Before anything else you have to figure out where you will be working on your projects. You might think that this aspect doesn’t matter too much because you can work anywhere - in your bed, in your living room, on a bench outside your house, in a cozy cafe - isn’t it what self-employment is about in the first place, working wherever and whenever you want? Well, while for some people it might work out this way, most self-employed need not only structure and plans for their workflow but also a well-organized and distraction-free environment for working. Perhaps changing now and then might work for you, but most will agree that there is nothing better than a dedicated and productivity-friendly spot for working that is designed to your needs. You might quickly see all the benefits.
What are the advantages of setting up your workspace at home?
It’s cheap - you don’t have to pay any additional rent for a desk or office.
You can set it up according to your preferences - in a creative or even eccentric way- or simple and neat, whatever more feels comfortable for you.
You save time that you would spend on commuting to another workplace.
If you live alone, you won’t have the possibility of meeting other people, which might contribute to gaining more focus and progressing. In this case, you have to figure out on your own whether not seeing a soul is going to be good for you.
If you have children or pets, you might be able to work in their company and benefit from spending more time together. You have to consider though if such a scenario would contribute to your productivity.
You can deduct the costs of a home office as a business-related expense. Ask your tax adviser for details, as in Austria there are some special rules and regulations related to this privilege.
Once you've decided to try it at home, how should you prepare your space in order to support your good mood, productivity, and well being?
Here are some tips:
Keep it healthy
Let’s start with healthy basics. A very obvious but often forgotten aspect is that you need to find a place where you can sit comfortably for hours. You might discover that working on your couch is not only comfortable but productive; however, you must keep in mind that on the couch, it's easy to slide down and get yourself into a very spine-unfriendly posture. A good chair will keep your spine and head in a healthier position. Here you can find some more tips: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly/.
Yes, switching to the couch with your laptop for a short time just to experience some comfort is alright but our recommendation is still to get a desk, a chair that will keep your back in a good position as well as a screen that is positioned at the right height - which is approximately eye-level (so you do not have to look down). If you apply this advice and spend most of your time working in the correct position, you most likely won’t have to experience the very well-known pain in your back or anywhere else in your body anytime soon!
If while working at home you’re surrounded by all sorts of things that could distract you (books, internet, phone, snacks…), then it is likely that you will give in.
So, what do we suggest?
Do your work in a very sterile environment, one in which there is no other choice but to do the work and one in which you are going to be so bored that you don’t have any other choice but to work. Either use a small room where there can be nothing else but your desk or when this is not possible just move your desk into a spot in your room where you will have none of the interesting objects in your sight. Once your attention gets drawn to something you like, it will be difficult to get out of this zone so let’s instead create some distraction defense by removing it from your sight.
It’s also important to clean up the desk and the surrounding area from all the cool books, letters, magazines, notes. For example, for those who play instruments, it might be essential to move them away instead of finding themselves playing for hours. If you have a notebook with notes related to work, keep it open only on the notes that are relevant to the project you have to do on the following day. If some notes are not relevant anymore, either cross them out or throw them away. Close all the tabs on your browser that are not related to the thing you want to do next. Don’t worry about having to search for something again - it will always be easily accessible in your browser history, or you can also save it as a bookmark. It’s especially important to close the tabs with social media channels! If your task doesn’t require any research or fact-checking on the internet, consider turning it off during your working hours. You could choose to turn it off only on your computer, but a more advanced version of this method could also include your phone. Cleaning up your workspace might not only increase your focus but also improve your mood. Who doesn’t like to spend time in a clean space? When it comes to the interior design of your home office, you might enjoy being surrounded by plants as they might make you feel more connected to nature and clean the air.
Guard your “office hours"
You might be a very social and friendly person who often has people coming over, friends calling, or a mother bringing over some home-cooked meals. It sounds great indeed, but it’s a threat to your productivity, and productivity is what’s gonna pay your bills. Let’s face it: it’s never really the case to open the door and have just a five-minute chit chat and then get back to work - unless you are a very disciplined person. There are a few things you can do to minimize the chance of interruptions: Inform others about the times when it’s ok to come by. Let them know about what you’re doing and that you need to stay focused. More extreme: Do not react to knocking /calling, turn off the intercom, put the phone on airplane mode, or at least turn off the sound and vibration for messages and calls.
Sound during working is important and some can never focus in a loud and active environment. Working next to someone who’s constantly talking or listening to a song that has lyrics might be extremely distracting. Some people are very sensitive and within a blink of an eye turn their attention to the smallest sound...and then it’s hard to refocus. Working with, or without, different sounds might be beneficial or detrimental to you - you know best. For many, silence often works just fine but it also might seem monotone, sad, boring, or even demotivating. Additionally, you might instead focus on all the micro sounds that come from your neighbors, fridge, or other sources… you might find yourself inspecting them instead of focusing. If that’s the case from here you have two options: earplugs that effectively clock out all the microsounds, or playing something more intensive than the microsounds. You could play calm music (e.g., instrumentals, jazz or piano), meditation sounds (e.g., zen, Tibetan, bells), ASMR (e.g. sounds of paper or rain), LOFI, or alpha waves. If the tasks don’t require too much attention, watching YouTube videos on another screen might work just fine and make monotone tasks more enjoyable. However, if there is a lot of thinking required, it’s probably better to work in total silence.
For some, it might be crucial not to have any intense smell in the room where they work and this is why they regularly open the windows and add some fresh air inside. Additionally, research shows that smell affects a part of the brain - if you, for example, light a scented candle every time you start to work your brain might associate it with work time and get into work mode every time you smell this particular odor. If you’re smell-sensitive, it might boost your productivity in your home office.
Do you work well when it’s cold? Or do you prefer to feel warm and cozy? Sometimes, the fresh air does magic and a little breeze might make you feel energized, or when it’s too hot in the room, you might experience getting tired and even sleepy. Spend some time observing what is your perfect working temperature and try to arrange it every time!
Position of your desk
This is mostly about windows - every time a desk is facing a window, you might start paying attention to what's going on outside - a very interesting bird passing by, a cute dog, a neighbor you haven't seen yet. Wait a second, what is he up to actually…? Yes, everything might be more interesting than your current difficult project so sometimes it might be a good idea to redesign your home office a little, to move the desk so it faces less interesting things, like a wall.
Do you feel stiff and fed up with the desk where you’ve been sitting for hours? Do you feel like on certain days it just doesn’t work well? It's time for a change! Change the location several times, from your working desk to the couch or the terrace. Different places might influence your productivity.
Finally, we get to the last aspect related to your perfect home office - the light. You might discover that you feel better when the sun is fully shining and there is a lot of daylight in your room, or when you use candlelight or artificial light. Different tones of artificial light might matter too, from cold white to cozy yellow. It might boost or lower your mood as well!
Hungry for more?
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