Without the luxury of space and some spare cash to throw at the problem, finding a comfy working from home space can be a challenge. Here at Zopa,the FeelGood Money Company, we’re big believers that things don’t need to cost the earth, and that a bit of expert help you can get the most from your money and space. So we asked Swoonworthy’s Kimberly Duran for some tips on how to make your home-working space work for you
So many of us are now working from home due to the government lockdown measures, but carving out a spot to set up a home office can be challenging. Lots of us don’t have much room, especially if you’re working in a flat or sharing with others.
Our tips today will make working from home feel possible, in what may seem like an impossible situation.
1) Physically Designating Your Working Area
The good news is that this is temporary so, you don’t need to fully redecorate. You just need an area that works on a medium-term basis.
Your first step is to look for areas of your home which can support a small desk area – especially in awkward places like alcoves, corners or under windows. This can be as simple as a small folding shelf on brackets that can be lifted from a wall as a makeshift home office spot. If it’s large enough to fit a laptop, you’ve just created a desk. Consider a small inexpensive folding chair that can be used alongside it and store it closed when your workday is complete.
You might need to get a bit more creative. An ironing board could double as a standing desk. You could set up your laptop on the sideboard in the hallway or use a clear space on the corner of the table in your eat-in kitchen. Even if there’s no other spot to work than your bed, try to create an area where you can focus and feel motivated to work.
Remove all those items around you that could prove to be distracting, like that cosy blanket you sleep under, and put the remote control for the TV far away from reach.
Wherever you are, try to clear the area you’re working to keep your focus.
2) Mentally Designating Your Working Area
Try not to get into the habit of working anywhere you plop down with your laptop – one day working from the sofa, one day working from your bed and so on. While this is tempting, you’ll be more productive if you try to emulate what you would do in an office setting where you have a spot to work each day.
So designate an area of your home as your ‘workspace’. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a home office – it can be as simple as a chair you sit in at the kitchen table where you do your work. That mental switch is important – when you sit in that chair (or that spot on the sofa), you effectively enter your ‘workspace’,. When you leave that chair, you enter your ‘home space’.
3) Create ‘Do Not Disturb’ Signals
Where you live with a partner, family or roommates, try to ensure those around you aren’t constantly invading your space.
It’s important to set your boundaries about when you’re ‘at work’ and when you’re not, and this is even more important when you are living with others who are also working from home. It can be as simple as a small sign that says ‘Busy’ or ‘Free’, or you could have a rule that when your ear buds are in you can’t be disturbed, but when they’re out you can chat.
These communication cues are essential in smaller spaces, especially when you’re trying to be productive and your flatmate wants to chat about their day, or your partner wants to discuss dinner.
Even if your home office is on the sofa, you can still let those around you know when it’s time to work and when it’s okay to interrupt.
4) A few good purchases (if you can)
While it’s not necessary to buy anything, if you are going to invest in anything for working from home, make it a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or if you’re on a budget, even just a set of ear buds. If, like me, you struggle to concentrate when listening to your favourite tunes, look out for instrumental-only or white noise playlists on Spotify that will block out noise from neighbours, your partner’s conference call or from your children’s favourite TV programme.
It may also be helpful to purchase a simple stand for your laptop which will lift the screen slightly higher, allowing you to sit in a more comfortable position that doesn’t strain your neck.
Lastly, consider a wireless keyboard and mouse, which will make working from anywhere less of a tangled mess when you are finishing up your working day.
5) Stick to a Schedule
Finally, it’s far too easy to let work and home life blend into one, so one of the most important ways of maintaining your productivity is to create a schedule that works for you. This might mean taking timed breaks for things like lunch, where you leave your designated ‘work space’ and get some fresh air, make a healthy lunch or chat to a friend on Zoom.
At the end of your working day, think about having a small box, crate or even a drawer or cabinet where you can stash away your laptop, notebooks and files until morning. Doing this will prevent you from checking your emails one last time before turning in or working extra hours just because it’s in front of you.
It’s also important when living with others, like a spouse, partner or family, to ensure they’re not feeling side-lined when you’re working from home. Make sure there is some give and take on your boundaries by agreeing a time when the laptop is put away each day, signalling that your designated work time has come to an end, so they have your time and attention, and you can enjoy ‘home time’ again.
About the author: From accessible design ideas and DIYs to styling tips, splurges and the latest trends, multi-award-winning content creator Kimberly Duran has been teaching others for over a decade how to create a home that’s packed full of personality, no matter what the budget. Through her blog Swoon Worthy, she invites readers into her journey of creating an “eclectic boho glam” home and the interior trends and styles that inspire those decisions.