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How to maximize productivity from home office space

How to maximize productivity from home office space

When work from home became the new abnormal, a significant percentage of people simply carved out a temporary space in the house and called it their office.

Some have used a spare bedroom. Others set up shop on the kitchen island. A few have nestled into the basement.

Not every makeshift office is conducive to optimal productivity, but the borrowed space has been a sufficient short-term solution.

However, with the likelihood that more businesses will offer work-from-home flexibility when the coronavirus pandemic ends, design experts say greater thought should be given to creating a real home office.

Suzanne Lefebvre, project interior designer at Bergmann, and Allen Rossignol, president and CEO of Edge Architecture, offered advice on how to ensure your home office is really a work environment.

“No matter what the size of the space is, comfort is key — both cognitive and physical,” Lefebvre said. “A good work-from-home space should be based around wellbeing, which will reduce stress and contribute to an increase in focus and creativity.”

In other words, that kitchen island with other family members snacking on leftovers from the refrigerator may not be ideal. The same is true for the countertop in the family room with a spouse on a TV binge-a-thon.

“Your workspace should be where work is done,” she said. “You’re already home, so making your office feel more ‘at home’ may cause a lack of focus.”

But don’t just choose a room or area you’ve always neglected, Rossignol advises.

“Think about how much time you spent in the room previously,” he said. “If it wasn’t much time, why? What was the room missing? If you can figure that out, and are able to make a few easy changes, it’ll turn the space from drab into somewhere you actually want to be.”

Here are Lefebvre’s suggestions:

Suzanne Lefebvre
Suzanne Lefebvre

» Clear an area for your work surface. Less is more. If you have a designated space or not, clear out the clutter. Clear out the papers, magazines, bills and any home-related items. Keep only objects that you need to perform your job and keep them at arm’s reach.

» Bring in natural materials. Views to the outdoors and natural daylight can help you re-energize. Introduce elements of biophilia, elements that remind of us nature, to your work area. Plants, pets, natural materials and images have been shown to reduce stress and increase productivity and focus.

» In conjunction with natural light, good ambient and task lighting is key. It helps with reducing eye strain as well as helping with better video conferencing. Try to avoid lighting behind you which will cause glare on your screen and shadow you during a video meeting. Try to have light in front or next to you.

» Physical comfort. Moving throughout the day and changing positions is important, but a great chair can make all the difference in your day. If you can invest in proper seating, you will be able to not only focus better throughout the day, but be less tired and stiff at the end of the day.

Here are Rossignol’s suggestions:

Allen Rossignol
Allen Rossignol

» Comfort. You need to be able sit for a period of time and have good arm movement and good body positioning. Remembering to take frequent breaks is important; it’ll help reduce aches from furniture not designed for ergonomics.

» Space — with a door. You need to be able to move around and change your working positions. If you have an extra room you can dedicate to work, it’ll help create that separate space that distinguishes work from home. Being able to literally close the door on work helps to keep you from constantly checking work emails, running the risk of burning out.

» Visual. The spaces we work in can inspire or hinder our work creativity and productivity. Thus, a space that is visually appealing is important. It could be a window with a view to the outside or just positioning yourself so that you’re not looking at a wall. If the space you are working in is plain or not well lit, you are less likely to be productive.

» Natural light. Having a space with daylight is critical to creating a good work environment. I often hear of people putting their office space in their basement. I would discourage this, unless you have lots of windows or are able to light the space well. If you didn’t spend time in your basement before, there was a reason.

» Sounds. Wherever you chose to work, it should be a space that is free of distraction and noises from the rest of house. This is especially important when you have children or pets in the house.  When you are on a conference call or Zoom or even just concentrating on work, are the everyday noises from your house going to be a problem? If you can’t find a quiet space, perhaps you could invest in noise cancelling headset. Small changes can have a big impact on your satisfaction.

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