How to Make Your Home Office a Productivity Haven

The life of a freelancer or remote worker can be an exceptionally desk-bound existence. Here’s how to make the most of it.
How to Make Your Home Office a Productivity Haven
By
Daniel Rosehill

Working from home can be an oddly exhilarating experience. With nothing to distract you from achieving your goals, and no tedious commutes to deal with to get started, a dedicated home office can seem like a fast ticket to productivity utopia. 🤤

Unfortunately, as anybody who has spent long stretches attempting it can tell you, reality often doesn’t quite work out that way.

You’re at home. But you’re in a professional context.

Client meetings and travel aside, the life of a freelancer or remote worker can be an exceptionally desk-bound existence.

There’s no commute. But there are no fixed breaks to force you to mentally refresh either.

The key to making working at home work for you is to make the space as conducive as possible to getting and staying focused.

Here are the tricks I’ve come to rely upon.

Don’t Neglect Ergonomics

Client meetings and travel aside, the life of a freelancer or remote worker can be an exceptionally desk-bound existence.

As you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your chair and at your desk, it makes sense to spend some time ensuring that both are properly configured.

That means:

  • Ensuring that your table is at the right height for your body
  • Ensuring that your screen is positioned at a reasonable viewing distance
  • Lots of other, small adjustments.

You should also make sure that you’re starting with good raw materials.

Consider investing in an ergonomic chair and an adjustable desk. If you’ve joined the movement, you might want to consider a standing desk. Even an expensive ergonomic chair is a very small investment in your long-term health and well-being.

Also worth remembering: without specialist peripherals such as docking stations, laptops are not designed with good ergonomics in mind for long working periods.

Personally, I use a desktop computer with a few screens set up on an ergonomic VESA mount.

Replicate the Office Look & Feel at Home

While there are few things I detest as much as open office layouts, there are some aspects of corporate interior designs that I do indeed miss. After the camaraderie of co-workers top of the list for me would be the feeling of being in a professional, rather than a domestic, space.

As my ridiculous sign makes clear, I take my home office quite seriously — and it’s for business use only.

Partially for the amusement of myself and dinner guests, and partially because I want to mentally train myself to associate my home office with work, I picked up this wonderful “Staff Only” sign for my office door. You can pick one up on Amazon for about $10. I also installed a fingerprint-based time tracker to help me keep track of my working hours.

Other peripherals that get me in a working frame of mind include:

  • A decent laser printer
  • A well-organized filing cabinet
  • A USB conference phone
  • A coffee machine

Especially the coffee machine.

If you have the square footage, I recommend avoiding making your home office a “dual use” space — such as a sometimes home office sometimes guest bedroom. As my ridiculous sign makes clear, I take my home office quite seriously — and it’s for business use only.

Get a White Noise Generator and Headphones

I’ve been ordering things from the internet since I got my first credit card. I’m also a huge e-commerce fan and try to buy whatever I can over the internet — even if it’s just a “pay online and pick up in-store” setup with a local store.

If I were to pinpoint my very best purchases from among those thousands:

Your home office might be situated above a noisy restaurant. Your neighbor might have decided to invite his friends around for a party just when your most important client call kicks off.

There are various reasons besides these why, despite a seeming lack of distractions, home offices can actually be worse than offices for focus.

If you sell your concentration for currency then blocking and masking distracting noises can give your productivity a massive leg up.

Minimize Distractions

I’ve written before about how I’m taking small steps this year to increase my stretches of focus time and cut down on high-distraction things like WhatsApp and Slack when I’m trying to get work done.

I’m aware that these final ideas will not and cannot work for a lot of people — but they do work for me.

Namely:

  • When I’m trying to get a major project done, I either turn off my phone, put it into flight mode, or do both and leave it in another room entirely. Occasionally, I will miss a delivery guy or a sales survey call. The productivity gained more than makes up for the minor inconvenience.
  • I have a home intercom system. I’m probably one of the only 30-somethings still rocking one of these relics. Home intercom systems are decidedly old-school devices that are basically stationary walkie-talkies. One station is in my home office and another is in the living room. In light of my fondness for occasionally deliberately severing all other ties to the outside world, I find it valuable to have one quick means of getting in touch with another human at all times.

It Gets Easier Over Time

For the past 18 months, my working life has split between my home office, the road, client sites, various WeWorks, and too many coffee shops to keep track of.

My favorite working environment bar none: my home office with my custom-built desktop and three screen display.

The author’s home office setup

Working from home is not an easy adaptation to make and it’s totally normal if you are struggling with it at first.

You need to figure out a way to focus; to figure out a way to socialize during the day without derailing your work; and to figure out a way to know when to hang up your keyboard for the day and actually… you know… enjoy being at home. 😉

It all takes time, but it does get easier.

Make these configuration changes to get yourself a head start on the way there.

About the author

Daniel Rosehill is a Jerusalem-based writer specializing in thought leadership content for (B2B) technology and public affairs clients.


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