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Starting to Office at Home

Starting to Office at Home

The global workforce was already decentralizing to remote environments, but now even more abruptly has shooed its workers homeward. If your work has recently moved home, or if you’re already working from home but struggling with space and format, I’m sharing in this blog how to settle into home “officing” successfully.

First, I have some encouragement for those who are dreading or clunkily adapting to working from home. Effectively “home officing” is all about your perspective!

I’ve been officing from home since 1999 and I love it! Working from my home allows me to integrate my professional and personal life.

Instead of leaving my family at 7 in the morning and returning 10-12 hours later, we have intentionally arranged our life – with great sacrifice, actually – so we can be home. In 2006, when our first son Nash was born, my husband Trevor left his career as a journeyman electrician to come home to raise our family and run our business together. Sacrificing the “secure” income and joining forces was the best decision we’ve ever made. In fact, since that radical decision, we’ve never been more blessed. Together we have parented and homeschooled our boys, tended our land, and even added a second entrepreneurial family enterprise! It’s amazing what joining forces and creating something together can do for a family.

Below are some of the reasons I love working from home that may inspire you. If you’re already self-employed and working at home, you will probably relate to these benefits:

  • I save tons of money on gas and don’t have to navigate bad driving weather. This means less wear-and-tear on my car and on me!
  • I don’t spend money on eating out that’s so readily available in commercial environments
  • I don’t have the distraction of workplace issues or drama
  • I can order my day around natural, rather than unnatural, rhythms
  • I can sit outside and work when it’s beautiful or inside by my woodstove when it’s cold
  • I can make a green smoothie and eat healthier when I have access to my garden and fridge
  • I can throw laundry in while I’m on a muted conference call, thereby not saving all of it till the weekend
  • I can still have boundaries and get focused work done (more on those strategies later in this article)
  • I can have professional communication from professional spaces I’ve set up inside my home

Best of all, I get to be present with my family so much more than if I lost time commuting.

I hope you’re encouraged by our story that “home officing” done right can actually be MORE personally beneficial than traditional workplaces.

But, let’s not just embrace the benefits of working-from-home; let’s embrace the opportunity itself!

Embrace the Opportunity

Even if it’s unexpected when you first come home to work, embrace the opportunity!

Now, some people are going to be jumping for joy when they start working from home. It’s the chance they’ve been waiting for!

But, when others start to work from home, they’re flustered or upset. They feel displaced and worry about all sorts of things that generally never materialize.

If you’re prone to worry or dislike change, then a change-of-mindset may be in order to thrive working at home.

Here’s a healthy mindset to embrace: working from home is really a privilege.

It’s a privilege because you are being trusted by your employer to continue to deliver a product or service in an efficient and dependable manner. Being allowed to work at home means you’re on the “honor system” and your integrity is on the line. So, while your environment has changed (and may come with its own challenges – some of which I will address in a minute), others are still depending on your output. Congratulations, someone believes you are worth the risk! You will allow this change-of-pace to empower you to be even MORE productive!

Shifting your work to home also conserves your most valuable asset: time. You will no longer be wasting time commuting, which – for some people – wastes up to a couple hours per day. That adds up fast! Simply reclaiming your commute is a GIFT

Another opportunity to embrace when you start working at home is a providential chance to reclaim the things that perhaps you’ve been neglecting:

  • A little more family time
  • More household order
  • Better daily rhythms
  • Exercise and fresh air
  • Some needed personal self-care

When can you reclaim these things and not compromise your work product? When you would have been commuting, caught at the watercooler, or stuck in red tape! Working from home is a privileged opportunity that allows you to optimize your work product and “restore order” personally!

Now that you’ve embraced this new work environment, I have some practical strategies to help you launch your home-based workplace.

Choosing the Location

Before you slide the clutter off your abandoned home office desk and officially move into the room, I suggest you PAUSE and consider the optimal location for your workspace.

It might seem obvious: Your home floor plan may offer a home office, and you may even be using it to run in and pay bills and store your files. But even if you’ve got a “proper” home office, I have found over my years as a professional organizer that people often don’t USE this space AT ALL or CORRECTLY because they simply don’t like being in it!

