a work-from-home setup, both for the organization instituting the changes and the individuals gaining from them, but they’re not instantaneous, nor are they guaranteed. If you want to get the most out of your remote career, you’ll need to pay close attention to how your home office—and your overall environment—affect your personal productivity.
The Duality of Working From Home
Working from home can both increase and decrease your overall productivity. These are just some of the areas where these changes unfold:
- Commute changes. According to information from the US Census Bureau, the average American’s commute is 26 minutes each way. As elaborated by the Washington Post, “Of course, not all of us have 26-minute commutes. Roughly a quarter of American commutes are less than 15 minutes one way. On the other hand, nearly 17 percent of us have commutes that are 45 minutes or longer. And the prevalence of these long commutes — and of really, really long commutes — is growing.” Working from home instantly spares you that time, with no repercussion.
- When you work from home, you’ll face fewer workplace distractions like coworkers pestering you for information or interrupting your work. However, you’ll face far more distractions like television, hobbies, family members, and snacks in the kitchen. It’s a one-for-one tradeoff that comes down to your personal preferences.
- Timing flexibility. One huge benefit of working from home is ditching the locked rigor of the 9-5 schedule; instead, you’ll have some flexibility to get your work done in whatever time is most appropriate. However, there’s also a downside here; without the proper time management skills, you could end up getting far behind.
- If you’re introverted or like focusing on your work, the lack of coworkers may sound like a good thing, but working in isolation can eventually lead to depression. Working in isolation is a mixed bag you should watch out for.
How Your Home Office Affects Your Performance
So how can you change your home office to take advantage of these productivity increases, while limiting the productivity decreases?
- Home and location. According to On Q Financial, “If you work from home regularly, you should consider purchasing a home that lends itself to that lifestyle. Choosing a home with an extra bedroom that could be modified to serve as an office, for example, is better than converting half of your living room into a half-serious attempt at a workspace.” If you’re buying a new home, keep your office considerations in mind.
- The layout. Try to design the interior of your office to maximize your engagement while minimizing distractions. For example, make sure there’s a closing door that will prevent people from contacting you when you need to focus, and give yourself plenty of space for your equipment. However, you may want to include a window, so you can look outside and allow some fresh air.
- Presence or absence of distractions. Don’t include things like televisions, books, or other devices that could distract you from work in your office. Feel free to include art, plants, and other things to spruce up the environment—after all, you want to feel comfortable—but try to keep the central focus of the room on work.
- How you treat work. Though not necessarily a part of your office design, you should work to treat your home office like a “real” office. Don’t enter the office during your “off” hours, and try not to wander throughout the house during your “on” hours. When you enter your office at the beginning of the day, make sure you’re dressed up—or at least out of pajamas. This can help you psychologically prepare for a real “work day” and not a lounge-at-home day that happens to include some work responsibilities.
- Your equipment. Finally, consider investing in the right equipment, including a fast computer with a second monitor, an ergonomic keyboard, and an ergonomic desk chair that provides ample support. You’re going to be spending many hours in this spot, so you’ll want to be comfortable—and you’ll want the technology to support you at your most productive.
Your home office is completely your call—there won’t be any bosses breathing down your neck about it, or regulations restricting what you can or can’t do—but you’ll need to use that freedom wisely if you want to be successful. The more time and effort you put into perfecting your home office, the better you’ll be able to work when you’re in it.