Working from home is proving to be one of the fastest-growing trends for both employers and employees. Nearly 43 percent of employed Americans now spend at least part of their time working remotely. Greater flexibility, a better work/life balance, increased productivity, and lower overhead costs are just a few reasons why more people are choosing to work remotely.
Working from home presents both advantages and disadvantages, but for those who live in an apartment, telecommuting has its own set of challenges. Consider the following tips and tricks to turn your place into a work environment where you can get the job done.
1. Carve out a cozy workspace
Apartments in cities tend to be tight on space, which can cut down on the available areas where you can work uninterrupted. The most important thing to do before you start working out of your flat is to think about where you plan to place your office and conduct business. Identify potential workspaces that lie outside regular traffic patterns. Working at the kitchen table might be fine if you live alone, but if you live with a spouse or roommate or have children, you need a place away from the action.
For example, rethink your underused rooms. Consider using a small guest bedroom, place a cubicle panel or screen in a corner of your own bedroom, or modify a walk-in closet to accommodate a desk and bookcase. Wherever you set up your office, you’ll need to make sure you have excellent Wi-Fi and cell phone service in order to conduct business — so a room in the center of a brick building might not be conducive to your productivity.
2. Decorate your space
Just because your space is small doesn’t mean you have to skimp on decorating. Turning your own quiet nook into a place with personality can increase your desire to be there for long hours. Hang your favorite photos or works of art, bring in plants, or add knick-knacks and keepsakes.
Studies have shown that certain colors have a direct effect on our mood and productivity. When painting, papering or choosing furnishings for your space, keep these ideas in mind:
Blue is seen as calming and helps with concentration.
Yellow and orange can stimulate creativity and make you feel good.
Light green can be soothing, denoting a connection with nature.
Red can provide a boost of energy.
Purple is often associated with wealth and wisdom.
3. Learn how to deal with distractions
Nothing zaps your productivity faster when working from home than having to respond to distractions. Whether you have kids running in and out, a spouse looking for their favorite shirt, or the neighbors in the apartment above practicing their tap dancing skills, dealing effectively with distractions is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
To drown out barking dogs, traffic on the street, or even your roommate streaming a marathon of their favorite Netflix show, choose noise-canceling headphones that help you focus on the task at hand. Before you sit down to work, turn off noisy appliances or hang a fiberglass blanket over the door to block out noise. Plan ahead for conference calls or phone conversations with potential clients, or make sure to schedule them for times when you know you will be alone.
If you decide you just can't deal with distractions, you can always consider paying a small fee to use a co-working space for days that require extra focus. These spaces can provide a mental as well as physical getaway and often feature a modern floor plan conducive to concentration, creativity, and productivity.
4. Store inventory off-site
If you have a business that requires inventory and you don’t have space at home to store the merchandise, consider renting a storage unit. The extra space you’ll find after moving unnecessary items to storage can make it easier to stay organized and keep your personal belongings separate from items required for work.
5. Dress for the office
While it may be tempting to sit around in your pajamas all day when you work from home, it can help to treat your remote work like traditional employment by wearing designated work clothes. Getting up in the morning and getting dressed for work helps you separate your private life from your professional one, further preparing you mentally for your job.
6. Identify a specific scent with work
Another way to distinguish time to work from personal time is by designating a specific scent for work. Burn a candle, turn on a diffuser, or even wear perfume during your office hours.
7. Invest in productivity tools
Make your home office feel more like a traditional office space by investing in appropriate supplies. Choose a notepad and pens — and perhaps even a computer — designated solely for work. Keep in mind that office supplies qualify as expenses related to your home office and are usually deductible at tax time.
The same is true for software. Countless apps and online services are available to help home workers with correspondence and communication, scheduling, collaborating on tasks across multiple projects, or measuring productivity to make sure you’re keeping up. Marketing software can help you enhance your client interactions, and accounting software can help with tracking time and expenses.
8. Give your day some structure
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can’t implement some structure in your workday. Use your peak hours effectively. Consider the time of day when you are most alert and use that time to accomplish your biggest goals. Schedule work time and try to avoid personal activities (or at least relegate them to designated breaks).
At the end of the day, power off your electronics, turn off your work phone and move away from your desk or work surface. Also, avoid taking your laptop to bed to work or working from the couch. This can make it harder to separate work time from personal time and unwind later.
9. Communicate with colleagues
If you are working for a company, be sure to communicate regularly with your colleagues. This can help you remain connected with company goals and stay up to date on any progress made for team projects. Regular dialogue with co-workers also reminds you that you’re a part of a team and keeps you from feeling isolated.
Working remotely can provide numerous benefits for employees, companies, and even clients. It also can be mightily challenging when space is limited. Take advantage of the work-at-home opportunity by setting up an optimal space, figuring out what keeps you motivated and connected, and sticking with it until each day’s work is done.
Written by Laura Gayle, BusinessWomanGuide.org