Home, Productivity

How to design the best home office. Three things that you should do to before you start working on it.

While the country is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses of all kinds and sizes are struggling too.  Many people are still working from home, in some cases, permanently.  The idea of having a home office suddenly becomes as good as having enough living space.  During the first couple of months of this emergency, many people were improvising a small space to work.  Now that it is a reality that you will be working from home either part-time or full time, it is time to stop improvising and start “building” your workspace at home.

A workspace should be a space dedicated to work only.  Create the habit of working in this area only and do not leave any work items anywhere outside our workspace.  The ideal situation is to have a separate room but, not everybody has a spare room available.  It is helpful to practice 5S around the house to eliminate clutter and create more space.  You can transform an underutilized area like the guest room, the baseman, or even a corner or a wall in your room or garage.  If you have a nice shed with lighting and insulation, big enough to steal space for your office, that will work too!  

But before you choose the space, there are three things that you need to do, understand and learn the purpose of your office, your needs, and how to maximize productivity.

Understand the purpose, what exactly are you going to do?

Take your time to plan and create your workspace.  Start with the purpose of the area, are you going to work on the computer only, or you will have conference calls?  Any chance of a video conference?  How about visitors?  What do you need from your internet service?  Are you going to use multiple web-based applications, VPN, firewall? Are you going to print or file documents? 

What do you need to accomplish your work?

Once you know the purpose of the area, think about your needs.  What do you need besides the basics like a desk, chair, and computer?  Be aware that I said needs, not wants.  We all want to have a modern, well-equipped office home, but do you need to have all the equipment you have available at your workplace? Create a list of what you need, what type of equipment, storage, cabinets, and others.  Do not forget internet service speed and reliability, electric outlets, and lighting.  Knowing all these things, you can estimate the space you will need.

Create the environment to maximize productivity

After identifying what you need to accomplish the purpose of your home office, you are ready to choose the best space.  Know the area before you start moving or buying stuff to create the office.  Remember that even when you are home, you need to keep your productivity levels.  With that in mind, plan the layout and how you are going to use the space.

Consider some basic ergonomic rules, like the following.

  • The top of your computer screen should be at eye level or a little below. 
  • Position your keyboard so that your forearms are parallel to the floor. 
  • Adjust your chair so that your feet rest on the floor, or a footrest if you’re short.  

While planning the layout or how you are going to organize your equipment, follow these organization rules.

  • Set minimum and maximum limits for office supply items.  
  • Identify the best location for each item based on the frequency of use and ease of access and return.  Most used items go closer to the user.  
  • Incorporate 5S into the area from the beginning, use visual management.  Mark the location and inventory limits of each item visible.  Use color code for your filing system and create signage to communicate to your family that you are busy in a phone call or video conference, have visitors, or in time-out (no interruptions).

Also, use these tips to create an environment for better productivity.

  • Privacy and the appropriate environment to foster concentration and productivity are critical considerations.  
  • Boundaries are necessary to keep separate home and office spaces.  You can use partitions and free stand dividers to create a physical limit.  
  • Also, thick carpets and drapes, bookcases, and plants will help to soundproof the area. 
  • Follow your work routines or create new ones, like getting dressed, work schedule (clock-in and out times), and time for your breaks.
  • To keep focus and feel connection with other humans, you can get out of your home office and work from the library, a co-work office, or a nearby cafe every once in a while.

Create your space and start using it.  If something does not feel right, change it.  The beauty of a home office is that you don’t need to ask for authorization to change things.  If you follow all the steps indicated before, you plan how to create the office, create the office, start using it and identify what did not work to change or adapt them.  You just follow PDCA and 5S as guides to create the best workspace you can.  You can follow these same guidelines if you are in need of creating a space for your home-schooling child.  To create the best workplace at home start with understanding the purpose of the space, know your needs, and design the area to maximize productivity.   

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