How to create the perfect home office
By John Woollam
With around 15.5 percent of South Africans working for themselves in 2020, according to a World Bank survey and countless others working from home some or all of the time, setting up a comfortable workspace is essential.
But what does the ideal home office look like?
Working from home is here to stay and as many of us spend around one-third of our lives at work, creating a home office environment that is conducive to both comfort and productivity should be a priority. There are a few definite non-negotiables that should always be considered when creating your home office.
Cut down on clutter
Cutting down on paper documents wherever possible saves space and is more environmentally friendly. Back files up to a local server, or online cloud storage platform, to ensure they are safely saved and easy to locate. If documents need to be signed, this can be done using the Adobe Acrobat “Fill & Sign” feature or a variety of other online applications. A clear desk is far less distracting than a dusty pile of paperwork.
A minimalist approach makes office space more functional and being selective about personal items on display is essential. Organised storage spaces make for easy access to essential items – like stationery and paperwork – while minimising clutter.
The right light
Lighting has a physical effect on the body. An office that is too dark can result in eye strain, as can an office that is too bright. Bad lighting can lead to discomfort and headaches, having a direct effect on productivity.
Natural light is always a sound choice. It reduces energy consumption and costs, and studies have shown that it boosts serotonin and vitamin D. But where real daylight isn’t always possible, avoid light that shines directly into your eyes or onto your computer screen.
Indoor plants add a touch of colour and comfort. They also help reduce carbon dioxide and organic chemicals in the office. A NASA study in the 1980s reported that indoor plants were instrumental in removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. These common airborne pollutants contain toxins that can cause health problems.
Ergonomic office furniture can be expensive. But the long-term benefits make it a worthwhile investment. Sitting incorrectly for prolonged periods of time causes shoulder, neck and back pain in the short-term, which can develop into more serious ailments in the long-term.
A quality office chair is an investment in your long-term health. And a carefully considered furniture layout equally so. Keeping the monitor slightly below eye level and at a comfortable distance is better for your eyes and posture. Your mouse and keyboard should sit at roughly elbow height on the desk. This keeps your shoulders in a more relaxed position.
A second monitor expands your desktop’s work area, making it easier to see visuals, and/or work across multiple documents and systems. The most common size for a laptop screen is around 15 inches. And while that is a compact, portable size, it’s not a very large screen to work with.
An additional screen is a useful productivity tool. It allows you to toggle two different viewing areas on the computer simultaneously, which is extremely valuable when working on more than one document at a time or copying data between documents.
A family home is not always entirely private. Creating a working area away from shared family spaces and distractions is vital. If the space provides a buffer from household noise, that’s even better.
In an open-plan or smaller home, this may be tricky. This is where negotiation with family members comes into play. TV noise and children playing can make concentration difficult. But even in an open plan space, artificial barriers can be put up. Noise-cancelling headphones playing music to work by, or white noise can act as an effective antidote to the open plan problem.
No more entanglements
Wireless printers and scanners can help reduce unsightly cables and make the office safer, as there are fewer things to fall over or cause electrical hazards.
A VoIP, cloud-based business telephone solution reduces excessive cabling and hardware too as it is powered by an internet connection, and you can either use a desk-based handset or a softphone on your laptop to make business calls. If your provider supplies a mobile app, you can use that on your phone to receive and make calls from your office line, as if you were at your desk.
Our homes have become more multidimensional during lockdown. Separating our living spaces from where we work helps us to be more productive. While for many of us, there is less commuting to work, the perfect home office can still be somewhere we ‘travel’ to so that we are able to focus and be efficient.
John Woollam is the CEO of Euphoria Telecom
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