More American employees are working remotely, and for longer periods, than ever before. In the spirit of spring, here’s some expert advice on how to clean up your home office, increase your efficiency, and reduce your stress, courtesy of writer NJ Goldston and Forbes.com.
According to a 2017 Gallup survey, approximately 43 percent of employed Americans say they spend at least some time working remotely. While there are many benefits—increased focus, better work/life balance—it can be stressful to stay organized if you are sharing a living and working space.
“Just as our lives change, our needs morph as well,” says Tori Springer Taylor, founder of SimplySimplify in Los Angeles. “Just as our work environments are ever-changing, and there is more of an overlap between our work/home life, you need to evolve your approach to organization.”
Famed closet and office designer of LA Closet Design, Lisa Adams, shares an interesting insight, “As more millennials enter the housing market, spaces will become more flexible and multi-functional, challenging the conventional notion of the closet. We will continue to see closets, along with every other space in the home, adapt to this more informal lifestyle. You no longer need a whole room dedicated to your desk, while your wardrobe suffers in a crowded walk-in; instead, these spaces become one.”
Here are some of Springer Taylor’s and Adams’ top tips on how to increase organization and efficiency when working from home.
Create an office command station. Springer Taylor says, “Traditional office spaces have changed and technology is making way for more ambiguous workspaces, so now people have different needs.
Adams adds, “When you’re limited on space, no square inch can go wasted. Maybe your desk isn’t a desk at all – it might be a console, coffee table, or kitchen island. Any surface where you can spread out and set up shop can be productive. Share/combine this space with another underutilized area of your home — an entryway, a kitchen, or even a closet.”
Organize your closet for home and office. When it comes to your clothing closet, Springer Taylor recommends organizing your clothing by activity, not color, as most of us do. For example, a “work” section of clothes designated for your days in the office and/or meetings, and your at-home work wardrobe for every day, work-at-home wear.
She suggests formal attire live in a completely different closet if this option is available to you. Approaching your wardrobe by activity is more streamlined and is especially helpful with black items (which we all have too many of!) as they tend to blend. This concept can be applied to shoes as well as clothes.
Schedule your life like you’re an executive. Springer Taylor advises mapping everything from social engagements, children’s activities (if you’re a parent), dinner parties, etc., and then working backward. For example, if you need to study a particular topic for a presentation, or bake a cake the day before a birthday party, put that action item on that day.
Add action items to your calendar so you are not up all night worrying about preparatory actions. This will help reduce stress by increasing your ability to manage multiple responsibilities calmly and more efficiently. The bottom line is to “approach your personal schedule as though you are an executive, whether you are or not,” she says.
Plan your days in advance. Never underestimate the value of a daily routine that you plan out the night before. This is especially important when you work from home. Structure your day, or else it’ll get away from you, and keep to the schedule. Springer Taylor recommends that you start on Sunday evening and lay out all weekly events. Then detail your very next day by the hour, starting with the most dreaded items first. That way, if a call runs over or something else pops into your day, hopefully, the most pressing tasks have been completed early on and uncompleted tasks can carry over into the following day.
Keep digital in one area. Adams recommends creating a digital and charging area in your home, so everything is together, and ready to go at a moment’s notice, including laptop, phone, and tablet. She also suggests keeping a mobile digital office kit at the ready. This saves you the time of packing up your operation every time you have to take a meeting. When a set of essentials can go with you, your workspace has no walls.
Commit to going digital. This seems so obvious but maybe it’s not. Bulky binders and notebooks are inefficient for an on-the-go professional, and take up valuable space when traveling. Files, notes and calendars can all live online, meaning they don’t weigh a thing, and they’re always at your fingertips during business travel. Just don’t forget your chargers. It’s also more eco-friendly to use and print less paper.
Be prepared for emergencies. Remember that emergencies happen. Have an emergency packing list ready and posted in your home. It should include key items for you and your family, items for your safety and convenience, anything you need for your pets, and all your important documents prepacked in a duffel and ready to go at a moment’s notice. As the Girl Scouts say, “Be Prepared.”