Working from home is not easy, we are enticed by a mirage of us in pajamas and watching tv while we work, no tedious office light or lame cubicles, no commuting etc etc etc. However, reality is harsh: you tend to procrastinate, get distracted, your chair is really uncomfortable, the dishes need to be washed, the tv is loud and in the way. By the end of your first day you accomplished nothing.
Is it you? Is it because the office environment is designed for productivity? As an architect I can tell you: we have the best intentions when we design office plans but reality is: the physical design of a space can only take you so far, you have to design the space and the experience. Work from home (WFH) is a possibility and done correctly it can be productive, effective, efficient and it can free up a lot of time and resources, both of those can be extremely important specially if you are starting a new enterprise and you are cash-strapped.
Select a specific space and design it. Working from home doesn’t mean not having an office. A designated home office space is the groundwork for success. It can be an unused room or a dedicated spot on the living room or even a space on the dining table, but it has to be thought of as a work exclusive area. This designated physical work space is gonna be the thing that can trigger the work mental space.
The chair and the desk. Invest in a good work chair, they are different from dining or lounge chairs for a reason, lumbar support, head support etc. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one but if you plan to work from home for a long period of time you’ll start to think about it more like an investment than an expense. And your back will appreciate you for it.
For a lot of us, work happens at a computer. Either a laptop or a desktop computer need a surface to live on. A laptop standing desk converter can turn any table into a more ergonomic situation, and when you spend 8+ hours on a computer everything that can add extra comfort is greatly appreciated.
Light there’s almost nothing more important than light for humans. It affects our bodies and minds, so if you have access to a window make sure you take advantage of that. According to the US General Services Administration (GSA): “office lighting standards state that a normal workstation requires 500 lumens per square meter. That means that every 6’×6′ cubicle requires at least the same amount of light you would receive from a 35-watt incandescent light bulb.” So plan accordingly. Low lighting in an office space can strain your eyes and your mind.
Plants and decor. Make your space your own and add a bit of greenery to it. It truly works wonders for your mind space and your actual work space.
Routine. This is the part where I repeat every blog post on the web about working from home, but bear with me, it is important. When I first started working from home I woke up at different times, stayed in my pjs until noon, worked for a while, ate when I felt hungry (or peckish, or anxious or bored) went to bed when I felt like it, and kept working until very late. What happened? The obvious, I gained a lot of weight, became easily distracted, and simple work tasks took me forever.
So, the thing that no one tells you about working from home and being your own manager is that you have to manage yourself! And that means, setting strict work time hours, having a start of day routine (exercise, bath/shower, put on work clothes then breakfast or whatever works for you), setting a wake up hour, a starting work hour and a finish work hour, setting breaks every hour or so (pomodoro technique worked wonders for me but, to each his own) and starting and stopping work at a more or less strict time.
The beauty of working from home is that you are free to do whatever you want, the bad part is that you still have to do the work! And therefore you have to become the best manager possible for your work-life balance.
Do what you love, so it never again feels like work – and so you can work whenever you want from home.
Written by Rodrigo Alvarez, serial entrepreneur and architect
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