Let me give you some examples of why your home office may not be the right choice, or may need work before it can be a productive space:

  • It may be located too far away in the basement or way down the hall. That may be great if you need silence and focus. But what if you’re a parent and you’ve got kids home that need supervising? An inconveniently located home office may be too far removed from the family epicenter for you to “keep an eye on things”
  • The design may be terrible. The desk could be facing a wall, leaving you feeling claustrophobic. There may not be enough surface space for you to spread out projects.
  • It may have crummy lighting. No one wants to be sent to a dungeon and we naturally will avoid such a space, sometimes not realizing we are doing it! (More on this in a little while…)
  • The furniture may be “all wrong.” I’ve seen gorgeous, built-in home offices that are actually awful to work in because the builder did not take into consideration the realities of working in the space. Or, perhaps you have “hacked together” furniture options that don’t serve your needs.

I just want you to pause before you select the floorplan option and consider IF it’s the right space for you. If it isn’t, you can either overhaul it to suit you OR choose a different space.

As you can see in the photo above of a home office we organized -which is situated in a window dormer- you can carve out a useful home office nook nearly anywhere in your home!

As a veteran professional organizer, we have created a home office workspace in:

  • Dining rooms
  • Living rooms
  • Spare bedrooms
  • A corner of a master bedroom
  • Hallways
  • Craft rooms
  • Kitchen desks
  • Guest rooms
  • Bonus rooms
  • Nearly every corner of the home except the bathroom!

If you need ideas for how to overhaul your space, see my YouTube Reclaim Your Work playlist for establishing systems, tackling paper, and more!

Here are some tips to choosing the right space for your home office:

  • Don’t limit yourself to a room whose location or design may not serve your needs
  • Determine if you need to overhaul it (change/add furniture, create workspace, improve the lighting) BEFORE you move into it
  • If an overhaul or organization project is required to outfit the space, MAKE THE TIME. Dedicate 24 hours for this purpose. You will be using it every day, so make the up front investment to GET IT RIGHT.

Assuming you’ve now got the right location for your home office, let’s talk about a few key elements that can make or break your space.

Set-Up Considerations

Wherever you decide to “office” at home, I want to give you 2 often overlooked things to consider so you and others in your home will enjoy you officing at home.

The first consideration to optimize your workspace is LIGHT – we humans flock to the light!

When I was a girl, my parents gave me the cutest pink and white desk. I loved it because it had tons of storage. We put it near my basement bedroom but I never used it! I just stored things in it. Why? It was dark in the basement!  Instead, I gravitated to the kitchen table that offered ample workspace and lots of natural light. I could spread out and SEE my work!

When you are planning your home office, be sure to choose a space that has great light. You will feel better in the room if you have natural light. A window that can let in light and fresh air is optimal in a space in which you’re going to spend a lot of time.

As pictured above, consider letting the light flood your work surface by facing a window. You can enjoy the view and you’ll get energy from the natural light. Also, facing the light is the best scenario for video conference calls. If the window is behind you, the frame will be backlit and you’ll be shadowed.

Consider your daily working functions that involve noise when you’re setting up your home office. SOUND is a major consideration for those working from home, when there are likely others in the space.

You’ll want to have a space with a door if others are at home with you. I have two in my office I can shut if the kids are really loud (or practicing their music!)

Headsets can be great tools to help with sound management. A standard phone headset with earbuds may be sufficient for calls, but if you’re listening to a lot of training or audio content for your work, you’ll want a nice headset to cancel noise in your workspace.

And if your work entails lots of calls, you will need to consider a place to talk that doesn’t require silence from family members. I often walk around during calls, so I will step outside on the front porch if it’s nice to get some privacy and not have to lower my voice. I will hole away in my bedroom or the farthest room away if kids are sleeping. This flexibility is actually nice because it allows me to get up from my chair and move around, which is important for health.

Create Flexible Stations

So you don’t feel confined, set up a few flexible work stations throughout the home, for different kinds of work.

  • I like to sit at my kitchen counter if I’m just doing email or a non-taxing project so I can look out all windows and keep an eye on my kids. This keeps up my momentum but makes me available.
  • When I am needing privacy, I head upstairs to a small workstation I set up in my bedroom where my family knows not to disturb me.
  • When I’m working on a big or intense project, I hole away in my actual office to get some focused time.
  • I often perch at the family table to be near the woodstove when it’s cold!

I hope these ideas will help you launch into home “officing” with confidence. If you take the time to consider these important infrastructure decisions UP FRONT, you will be much happier with the outcome of your home office!

Here’s to reclaiming your work – at home!

Vicki Norris

Vicki is an organizing and home makeover expert, full of great ideas and insights on making working from home, work for you. Throughout 2020, she’ll be presenting 12 episodes of Workspace Coolplace featuring work-at-home tips, advice and workstyle recommendations.
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