When the pandemic upended the world as we know it, we all scrambled to get used to our “new normal.” For many of us, that meant working from home—we just never imagined we’d be working from home for this long.
You might have deferred making an upgrade or building out your home office because you thought the lockdowns couldn’t possibly go on much longer. Sadly, that hasn't proven true for many people working from home.
In fact, it could well be this fall or even next year before business workplaces open up their offices again. And remote work probably isn’t going anywhere: A recent report from Upwork predicts the number of remote workers will almost double in the next five years.
In any case, you’ve almost certainly realized by now that creating an efficient work-from-home office is essential to your productivity. Even after these months of working from the couch or kitchen table, you may not know exactly what’s needed to create the ideal home office. To help, here’s a list of essentials to help you create an efficient work-from-home space.
Protect your home
It might not be the first thing you think of, but when you’re working from home it’s important to keep it secure and prepared for emergencies. Since you’re spending more time at home, you’re more reliant than ever on electric appliances and your HVAC and electrical systems.
Add to that the fact that your livelihood is now also dependent on your home staying functional and powered. If your electricity is knocked out, it only takes enough time for your devices to lose their charge until your workday is dead in the water.
So it can pay to prepare for power outages, especially if you live in an area that experiences harsh weather regularly. By investing in a generator and weatherproof enclosure for it, you’ll not only protect your safe haven but you’ll also ensure that your home office remains functional, no matter what storms may come (or other obstacles you encounter).
Designate a work space
One of your first priorities should be to claim a designated workspace. It would be nice if we all had an entire room to transform into a home office. But that’s not always feasible, and that's OK.
Whether you’re using a guest room, repurposing an attic or basement, or sectioning off a portion of your bedroom, there’s plenty you can do to create an efficient home office. You just need to make the most of the space you have.
If you’re sectioning off part of your bedroom or repurposing an old closet or laundry room, you may need to go all-out to open up space. Consider renting a dumpster so you can clear out all the old furniture and clutter that stand in your way.
Once the space is clear, then begin designing and equipping your office in a way that makes sense. This probably means purchasing smaller items that can help you make your workday more effective. You may want to get a smaller desk or a new lamp, a comfortable chair, and just a few items to make the office feel more inviting.
Investigate storage options
Whether you need physical storage for files and promotional items, online storage for data, or a mixture of both, it’s important to seek out the best storage solutions for your needs. For example, if your position requires you to print, copy, and store records, you may want to invest in a small filing cabinet to keep them organized.
On the other hand, if you need online storage consider opening up a free or paid cloud account with the company of your choice. If you decide to pay, check to see if your employer has a reimbursement system in place or is willing to cover some or part of the cost.
Cloud storage also can help you keep prepared for emergencies, letting you assemble copies of your essential paperwork like ID, legal, financial, and medical documentation in one central place online. This accessibility to your important information is an especially good idea in times when everything seems uncertain.
Sharpen your skill sets
Even if you’ve got a home office, you’re likely still working for someone else. But when employer-employee relationships are conducted long-distance, it’s more essential than ever to be self-motivated.
During your downtime, consider expanding your skill set. For example, honing your timeline management and organization skills will keep you on track, even outside the traditional office environment.
Moreover, stepping outside your comfort zone can help you to become a more well-rounded employee, while at the same time relieving the stress and monotony of your day-to-day tasks. Learn how to play the guitar, drive a stick shift, or do some basic car repairs.
There’s a lot more to a home office than just sticking a desk in some unused corner. It’s where you’ll be spending hours each day—for who knows how much longer—so your choices in creating the right environment are important. Personalize your space with candles, plants, artwork, and/or ambient lighting.
Lots of things are beyond our control right now. But there’s plenty you can do to ensure that your home office is as pleasant and efficient as possible. No matter which of these tips you choose to use (or come up with some of your own), you can be sure you’re creating a space that keeps you comfortable and productive.