At Work

How to Make Your Home Office More Comfortable (and More Productive)

The way we work is starting to change. More than 37 percent of people work from home at least some of the time, with some companies offering remote work positions for full-timers, and other companies opting to operate without an office entirely. To many, working from home is appealing because of its increased comfort, flexibility, and the removal of time-wasting commutes. However, there are some advantages that offices have that are lost when you work remotely.

To make up for some of these lost advantages, you can work on creating and improving your own home office—giving yourself a hybrid of the traditional office environment and the more comfortable home environment so many aspire to work in.

How to Make a Home Office Better

Your goal should be to create an environment that makes you both more comfortable and more productive; achieving both is difficult, but possible with the right strategies. Use these tactics to improve your home work environment:

1. Control your temperature and humidity. It may not be obvious, but the temperature and humidity of your home play a significant role in your level of comfort, as measured by “Temperature Comfort Rating Metrics” (TCRM) in the HVAC industry. There’s no one combination that works perfectly for everybody, but most people prefer a cool, relatively dry environment for maximum productivity. Experiment until you find the right atmosphere for your work.

2. Have a designated desk. It helps to have a formal desk for your work—and one that isn’t used for anything else. Working at the dining room table, for example, could distract you with hunger, and not having a desk at all could interfere with your productivity. Make sure your computer and other materials have plenty of room; you don’t need anything fancy, but you do need ample space.

3. Keep all your files and supplies organized. It’s easy to become disorganized when you’re working from home but try to avoid the chaos by keeping all your files and supplies strictly organized. Get a filing cabinet or similar means of storage to keep all your materials in one place, and organize your drawers the same way. You’ll even want to keep your digital files organized in systems of folders and subfolders—even if you could also do that in a physical office.

4. Segment your office from the rest of the house. Working from home makes it difficult to separate your personal and professional lives. Overcome that challenge by creating an office that’s separated from the rest of your house—even if it’s just by a curtain. When you’re in your home office, you’re working, and when you’re out of it, you’re not. Drawing that line and adhering to that distinction will help you focus more attentively on work while working, and forget about work while you aren’t.

5. Minimize distractions. Distractions are everywhere in your home environment, with the television, the refrigerator, your pets, and your children all clamoring for your attention and entertainment. Try to minimize these distractions in your home office by keeping your door closed, or by playing soft music that masks the other noises in your household.

6. Dress up for work. Even though you’ll be in your own home, there’s a psychological benefit to dressing up like you’re going to a real, separate office. Rolling out of bed and working in your pajamas makes it feel like you should still be in bed, and makes it harder to concentrate. In a dress shirt and tie, however, you’ll feel more obligated to follow through on your tasks and get as much done for the day as possible.

7. Visit your office on a regular schedule. In a similar vein, it’s important to visit your home “office” on a regular schedule. For example, sitting down at your desk at 9 each day, taking a noon lunch break, and ultimately leaving at 5 or 6 will help you cultivate a focused routine for your remote work.

Finding the Balance

Everyone has different working preferences, and you may find that what you “think” makes you a better worker doesn’t actually hold up to reality. Accordingly, it will take you some time to hash out which strategies improve your productivity and which ones bog you down. Pay close attention to your work environment and how well you’re performing, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new tactics until you find a combination that works undeniably well.