Who doesn’t love a home office? You can show up to work in sweatpants, you can get your laundry done, and you can eat when and what you want. Honestly, it’s awesome.
There are plenty of articles out there telling you how to set up a home office to avoid distractions. But what happens when you have to work in — gulp — an actual office? You know, not at home?
My proposal: start thinking of every office as a “home office.” This means: make every office a place where you can be relaxed and productive, comfortable and focused.
How to do that? Here are some suggestions.
1. Don’t stock your desk with office supplies
This may sound weird. But what happens when you need some office supplies, and they’re not in your desk? That’s right: you get up. And move. And maybe talk to someone else.
At very least, it gives you an excuse to get out of your chair. At home this happens all the time (because you want to make sure that pint of Ben and Jerry’s hasn’t disappeared from the fridge, right?). Make it happen in your office.
2. Have. Good. Coffee. In. Your. Office.
For most of us, getting good work done means doing small tasks and then rewarding yourself. What better reward than a good cup of coffee?
If you’re running an office, paying for good coffee is a cheap way to make the day that much more exciting for all your employees. And to turn home into “where you drink coffee to get to the place where you drink better coffee.”
3. Break your schedule up
One of the advantages of working at home is that when you’re stuck in the middle of something, it’s easy to find an excuse to get up for 5 minutes. Maybe you do the dishes. Maybe you fold laundry. Maybe you run around in your underwear. (Hey, it’s your house.) Then you come back with your head a little clearer.
Schedule the same sort of thing at work. Keep a list of “little things” that take 5 or fewer minutes to do. When you’re stuck, do one of them. This can be a great way to import the rhythms of the home office. (Even if you can’t run around in your underwear.)
4. Get some plants
Can I be honest? My thumb is about as far from green as thumbs get.
But you know what? I’ve learned. Study after study shows that plants relieve stress and increase productivity. So I make sure that both my home office and my “office office” have plants.
Try a peace lily. Or a snake plant. Or, for something a little more fun, lemon balm.
5. Support your back
When you’re working from home, you may sit on a cushy chair or set a pillow behind your seat. Perhaps you work sitting up straight on your bed, or lounge on the soft couch. Either way, you’re doing what feels best for your back.
A good chair should offer both lumbar and pelvic support, to encourage good posture. Sitting in a measly desk chair is already bad, but throw some slouching in there and you’ve got yourself a mix of backaches, headaches, and lack of focus.
Do yourself a favor, and get a nice chair. Instead of daydreaming of your spry younger days, you’ll enjoy working in the office more and especially like going home without the feeling of a broken spine.
6. Quiet things down
You know what’s great about having a home office? No chatter. Or, if you like music, lots of it!
So, when not at home, get yourself a pair of good quality, noise-cancelling headphones.
This lets you go into the cave when you need to. And when you take them off, there’s a big, friendly world out there.
7. Mix it up!
For the most part, those work-from-home days end up inside a cafe. Or a park. Or — let’s be real — your bed. There’s so much freedom in location and it’s easy to change rooms when you hit a mental wall, or have the sudden urge to be near a window.
Moving around lets you stretch your legs and refocus when you settle back down. Having different workspace areas within an office has been shown to offer greater flexibility and increased productivity. If your work has the space, go between conference rooms, lunchrooms, beanbags, and more!
If your office is tight on space, quick jaunts around the block can also offer a refreshing change of pace. But much like home, you should feel able to move around as needed.
8. Focus on results rather than hours
This is maybe the biggest one. After all, one great thing about working from home is that if you take 30 minutes off, nobody will know. Especially if you’re exceeding all your benchmarks.
What’s the takeaway? That the easiest way to make a work office feel like a home office is to emphasize results. Be reasonable about when people can come and go, as long as they’re getting things done.
This can be a tough one, depending on the culture of your office. But it’s worth making your supervisors aware. And if you manage other people, strive to implement this kind of culture.
The point in all of these is to make the office feel like a place where you can be focused and get work done, without it feeling so formal that you don’t want to be there. Do this and, maybe, you’ll never go home again!
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