SETTING UP YOUR PERFECT WORK ENVIRONMENT
It does not matter how motivated and focused you are, if you don’t have the tools you need, and the right environment to do your work in. That’s why we’re going to show you how to set up the perfect work environment. Though you may find your perfect environment to vary slightly, make adjustments that work for you until you feel your work environment is perfect.
ERGONOMIC DESK, KEYBOARD AND CHAIR
If your work-at-home job means you’ll be spending a lot of time on the computer, then you’re definitely going to need an ergonomic desk, keyboard, and chair. If you plan on spending hours on end in your office, then you may as well do it in comfort. When you are comfortable, then you will be more productive. If you not comfortable in your chair, you’ll spend time (which though only minutes at a time, could add to hours) attempting to find the perfect position that doesn’t cause your back to hurt after a while.
Typing, whether people realize it or not, is hard on the hands and wrists. When you don’t use the proper posture, which is easy to forget, you run the risk of creating repetitive motion injuries, causing pain in the fingers, hands, and wrists. Let this go for too long, and you could end up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, something that in most cases requires surgery. If you don’t like the design of the ergonomic keyboards (they can take a while to get used to) then you should at least consider a wrist pad to use at the keyboard and mouse. Many mouse pads come with gel rests attached to them. Your desk should allow for your chair to be at the proper height, and for your monitor to be at the proper distance from your face.
If your desk doesn’t have enough room to properly address this, you’ll find yourself in an awkward position, which will lead to pain. Designing your office with ergonomics in mind isn’t always the most cost effective option, especially if you’re just starting out. If you must cut corners to save money, get the bare minimum to get yourself started, and upgrade everything one piece at a time, until your work area is as comfortable as you can possibly make it.
Proper lighting is key to your productivity because if you work in an area that is too dark, you will strain your eyes. Straining your eyes leads to headaches and feeling tired. If you’re working in an environment that is too dark, you’ll see it in your mood, because you’ll feel tired. The best situation is one that uses a combination of natural light and artificial light. Natural light will help improve your mood, and it can also help you save on your energy bills. If possible, set up your home office in a room or area of your home where a lot of natural light comes through the majority of the day, and lean on artificial light as a secondary option, for when you must work at night, or it is cloudy outside.
Choose a brightness that enhances your mood. Too bright, and you’ll hate it. If it’s so dark you can’t see, then you need to go for something a bit brighter. Compact fluorescent light bulbs produce a nice white light at a
fraction of the wattage of traditional light bulbs. It’s a good idea to have an overhead light, but if this is not possible for your setup, at least have a lamp either on your desk for dedicated task work, or a corner lamp near your desk. Do not rely solely on the light
from your monitor to help you see if you work at night, as this will cause eyestrain.
In the ideal home office scenario, you have a spare room you can dedicate to your home office. However, the reality of your situation may be that you only have a small amount of space in another room of your home to dedicate to your home office. While a corner of a room means you won’t be able to take the Home Office Tax deduction, it is certainly better than working out of a cubicle in a corporate office, isn’t it? Wherever you setup your office, try to make it in the quietest part of your home. When the environment around you is quiet, you will be able to focus more on the task at hand. If you have to work while watching the children, the corner may have to be in your living room, so you can see all the activity, and of course it won’t be as quiet as you’d like, but there is a solution for that as well.
If you need to be able to block out noise from the surrounding room, then a headset is an absolute lifesaver. You can turn on white noise from SimplyNoise.com, or music of your choice to block out the noisy distractions. If you have small children around, opt for using the headphones on one side, so you can still hear what you need to. If you have older children, tell them that when you headset is on, you’re working and should not be bothered unless it is an emergency. This is the signal you need, similar to keeping the office door shut when you’re busy, to let those around you know you mean business. Plus, if you have regular calls with clients, you can use the headset and a service like Skype to make the calls you need from your computer—saving on your long distance bill. If you’re not much of a typist, you can also use the microphone on the headset for dictation purposes, using a program to type as you talk.
Being organized will also help keep you productive. When everything has a place, and every place has a thing, you will be far more productive, because you know where everything is when you need it, and won’t have to waste valuable time looking for something.
How you organize your home office is up to you. An organizational system that works for one person may or may not work for another. The simple fact is that we could write another book just on home office organization, so here are a few tips to help send you in the right direction:
USE A FILING CABINET
If most your business is conducted online, you don’t necessarily need paper copies of everything, so there’s no need to create a folder for each of your clients. However, you should create a folder for contracts, so you have a paper copy to refer to just in case an issue arises. Always save your bills, receipts, business cards from contacts, etc. Filing everything will make it easier to find when you need it. If you don’t think you’ll need it, save it anyway, in a miscellaneous file. Clean that miscellaneous file out once a month, and file everything in it accordingly. You’ll treasure your filing system when it is time to file taxes!
KEEP A PEN AND PAPER ON YOUR DESK
As digital as we all are inclined to be, it is always a good idea to have a pen and paper close by to jot notes down on as needed. This is especially helpful if you have a meeting with a client, and need to take notes on what was discussed. You can type them up and organize them later if it helps you. If so, it’s a good idea to email them to your client to make sure everything is clear and the two of you are on the same page.
ORGANIZE YOUR EMAIL BOX
It’s easy to get flooded with email. The more people you work with, and the more newsletters you sign up for, you’ll drown in no time. If you use Gmail, you can label everything accordingly, and even set up filters to automatically label emails with your client’s name. For instance, if your client’s name is Jane Doe, you can create an email filter so that all emails from JaneDoe@email.com will be labeled Jane. Then, you can read and archive the message, so that later if you ever need to find it, just look a the Jane label.
Emails can have multiple labels, if you’d like. While it may take a considerable amount of time to setup the initial label structure and filters, you’ll save yourself so much more time later, because you’ll be able to find things easier. You can even use filters to automatically move junk, so you don’t have to waste time reading things that aren’t valuable to you.
USE AN ONLINE FILE BACK UP SERVICE
Computer crashes happen all the time. Even if your hard drive is salvageable, you never know when a virus may render your main computer useless for a while. Having an online back up means you can access your client files and other important information whenever you need to, from any computer you need to. Some options include:
• Amazon Cloud
• Google Drive
All of these platforms allow for data access from your computer o smartphone, so it’s also an excellent way to back up your phone data. Now that we’ve covered the basics of setting up your home office for success, we’ll share our best productivity secrets with you!
I will continue in my next post. See you soon.