A lot has changed in the past few weeks — and that’s putting it lightly.
For many people, one major shift has happened in their work environments. Rather than going in and out of the office every day, they’re clocking in from their homes.
You’re one of the work-from-home warriors battling COVID-19 by staying put. It’s a valiant cause, but also one that can make it tough to be productive, especially if you’re not used to remote working.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to make your home just as functional as your normal work environment. Enact these nine tips — then get stuff done.
1. Start With Ergonomics
If you’re uncomfortable at your desk, you won’t be able to work a full day while sitting there. So, start the process by ensuring your layout is ergonomic.
Start by sitting down to find your natural posture, where your spine’s straight and your feet touch the floor. Build your workspace around a chair that allows you to sit this comfortably. Your keyboard should sit between one and two inches over your thighs, angled downward, so your arms and hands type on that natural slope.
Place your computer screen close enough that you don’t have to crane your neck to read it. The top of your screen should be at eye-level. And you can angle your screen downward if it’s catching any sort of glare.
2. Let the Light In
On that note, don’t shy away from opening the curtains or blinds while you’re working. You may choose the darkest corner of your room for your home office to avoid screen glare. However, holing yourself into such a spot will only replicate the unwelcome vibes of an office cubicle.
Instead, embrace natural light, which will boost your mood and help your eyesight by drawing your peepers away from the screen every so often. If you place your desk parallel to a window, you can enjoy the rays without them affecting your tech.
3. Do a Deep Clean
Clutter is a huge distraction, regardless of where you work. At the office, you only have to worry about your desk. Working from home means a whole household’s worth of clutter could be affecting your productivity.
So, make a point to ditch the clutter in your home ASAP. Spend next weekend going through the piles that distract you during the day. Organize and file them away, throwing out items you no longer need. Then, you can focus on what’s in front of you — your work and nothing else.
4. Crush Virtual Clutter, Too
Your email inbox can be just as distracting as that pile of papers next to you. Every time you log in, you see it getting fuller and fuller. That stresses you out and affects your productivity — you either ignore the emails or focus on them at the detriment of other tasks on your to-do list.
So, to boost your productivity by up to 25%, designate a time each day when you’ll go through your email inbox. The first day may take a while — sort through it and clean it up so it’s less daunting. From there, you can respond to new messages at the same time each day, and at that time only. Set a timer, too, so that virtual clutter doesn’t push you into an unproductive spiral.
5. Try Mood Music
You may not be the only one at home during this tumultuous time. And, if your roommates, spouse or children are in — and they’re not working — their din can distract you from your work.
So, create a productive work environment by plugging into some soothing tunes. Everyone’s definition of soothing will be different, of course. Perhaps you work well while listening to classical folk music or even oldies that remind you of childhood. Whatever it is, let the music play — and block out the background noise in your home.
The best way to turn your home into your new work environment is by learning from people in the creative community and how they function. Creative operations are platforms where you can listen to podcasts on how to improve your creative perspective and process in different industries.
6. Decorate Your Desk
Unfortunately, no one knows how long shelter-in-place orders will last. You could be using your home office for a while.
So, don’t treat it as a temporary workspace. Instead, personalize it as you would your desk at your office. Add photos, inspirational quotes, comic strips — whatever will make you smile throughout the day. And rotate your decor often — otherwise, it will start to blend in with the background and stimulate you less.
On that note, you have the good fortune of working from home, so your decor can include a scented feature, as well. Light a candle or turn on an oil diffuser for a bit more ambiance.
7. Go for Green
Consider adding plants as part of your home office decor. Adding a bit of green breathes new life into your workspace — quite literally. Plenty of houseplant varieties double as air filters, also. That way, you can get fresh air, even if you have to stay indoors for the time being.
On top of that, houseplants have been proven to brighten the mood and make people happier. If that’s not enough incentive, then consider how hardy these greens can be. You don’t need to water them often to keep them alive — most only require a weekly drink and a bit of natural light to thrive.
8. Get Dressed
Not all of your productivity woes have to do with your desk. You might need help getting yourself into the working mindset, too.
If you’re rolling out of bed and beginning work in your pajamas, there’s no separation between rest and rigor. So, create a morning routine that mimics the one you’d follow before. You don’t need to get up and dress in something business casual. However, you should change out of your pajamas, wash your face, brush your teeth and otherwise clean up before you clock in.
This process will switch your brain into work mode. If you feel like a dressing routine isn’t enough, add a morning “commute.” Take a walk and listen to the podcast or radio station to which you’d tune in on your drive to the office. When you get home, you’ll be ready to work.
9. Shut the Door
Finally, try to choose a home office location you can close off to the rest of the house. No matter how much you love your housemates, partner or kids, you wouldn’t normally have them distracting you throughout the workday. So, shut the door — and get to work. They’ll be okay until you’re on a break or have finished work for the day. And you’ll clock out feeling you’ve done your job well, even in the face of the current circumstances.
Work Well Anywhere
These are unprecedented times, but they don’t have to get the best of you. Instead, you can set up a functional home office to maintain your productivity and a bit of normalcy. Soon enough, this situation will be a distant memory — and you’ll be better for overcoming it and helping the world, just by working from home.
Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.