Posted: Mon 3rd Feb 2020
From storage and filing to distractions and privacy, a home office needs to fit your work and projects. Jessie Day shares her tips for creating the perfect home office space in a post published in association with Currys PC World Business.
Before going freelance, I was lucky enough to work for a company that supported 'remote working'. So not just working from home, but from anywhere, and we had fantastic tech and team structure facilities to help us do this, productively.
Fast-forward to now and as a freelancer, it's all down to me. But I picked up some good tips along the way, to help me stay connected, productive and above all, positive. Here are my top five, which should work for almost every set-up.
1. Sort out good tech
Kitting out your home office with a great tech set-up might sound tricky. But in my experience, it's been quick, cheap and infinitely valuable, with face-to-face meetings and quick chat solutions just a click away. The priorities here are phone, meetings and, if you're like me, an easy way to share work and collaborate.
Here are the top three tools I use every day:
Google Hangouts: Fast and great quality, Google have refined their meetings feature with small businesses in mind. There's a new set-up page you can use to trial Hangouts, and lots of clever options to screen-share and collaborate. It's pretty much eradicated dial-ins from my working life.
Google Drive: Yes, Google again. But their tools for collaboration are great for small businesses. From a report you're doing to a spreadsheet or piece of writing, Google Drive keeps a live version of your work safe (no more version control nightmares), with easy sharing, access and commenting options for everybody to use. You'll need a Google email (Gmail) address to get started, but your contacts won't need one to share your files.
Slack: This nifty chat tool saves my inbox sanity. Instead of emailing a quick thought or update, Slack lets small businesses and teams set up quick chat channels, with simple-to-use navigation and document sharing. It's a great way too to keep business out of your personal texts and social channels. I use Slack purely for work and can switch it off instantly, when I need to.
2. Give yourself space
Whether it's your kitchen table, a tiny desk in the living room or even your bed, from the moment you start work in the morning to switching off at night, that space needs to work for you.
It's important to be realistic. Having a separate room for an office is a luxury so many of us don't have, so the next best thing is a dedicated desk or workspace. Set ground rules if you're living with other people. It shouldn't become a dumping ground for clutter, and if you need peace and quiet, make that clear.
If your 'office' is in a busy area like the kitchen or living room, let people know in advance that you'll need them to vacate during working hours, or to be quiet when they're making a fridge visit, or fetching something.
3. Fresh air, light and beating lethargy
A home office brings with it all sorts of perks. But it's too easy to sit down at your desk in the morning, only to realise five hours later that you haven't had a break for fresh air, or even looked out of a window.
Regular breaks, preferably featuring a quick walk to your local coffee shop or post box, are important to give your brain a break, and keep you mentally alert. Without that morning commute, you need vitamin D and variety, so embrace being your own boss and set an alarm for 'fresh air time'.
Try as well to set your home office up in a spot that gets good light. Again, it's good for your brain, but also your energy levels. Lack of sunlight is a big cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can be difficult to detect and creates real lethargy. Not good if it's just you making the business happen!
4. Keep an 'ideas' wall
Ideas, memos and sudden flashes of brilliance will pop up throughout the week, and I find that if I'm at home, sticking them up on a wall next to me keeps them front of mind. If I need inspiration, this wall (I use a cork pin board) is my go to. You can capture anything, from stuff you've read in the paper to an idea for a pitch or an important point to raise in an upcoming meeting. Plus, sitting down in the morning with a cup of coffee and a wall full of ideas is so much better than logging on and staring at a blank screen.
As well as the wall, I also keep an 'ideas jar' on my desk. It's full of ideas scribbled on bits of coloured paper. There is method to the madness; I use the different colours to categorise my thoughts, but it's helpful for when you need to brainstorm under pressure.
5. Clever storage
With digital storage solutions for almost everything, you don't need hundreds of folders to keep your home office organised.
Big chunky ring-binders still have their place, but seek out neat storage solutions.
The key thing here, is to audit regularly, and understand why you're keeping something. If it's a contract or agreement and you feel more comfortable with a paper copy, of course you should file it. But if it's torn out of the paper and you're keeping it for inspiration, could it be pinned on 'your wall' (see above), or photographed for reference?
Whatever you decide, there are no rules with a home office. It should work hard for you and keep you productive, but above all, it needs to make you happy. So let it reflect your work and personality, even if you're only commuting 10 seconds downstairs.
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