Maximise your productivity at home: 6 tips to create a home office you actually want to work in

Working from home has its advantages. You can attend meetings wearing pyjama pants, get the laundry done while on a call, save yourself from that coworker who always taps the desk with his pen or schedule an appointment without having to take the day-off.

But, sometimes shifting from a home to a work mindset can be difficult.

Maybe because instead of sitting at your desk to work, you open up Netflix to catch up on the latest episode of Riverdale.

Or, your mother calls you to share some pointless gossip just as you’re about to start working.

Or maybe, your workspace is a little too close to your comfy bed and a warm blanket.

What if I tell you there’s a solution to this problem? (no, the answer isn’t getting under that warm blanket)

We have six tips to help you create a home office that will inspire you to rip off that cosy blanket and get working.

Home office with plants
Photo by Sanni Sahil on Unsplash

1. A dedicated workspace

It’s very convenient to set up your laptop on the kitchen table and get up every five minutes to treat yourself with a snack. Or to begin working on the couch and end up watching the morning news.

Those little moments become detrimental to productivity and never really allow you to get into that zone called deep work; where workflows effortlessly without any distractions.

To combat this problem, designate a work area. It could be an entire room, the corner of your lounge room or your dining table (but it needs to be a work zone in your head).

This ensures your home and work life remain separated. It signals your brain to forget about the laundry and instead focus on the task at hand.

You must choose the workspace keeping your preferences in mind.

For some, working from the bed makes them feel comfortable and productive. I would get too comfortable (if you know what I mean).

Maybe you like working in quiet surroundings (away from the living room or your kid’s gaming zone) or on the opposite; you need a little noise (close to the window that overlooks a busy street) to inspire hustle and productivity.

If you aren’t sure what environment suits you the best, experiment working in different spaces in your house and pick the one in which you feel like you accomplish the most.

2. Organise for productivity

According to a study by Gensler, a well-designed office can increase your productivity by 20%.

Below are some pointers you can start with:

Negative space: It’s the empty space surrounding your essential objects. For most of us, those objects are our laptops or notepads. It makes sure space doesn’t feel cramped up or suffocating, both of which could hamper productivity.

Lighting: According to a study, exposure to daylight enhances alertness, productivity and has significant health and wellness benefits. Move your desk closer to the windows but make sure it doesn’t add glare to your computer screen. You don’t want to strain your eyes.

In case your room is low on natural light, the best alternative is to use blue-enriched light bulbs.

Scents: Good smells can affect our mindset, mood and thus enhance our productivity. You could use candles, incense or try these aromatherapy scents.

Home office with plants
Infographic by fragrance X

Stick to simple scents like lemon, lavender and cinnamon, all of which are known stimulants when it comes to boosting your focus in the workplace.

Plants: An APA study found that bringing plants into the workplace enhanced productivity by 15%. They also act as natural air filters. You could start with plants like Bonsai, Neon Pothos, Aglaonema, Aloe plant or an English Ivy plant.

Or, if you have a history of killing indoor plants, try this, keep your windows or doors open during the day to reap some of the benefits of nearby outdoor greenery.

Pets: Pet-friendly offices are the way of the future and why not? They’re paw-some! Research proves the same. Not only do your furry friends help you adopt a healthy lifestyle, but they can help reduce stress levels and remind you to take regular breaks whether it’s a quick walk or a good old belly rub.

Girl in park kissing her beagle
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Clutter-free: Make it a habit to clean up your workspace at the end of the day. You can’t focus if papers, files, coffee cups and other junk is lying around. I don’t allow anything but a laptop, planner, stationery items and water bottle at my desk.

Feel free to decorate the workspace, but avoid overdoing it. You could put up motivational quotes on the wall in front of you or like me; you could write your purpose or goals.

3. Fix a working schedule

When I started working from home, I was thrilled. Not even ten days after that, the idea of a perfect work-life balance was out of the picture.

I found myself working late into the night only to wake up exhausted the next morning.

The ordinary but effective champions - sticky notes and a planner - came to my rescue.

I planned everything the night before and put down my most important tasks on a bright yellow sticky note. The same went for all my important reminders. Try to limit these to just three-five.

For your other less important stuff, use a muted colour.

To make this approach work for you, you need to know your most productive hours.

Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, don’t waste your most productive hours on meetings, phone calls and emails.

If your house is right next to a busy street, you might consider going to a quiet cafe in the evening hours to get your work done.

Fix a time to log off every day — no working beyond that point. To be at your productive and creative best, you need proper rest, be it in the form of an evening hobby or just taking a walk.

4. Have frequent breaks

Let’s rewind to when you were an office goer. You had an urgent deadline, and you were chipping away at work. When the clock struck 1 p.m., your co-worker came to invite you for lunch and a chat.

This isn’t so easy when you’re at home. Without those water cooler conversations or scheduled lunch breaks at the office with your colleagues, you can sometimes forget to take a break altogether.

Research says that when you work for long on a task without taking a break, you lose track of what you’re doing. They termed this effect as ‘goal habituation.’

So, set up a fixed time for your breaks in the schedule. I use focus booster to work on my tasks so that I don’t miss out taking breaks during a busy day.

Home office with plants
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

5. Removing distractions from around the home

Back in school, my parents eventually caught wind that when my headphones were in I didn’t want to be distracted.

When I started working from home, however, my mother would often walk into my office, asking me to taste a new recipe of hers.

Other than grooming me for a food-critic job (and a bad one at that), it did nothing else.

This required having a talk with her and making a rule of no distractions while I’m in my office… food or no food.

Set boundaries for the people you live with, housemates, siblings and let mum know she can’t just drop in for lunch whenever she likes.

Lastly, keep your workspace free from distractions. Put that phone away if you don’t need it. A study by APA states that just the presence of a cell phone is distracting, even if it is not ringing or beeping (I’m looking at you, Subway Surfers).

Avoid placing things like puzzles, books or a Rubik’s cube on your desk; you know it will distract you from work.

6. Step away from routine once in a while

Virgin Group’s founder, Richard Branson, believes staying flexible is crucial for maintaining productivity. As a result, he works from home six months of the year.

Although you can’t just change offices when you work from home, you can bring little changes to your workspace.

Place inspiring quotes on your wall, rotate pictures around, sit on the other side of the desk, shift your desk to a different wall, put up different coloured lighting or go out and work in a cafe or library on Fridays.

The key is to bring changes to your day-to-day activities from time to time.

After all, you don’t want to feel that you escaped the office routine to get into a different kind of method.

Productivity tips aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll have to tweak these six ways to suit your needs or add something entirely different. But it’s important to set some systems and boundaries in place so that you get work done while you’re working from home.

What are your tips for boosting productivity when working from home? Tweet us and let us know!