This is the second in a 3 part series to help you be productive at home or away, and set up an optimal work space (with or without a dedicated room).
Today I will take you step by step through what productive work areas need.
We will build on the foundations we set in Part 1 about where to set up plus what’s best for your personality, and in Part 3 you can learn about optimal desk arrangement and energy boosters.
After surviving quarantine for over a year, we all know the importance of being able to work in less than perfect spaces and conditions.
The need for a high functioning work space is there whether you’re a SAHM or working full time.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re organizing your family’s schedule, planning a volunteer meeting, creating a work proposal or taking time for a hobby.
The good news is twofold: you can carve out a productive spot even in the smallest spaces (read part 1) and I’m able to give concrete, simple step by step details due to my combined interior design and business consulting backgrounds.
With my help, you can end up with a work area that blends design and emphasizes function and productivity.
What every productive office space must have:
Carefully selected color or colors
Colors help boost mood, keep concentration and stimulate you (or calm you). Paint is a cheap, big impact way to add color, but there’s other options like removable wallpaper, pillows, posters, curtains and more.
Be sure to look into the science of mood and color though before you head to the paint store or buy anything though!
Certain colors can add to anxiety or be distractions. Pro tip: brash yellows and too much white can add anxiety, most shades of grey drain mood and browns drain creativity.
A great desk or table
I haven’t made the shift to a desk that adjusts from sitting to standing but know many folks that rave about them.
An ergonomic chair and the ability to rest your feet comfortably
I’m usually a form is greater than or equal to function gal, but in this case, it’s all about function. Unless it’s impossible for you to do, go and try chairs in person. I had to go to two stores and try many chairs before I found one that felt perfect.
If you can’t try in person, be sure to read reviews carefully and look for folks that have similar builds and needs to you.
Also, I’m 5’1″ so it’s basically a requirement for me to have a footrest (to avoid my feet dangling in air), but many people love footrests to easily optimize ergonomics or have a positive way to fidget.
I added sheepskins from Ikea to zoosh up my black chair and add a touch of luxury too. Watch this short, fun video on ergonomics by the Wall Street Journal:
Power and strong wi-fi or wired internet plus charging station/tech tools
Um…duh, right? But here’s a couple of tips:
- If you’re dealing with weak wi-fi try a signal booster
- this connects to a point below about visual distraction – keep wires and cords contained and clean looking. Check out these ideas from Container Store – I particularly like their cable zippers, cord clips and tech organizing cases.
Light is second only to good ergonomics and internet signal when it comes to productivity. Natural light gets you a gold star, and any type of view is extra credit points for productivity.
I followed lighting expert’s advice to mix types of lights: overhead, task lighting on my desk, floor and/or table lamp plus get as close to the window as possible in my guest room office space. For my creative office, I’ve got just overhead and a table lamp like the one shown here, but I’m surrounded by windows so the natural light compensates for my inability to add other sources.
Minimal clutter and easy to tidy space
I know many of you are thinking ‘I don’t mind clutter’ or ‘bah…I’m a maximalist!’ But research at Princeton has shown that even if your eyes don’t mind it, your brain does! Get into the habit of tidying daily or at least weekly. Procrastination, stress, depression and blocks on creativity are common effects of clutter.
Mementoes and inspirational pictures or vision boards
Remember when we chatted about the difference between introverts and extraverts in Part 1 of this series? Well, personality comes into play again in the décor category.
Extraverts enjoy a rich sensory view that has textures, layers and generally speaking lively offices. Introverts prefer minimalist, calm spaces.
But regardless of your style, make what is displayed meaningful. The clutter study I just mentioned specifically points out that items with meaning, presented in a non-cluttered way boost creativity and mood.
So don’t load your desk and shelves up with generic décor from Home Goods, add the Glassy Baby votive your BFF gave you for your wedding, a vision board that highlights your year’s intentions and your child’s art.
If you have a word, song or phrase of the year or goal, use Canva (free) to create a screen saver (like above) or a pretty graphic to frame. Search Canva’s free templates and you’re minutes away from something pretty and personalized.
Clean looking, no-glare background for Zoom calls
Backdrop screens are all the rage for Zoom calls these days, but very few cameras are good enough to properly green screen without the strange halo/pixelated effect around you. And it’s hard to look at folks with lots of back lighting, thus harder to connect with them and focus on what they’re saying.
Better options are: attractive folding screen like this bargain option with decor shelves or a light easy to hide away screen, or using light blocking curtains like I did. Pro tip: if you aren’t backed by a window, get a ceiling track curtain rod at Amazon or Ikea that allows you to mount anywhere and open/close with ease.
Add a bit of art (heavier fishing line works great to hang) or a few well placed items on a sofa table, bookcase or plant stand et voila! Stylish, distraction and glare free!
Even though folks are starting to head back to the office, Zoom calls are here to stay and my guess is that things like teacher conferences, committee meetings as well as work from home options will be the norm. Bonus feature with any of these is added sound absorption.~Elizabeth Curtiss, Happy Mom Life Lab Founder
Storage for supplies and paperwork
Storage for both files you don’t need often, as well as things you’d like access to daily. Consider shelving and vertical options if you’re in a small space or combination cabinets on wheels to tuck away at the end of the day. White floating shelves with small lidded bins have made a big improvement in Reina’s playroom and they’re attractive.
I absolutely LOVE the 3 tiered carts while homeschool Reina for 2 years. This 3 tier cart lid and organizers are going to be perfect for Isabelle’s dorm room and would also make a great mobile office option.
There are endless options for printers, shredders, files and drawers these days. What ever you choose, make it easy! Both for use and to get out of sight if not pleasing to the eye…remember that Princeton study 😉? Meaningful decor is a mood booster, but office supplies, stacks of papers and staplers…? Not so much!
Limited vital tools
In the same vein as above, minimal ‘tools’ a few pens in a lovely cup is best and if/only if you need them, a few other tools like a stapler, tape dispenser or hole punch. My favorite tools and holders are lucite and I switched recently to using only these pens.
One tool that most people over look these days is a clock that is NOT on your phone. It’s almost impossible to look at your phone “just for the time” and not get sucked into the emails, texts and social media notifications. Be sure to get one that does not tick and that’s easy to read.
In the same way I recommend a back stock area for pantry and home sundries, I recommend it for office supplies. You only need a few things at arms length and the rest should be stored out of sight.
Last, but definitely not least, comfortable temperature
Too cool and you won’t be able to concentrate for long. Too warm and it’s sleepy time. 71° F (~22° C) is what studies point to for maximum productivity. I always advise clients to tweak the temperature using sweaters, featherweight pashmina shawls, fans and throw blankets (all time fave is this luxe feeling, holds up to washing budget option) since it’s rare your heater or AC will be perfect. Also, it’s best to have dedicated ‘office’ items by stashing and keeping them at the ready so you don’t have to break productivity to adjust.
In Part 3 we’ll tackle do’s and don’t for an optimal desk arrangement and which parts of a room will give you the most energy.
Feature photo by Social Squares, ©Happy Mom Life Lab. Article images licensed through Adobe (family) and Nicole Vaughn (books), all in the context of this article are ©Happy Mom Life Lab.
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