If you’re a regular office-goer and suddenly find yourself working from home, we’ll bet there’s a good chance you’re having a hard time focusing (tell us it’s not just us!). Maybe you’re distracted by the kids running around the house, the dirty dishes calling your name from the sink, or the comfy couch that seems more welcoming than your stiff desk chair.
Before actually working from home, it’s easy to glorify it. You probably imagined it as slowly sipping coffee and scrolling through emails as the sun rose out the window of your beautifully curated home office, while you sat comfortably in your sweats. It’s unlikely you envisioned our current scenario with kids that need entertaining and maybe even some homeschooling, all while trying to maintain a little professionalism.
Whether you prefer to go into an office or are enjoying working from home, for many of us it’s the new normal that we must adjust to. I went into an office for over 10 years and remember dreaming of a work from home situation.
I started working from home about five months ago, and it’s more challenging than I anticipated. And now with the current situation, my husband is also working from home. With a two-bedroom, we certainly aren’t complaining about our space as it’s far larger than anywhere else we’ve lived, but there is not a home office and space is limited.
We’re working to improve our work-from-home situation with the aim of making it more inspiring and productive. Not knowing where to start, I spoke with Irene Sovich, the owner and interior stylist behind Design in Decor, a Washington, DC-based interior styling and decoration firm. She provides in-home and virtual design services, just what we need right now.
Here are six ways to elevate your WFH situation, no matter how big or small a space you’re working with.
1. Create a dedicated space, even if you don’t have a separate room
A dedicated home office would be nice, but that’s not always an option. “If you don’t have a dedicated room for your office, try to carve out space in your living room, dining room, bedroom, a hallway, or even a closet,” Sovich said. Get creative with your space and set up shop in an empty corner, a nook, or consider a behind-the-couch office. Keep your set up minimal, and choose neutral office furniture (if you can’t find things to repurpose from within your home) so it blends into the room.
We’ve employed this method in my own house. My husband’s “office” is the stairway landing space and mine is a corner of the kitchen.
2. Take advantage of natural light
If you can set up near a window, do it. The location will give you a nice view and access to natural light. Many studies report that natural light in an office space dramatically improves productivity, energy, and well-being. A 2014 study conducted at Northwestern University showed that increasing exposure to light during the day is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness, and even metabolism.
Natural light is ideal, and if that’s not possible, add a desk lamp. Irene explained that this will not only add an element of height to the space, but it provides extra functionality for late nights.
3. Declutter, declutter, declutter
Keep your space free of unnecessary clutter. With kids around, we know this might be a tough task, but do your best. This goes for your desk and also the area surrounding it (if you’re working on the kitchen counter, dirty dishes in the sink can be a distraction!). Small spaces can get messy quickly, but the beauty of these small spaces is that it’s a fairly quick process to clean up as well. With your desk space, Irene recommended that you stay organized, keep clutter to a minimum, and put things away immediately after you use them.
And if chores beyond your desk are a distraction, take the time outside of work hours to do a little tidying. Every night before bed, do one chore that will make your morning more seamless. If that isn’t your preferred way to operate, that’s OK too. Right now in particular, things are a bit all over the place. If you prefer to get things done during the day, work in time blocks. Set a timer. Focus on your work for one hour, then allow yourself 15 minutes to clean and organize. Using a timer will help you stay on task.
4. Use organizational tools
You don’t need to go overboard (remember, we’re keeping things on the minimalist side here!), but consider buying a couple of items that will keep your space tidy, if you don’t have any already. Poppin offers fun minimal desk accessories and filing cabinets, or grab a few baskets that make for quick and easy clean-up.
To maintain a desk area free of distraction, aim to keep whatever you’re not using out of view. You can buy new items to do this, but consider using already items you already have. For example, if the dining table is your office, set aside space in the console buffet or sideboard to store items you aren’t using.
5. Add inspiring decorative elements
Again, we’re looking to keep things tidy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add personality to your space. What inspires you? Add some beauty and lightness to your desk. Consider a picture frame, a grid with clothes pins, a small stack of books, or a diffuser. Flowers or a plant will bring life and brightness to the space as well.
6. Make it comfortable
And now going back to that comfortable couch we mentioned earlier. It can be tempting to type away from your couch or even from your bed, but try your best to avoid this. Since we’re all cooped up at home, you want to create separation between work time, relaxation time, and sleep time. By doing your work where you normally relax or sleep, you’re blurring the lines.
Instead, make your workspace comfortable so it’s a place you don’t mind spending a few hours. That might mean investing in a new chair or a comfortable cushion or adding a computer stand.