Turning your home into an office - useful tips and ideas
Some of us work from home once in a while but for many working from home might feel like a whole new world. It may feel sudden, might be for an extended period of time rather than a day here and there, and in the current circumstances your whole company might be in the same position. Replacing day-to-day office life with working and communicating online is a challenge, not only in terms of providing the appropriate technical facilities, but it also poses difficulties for both teams and individuals.
We would like to provide you with some tips on how to improve this situation, and also delve into the long-term perspective of this interesting – if somewhat unfamiliar – thing called ‘remote working’.
WORKING FROM HOME OR REMOTE WORKING?
Working from home, as the name suggests, means working within the four walls of your own home, i.e. from a home office, while remote working is a much broader term. It means relocating from your place of work provided by your employer – the office – to your home, your favourite coffee shop, a co-working space or even a library. The two interpretations sometimes become blurred, but what is certain is that whatever we call it, it certainly favours office workers compared to those in other professions. After all, a vet, cashier or nurse cannot perform their duties from home. The possibility of working from home is normally just a dream, even for many office employees.
In our Next Office Insights Report1 we help our clients analyse their workplace and work patterns. We have completed over 200 analyses all over Europe and there we can see that employees estimate that they work 15% outside of the office. According to Eurostat2 the percentage of employed people aged 15 to 64 in the European Union (EU) who usually work from home stood at 5.0% in 2017. The percentage of employed people in the EU who sometimes work from home has increased steadily over the years, from 7.7% in 2008 to 9.6% in 2017, although the figure in 2017 was down slightly from 2016 (9.8%).
SOME USEFUL TIPS
- People tend to work much more in their home offices, since there is no clear start and end to the day. The absence of a set schedule – which is otherwise provided by the commute to and from work – can make the day seem both endless and formless. You should ensure that you follow a daily routine.
- When you work from home, you should sit with your back straight, exercise and stretch your body, take regular breaks away from your desk and try to get some sunlight. It’s a good idea to go out onto the terrace or into the garden, stand at a window or take a walk around the house or a nearby park (if possible). Sunlight plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythms (daily biological clocks), allowing us to differentiate between the various times of the day.
- Following up on the previous point, you should exercise at home too. There are many types of exercises that you can do at home using your own bodyweight or with minimal equipment that is available in every household. There are dedicated YouTube channels, websites and applications for workouts, and you can choose which best fit your needs. Movement is an important daily need; it boosts not only your mood but also your performance. Even the most basic activity disappears from your day if you don’t run to catch the bus, or walk between the station and the office to arrive at the office.
- Let’s appreciate your high-focus period. You should allocate time and designate a space for the tasks that you have to pay the most attention to. The ‘do not disturb’ and ‘flight’ modes on your mobile phone can be a huge help in that regard. You could even write down these periods in the calendar, so that your colleagues can see that you are busy.
- Allocate ‘me’ time. Even 5 to 10 minutes may be enough. You should do something that makes you happy, and that cheers you up. You may even treat this as a reward after you have completed a task.
- A manager has to know their employees, and what tasks can be performed from home in a given job role.
- It is very important to build up trust between the employee and the employer, but this trust does not just magically appear. You can only trust someone if you know what they do, what types of tasks their job involves, what deadlines they have, what skills they have, how prone they are to missing deadlines, and how easy or hard it is for them to ask for help. To be able to know all of this, you have to know the other person.
- As a manager, you need be aware of the principle that working from home is not a benefit. Working from home is an opportunity. An opportunity to complete the same work with the same performance at another location. We all know that some employees find it hard to work continuously, even in the office. We hate to break it to you, but in light of this, efficiency depends not on the location but on your own motivation.
- Use technology smartly. There are times when email, video meetings and phones prove to be not enough (or too much). As mentioned previously, you should build up trust with your team and keep in mind that the technologies used should also facilitate this. Instead of micromanaging everything, you can use any of the myriad online task, process and project management applications that can perfectly replace endless emails, messages and calls.
- Leadership demands extra time and commitment in these times. Be proactive and run constructive video meeting with your team on a regular basis to keep up with set goals and KPI:s.
- Your team may be working from home for the first time. A lot of things are new and don't work properly yet – that could be stressful. Patience in this unusual situation helps your team.
WHEN YOUR HOME TURNS INTO THE OFFICE
How to create an office within our home is not an easy question to answer, even when the home office is implemented in a pre-planned manner. Not to mention the situation where you are forced into a home office unexpectedly, from one day to the next, and for an unforeseeable period of time (given the current situation). Kinnarps believes in creating ergonomic workplaces, following the principles of designing spaces based on functionality and activity. This is just as important in your home as it is in the office.
SETTING UP AN OFFICE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM
Creating appropriate space. Health and well-being – which should be particularly emphasised in the current situation – are the fundamentals of productivity. A space can be considered to be ergonomic if it matches the functional needs of the person spending time there (in this case, the employee). You should do everything you can in order to create personalised, designated working areas in your home, since this is essential for productivity. For decades, Kinnarps has been working on developing products that fulfil ergonomic needs to the highest standard. Whether it is a sit/stand desk, a task chair or acoustic solutions, these products are just as important in a home office as in corporate office facilities.
Given the numerous beneficial effects and health benefits of natural light, you should place your desk as near to the window as possible. If you need a boost in vitamin D levels, want to sleep better and of course to work more efficiently, or just intend to reduce the unhealthy effects of artificial lighting on your body, you can set up an office next to the window with a minimal amount of rethinking and effort.
Colours affect your mood and emotions too. In the case of various spaces – for example the office, even if it is in the home – well-chosen colours can have a significant effect on the well-being and productivity of individuals spending time there. Grey, beige or white working areas may cause depression, while on the other hand, lighter colours can boost motivation. In general, we can say that green is calming, blue boosts productivity, red boosts attention and yellow boosts creativity. We should surround ourselves with colours and plants that clean the air and make us more balanced in our home too.
Noise is natural part of working, but overly high noise levels can significantly reduce productivity. Noise affects your concentration, stress levels and ability to think creatively. Annoyances and diversions can cause frustration, which limits well-being and efficiency. Calming sounds and music can improve productivity, so it’s a good idea to use these in the home office too. We can improve acoustics with a few little tricks. By placing the carpet, curtain, cushions, bookshelf and plants smartly, you can make your living room into an area with better acoustics too.
We hope that you will find these tips useful. Our aim has been to give you some ideas on how to find both productivity, creativity and well-being while working from your kitchen or living room. Maybe they will come in handy when you return to your normal office too?
1. Kinnarps, Next Office Insights Report (2020)