More and more people are working from home. The pandemic introduced many workers and business owners to this environment and, with the ebbing of COVID-19, a great percentage are staying put. The SBA estimates that about half of 31.7 million small businesses operate from home, putting the figure of owners in this position at nearly 16 million.
You may have limited space, forcing you to set up office on the kitchen table or the living room couch. But if you have the luxury of a designated separate space to call your office—a spare bedroom, den, or section of a family room—it makes sense to create an enjoyable work area.
Here are some ideas to spiff up your space that don’t involve a lot of money or effort but can make a big difference in how you feel each day you “go to work.”
1. Paint the walls.
Find a color that’s conducive to productivity yet suits your taste and your home decor. Martha Stewart has a dozen suggestions for you. For under $40 you can buy a gallon of the best quality interior paint and transform your workspace.
2. Add a plant.
A study in Japan found that there was a significant decrease in the stress of workers with small plants on their desks. Pulse rates were lower after they took a 3-minute break to care for their plants when they felt fatigued. Even just looking at their plants was beneficial. Instead of a plant, consider fresh flowers available at modest cost from many supermarkets.
3. Eliminate clutter.
Harvard Business Review reported that clutter can lead to procrastination and can even lead to anxiety and depression. Experts suggest regular tidying up rather than letting things accumulate. Perhaps fix a time to attack clutter (e.g., before ending your work week).
4. Add lighting.
Good lighting is essential to protect your vision and boost your effectiveness at work. One European lighting company notes that lighting needs to be adjusted for the individual (e.g., age, task). It says: “a 60-year-old requires an average of 5 to 6 times more light to perform tasks correctly than a 20-year-old. Reading text on paper or working in a studio requires more light than mere computer work.”
5. Hang art, diplomas, and photos.
Inspiration? Decoration? Art and posters can boost your mood and help create an enjoyable work are. Diplomas remind you of your accomplishments. Whatever you hang on the wall (Amazon has over 10,000 listings of “wall art for office”), it doesn’t have to be permanent. You can use mounts that don’t damage your walls and rotate your hangings.
6. Get a new chair.
You’re going to be sitting in it for long stretches of time, so be sure you have one that’s comfortable. And because the office is in your home, get one that looks great too.
7. Manage cables and cords.
If the space under your desk looks like a bowl of spaghetti, with cables and wires intertwined, consider ways to end this mess. Some ideas:
- Label cords so there’s no confusion.
- Tie up excess cord with Velcro wraps or other ties.
- Mount the power strip under the desk (rather than placing it on the floor).
- Buy an accessory (e.g., a box or tray) designed for this purpose.
8. Add shelving.
You may want or need space for books and other accessories you use regularly for your work. You may also enjoy shelving to display business paraphernalia…special inventory items, business awards, etc.
9. Personalize your desk.
Photos and knickknacks help to make you feel right at home…in your home. But don’t overdo it. Consider coasters for your drinks so you don’t damage a good wood desk.
10. Clean (and sanitize).
COVID-19 demonstrated the importance of keeping surfaces as germ-free as possible. Regularly give your home office a thorough cleaning.
- Vacuum/sweep/mop floors
- Dust desktops and other surfaces
- Wipe down phones and keyboards
A Gallup poll some years ago found that small business owners worked on average 52 hours a week, with many putting in over 60 hours regularly. That works out to more than 2,700 hours a year. It’s likely more time than you spend sleeping (which, according to ads for mattresses, accounts for a third of your life). You might as well make the most of your home office. Have fun!