It’s been 2 years now since I blogged about my remote workspace in Desk Space: Mine is Tidier than Yours! The scary thing is that my desk hasn’t really changed, though I now have a larger number of papers in my to-do-pile! Maybe the time has come to rethink my space? Mariana Ashley has some very useful recommendations for us. Mariana is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.
I was extremely impressed with Jonathan Wilson’s recent guest post that describes his virtual presence and how he managed to work from home while simultaneously being relatively accessible to his fellow officemates. It certainly doesn’t compare to my setup at home; however, I’m fairly happy with my home office. Because I’m a writer, I don’t often need as much of the connectivity as a computer programmer like Jonathan might need.
In any case, after reading his post, I took a moment to examine my own space. From both of our spaces, I deduced a core set of basic tips that could help others build the perfect remote workspace. Keep in mind, dear readers, that these are simply tips to help you get ideas for creating your own workspace. They are not hard and fast rules! The important thing is to be creative and efficient when you put together your remote workspace. And, if you have further tips or ideas, please feel free to add them in the comments.
Here’s the picture of my home office. To the left are two bookshelves of important readings and books I keep close to my heart. On the desk I keep my laptop and an extra monitor screen, which helps me write on one screen and research on the other. The third leg of the triangle is the printer tucked under the desk on the bottom right. I’m constantly printing things, because I like to edit on paper rather than on the screen (to help my eyes).
Differentiate Your Workspace from the Rest of Your Home
When working from home, perhaps the most important principle to keep in mind is that you must strive to separate your home workspace from the rest of your home. Think of the advice many academic advisors give students: don’t study on your bed. The same idea applies when you work from home.
Because we humans are creatures of habit, our environment tends to influence that habit, so if you try to setup your remote workstation in your television room, you may have trouble getting focused. Instead, move into a room in your home that you can devote strictly to working from home. If this isn’t possible, use other strategies to remake a part of your home into a satisfactory workstation: hang curtains or set up simple dividers, purposefully face a wall or corner in the family room, and so on.
Implement a Steady and Productive Routine
Because you’re at home, you actually face quite a few more distractions than you would at the office. At the office, you’re surrounding ostensibly by other workers in the midst of their tasks, so it’s easier to slip into that productive routine. At home, however, no one’s there to influence you. Chores probably call to you. Your bed might be particularly distracting. Maybe you have a movie you’d really liked to watch.
But if you follow a strict routine, it’s very easy to avoid those distractions. I wake up, let out the dog while my coffee brews, eat breakfast and check my feed reader on my iPad in the kitchen, and then after thirty minutes pass, I go to my office and close the door. Doing this each and every day has really kept me from wasting my time at home.
Organize Your Work Area to Improve Your Workflow
As someone who loves cooking, I know the importance of having a great work triangle in the kitchen: I can reach my stove, my sink, and my fridge very easily. Likewise, I replicated that triangle in my home office. I have my desk and laptop at one point. To my left I have my bookshelf with important reference materials, such as books on grammar and various writing styles. And to my right, on a shelf beneath the desk is my printer and fax machine. I rarely have to interrupt my work in order to access these stations.
Keep in Touch
At all times, I stay connected to the office and my supervisors via Google Talk, and Jonathan Wilson’s setup is even more impressive. The point is that remote workers have a responsibility to not let their remote location interfere with the productivity of their team and the company. Therefore, they must work harder than ever to remain in touch. It can’t hurt to check in with your supervisor twice a day or more and to always be accessible, via phone, text or video chat, or email. Staying in touch with your coworkers and supervisor keeps you accountable and also reassures everyone that you’re committed to the work.
Finally, when you work from home, you should be sure to stay comfortable, both mentally and physically. Just as proper ergonomics are important to follow in a cubicle in an office, so too should you remain comfortable at your home office desk. Because you’re at home, you can get away with dressing a little more casually; however, be sure to keep it realistic, as you want to be prepared to come into the office at a moment’s notice. You might even be able to convince your company to purchase office accessories for your home office. In any case, having a proper chair and desk will make you enjoy working from home, which could significantly improve your productivity in the long run.