Q: With Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, I’ve had to adjust to the idea of working from home. I have a spare room that could serve as a home office. Do you have any advice for setting it up so I can work productively without distraction?
A: Working from home can be challenging, but having a dedicated, well set up workspace can make all the difference. You should aim to make it both functional and appealing.
Here are a few tips to help you create the ideal space.
1. Place things at your fingertips
A well-organized workspace is essential to being productive. Make sure everything you need is within reach, and that the things you use most often are close at hand.
Tip: If you regularly have to reference project folders, have them easily accessible and filed in a way that makes them simple to find.
2. Keep it neat
A home office can easily become the dumping ground for unopened mail and odd items to be “dealt with later.” It is hard to stay focused and be productive when you are squashed between piles of clutter. Make sure everything has its place by adding the right kind of storage around your desk. Think about how you can use vertical space for shelving, and invest in or repurpose storage containers for loose items.
Tip: Sort, file and discard all paper mail immediately — it takes less time than you think. At the end of every day, tidy your desk — you’ll be glad you did the next morning.
3. Find the right spot
The ideal location for your home office is a room with a window for natural light and a door that you can close to shut out noise. If you don’t have a dedicated office space, consider converting an unused guest bedroom or a quiet corner. Your home office should be a place that you can leave at the end of the day and “go home” to enjoy your private life, without the temptation to finish a project or check your email.
Tip: Avoid using a bedroom or kitchen as your home office. These rooms are full of distractions.
4. Control the light
The things people crave most in an office are natural light and a view of the outdoors. This is by no means arbitrary: Studies have shown that natural light increases our performance and significantly improves health and wellness. Augment natural light with soft general lighting along the ceiling and a desk lamp to illuminate your keyboard or reading materials. Make sure all lights are adjustable and dimmable.
Tip: Position and tilt your monitor to prevent glare from the window and other light points.
5. Acquire the right furniture
Before you rush out to get a new computer desk, think about how you work and what you need. The desk should be large enough for your computer, as well as a notepad and other accessories. Look for a chair that is adjustable and supports your back. Many people find that a footrest is helpful for maintaining good posture.
Tip: Regularly check your posture. Keep your elbows tucked in, your chin parallel to the floor and your monitor at eye level.
6. Add a dash of color
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your home office, so make it comfortable and inspiring. Paint one of the walls with a color that makes you happy or hang some artwork. A colorful rug will brighten up the space and can help reduce floor noise.
Tip: Add a beautiful potted plant — they’re known to reduce stress and improve focus and health.
Mia Hannom is the owner of In Form Design, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,700 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.