7 Foolproof Ideas For Creating a Productive Home OfficeBy Sheryl Kraft Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
If you find yourself working from home rather than in your office lately, it might be challenging to figure out how to make it work for you.
Will you be productive? Will you stick to your healthy eating habits? Will you stay organized?
While working remotely undoubtedly has its perks — you likely spend less time commuting and have more flexibility — if you’re not used to it, working at home can be a tough transition, especially if you don’t have a home office setup.
If you’re looking for home office ideas, or are wondering how to set up a home office in a small space, we’re here to help! Read on for some top tips and ideas for a handy home office setup.
1. Create a space just for you.
It’s important to separate your home and work space, just as it’s important to get dressed for work. Having a designated work space increases your efficiency and helps reduce stress, especially if there are others sharing your living space. It helps create a physical — and psychological — border of sorts. When creating a workspace, stay mindful of some basic ergonomic rules, like making sure your computer screen is at eye level (or a bit below) and adjusting your chair so your feet sit firmly on the floor.
Short on space? Here are a few ideas to make the most out of your home office space:
- Use a small rug to break up the area
- Choose a desk that adds vertical storage (like a “ladder desk” that includes shelves)
- Use a light-colored or clear chair and accessories (to reduce visual clutter)
- Add more storage with decorative baskets and hanging organizers
- Minimize items on your desk
Even shorter on space? Get creative: Put a spare closet to work, which is roughly the same size and depth as a small desk. Or, mount a slab-style shelf to use as your desktop. Add a small chair or stool and you’re ready to go!
No closet? No problem! Tuck a little office area under an open staircase; put an L-shaped desk in an empty corner; sit on your couch and rest your laptop on your coffee table, or work from your kitchen table.
Pro Tip: Try to make room for an indoor plant, which might help boost your mood and productivity.1
Photo by Junko Nakase on Unsplash
2. Get dressed for work.
Why bother changing out of your pajamas, showering, brushing your teeth or applying makeup? If no one is going to see you (well, maybe your cat…), why bother, right?
Experts maintain that even if your body is comfy in your bedwear, the productive part of your brain shuts down and suffers.2 Good grooming and dressing keeps you grounded in reality: Dressing for work helps you feel more professional and committed, while conditioning your brain to understand that it’s time to take things seriously — just as changing into loungewear at the end of the day gives it the “quitting time” signal.
Pro Tip: Try laying out your clothes the night before so your outfit is ready to go in the morning.
Photo by AndreyPopov on iStock
3. Eat healthy meals and snacks.
Having easy access to your kitchen is a blessing and sometimes a curse when you’re working from home. While it might be tempting to reach for sugary or salty snacks when you’re bored or stressed, doing so regularly might lead to weight gain. To help keep you on track with your weight loss and health goals while working from home, choose healthy foods and try to stick to a schedule. We recommend eating six times a day: three main meals and three snacks spread evenly throughout the day. Incorporating healthy foods at most meals (like lots of non-starchy vegetables, fruit, lean protein, low-fat or nonfat dairy, and whole grains) will help keep your energy levels up so you can stay productive at work. Also, try to avoid eating late at night.
4. Stick to a schedule.
It might be tempting to abandon certain habits, like setting an alarm in the morning and taking a lunch break, but structure is the glue that can hold your day together. Without a schedule, your day might fall into a big black hole. Just like you were going to an office, wake up at the same time each day, shower and get dressed. This routine gets you set for the day and may help you avoid the pitfall of finding yourself still in your pjs, unshowered, at 4 p.m. Don’t forget a lunch break (preferably, not eaten at your desk)!
Pro Tip: Make sure to build breaks into your schedule, which can reboot your brain, restore motivation and help avoid the temptation to slack off, too.3
Photo by mapodile on iStock
5. Take breaks.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in never-ending emails when you’re working from your home office. Don’t forget to step away from your desk every so often; this will help you recharge and boost your mental well-being and overall work performance. Even a 30-second micro-break is enough to relax your mind and body.4 And looking away from your computer screen is important, too: It can reduce eyestrain and fatigue.5
Not only are breaks important for your mind, but getting up and moving is important for your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting too much could have an adverse effect on your health, increasing your risk of obesity, diabetes, and excess abdominal body fat.6 Some simple movement, like walking around your house, will get your blood pumping, helping you to stay alert and energized.7 If you have a few extra minutes, try some easy stretches. Stretching can help improve your posture and flexibility as well as support your muscles and joints by increasing circulation.6,8
Photo by Beth J on Unsplash
6. Shut off for the evening.
Just as it’s important to separate your work and home area, it’s important to bid an official “goodbye and goodnight” to your work day (aka “work-life balance”). Productivity experts say that the end of your day sets the stage for the next day, and that ending your work day clears the way for a clean transition into your personal life.11
Pro Tip: Before ending the day, reflect on your best achievement for that day; make a to-do list for the next day, and shut down your computer so you’re not tempted to sneak in some extra (off) hours.
7. Stay connected.
Making the transition from being surrounded by co-workers to working solo might leave you feeling a little lonely. But fear not: There are ways to stay connected virtually beyond email and text. Schedule a video call. Connect by phone. Set up a virtual coffee meeting. You’ll feel more connected to your co-workers if you check-in on a regular basis.
Pro Tip: Take advantage of communication technologies that help connect you with others like video conference call platforms. Connecting with others is just as fundamental a need as food and water, say experts.12
Do you have a home office tip we missed? Share it in the comments below!
Sheryl has penned hundreds of print and online articles for publications and websites, including Parade, AARP, Chicago Tribune, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Everyday Health, WebMD, HealthyWomen, CNBC and many others. Her writing reflects her deep passion and curiosity about nutrition, health, beauty, fitness, and wellness.
Favorite healthy snack: watermelon (a big bang for the buck!)
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
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