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By: Lauren McRae
Working from home may be ideal for some people, and a challenge for others. Whether you choose to work from home full-time or need to occasionally work from home, it's important to set up a space where you can feel productive and energized.
Making some adjustments may be necessary. Identify specific areas of distraction - do you have control over them? What changes can you make to improve your at-home working conditions? Here are some ideas that can help with productivity:
Boundaries and time-blocking: You may be struggling with productivity because you work at home with distractions: the dog, the kids, a partner...sometimes your workspace might be a very public area in your home. Setting boundaries with others sharing your home might be a good start. Clearly communicate what your work hours are, let them know when you might need more silence (like when talking on a call), and be sure to let them know when you are free as well. After all, the people in your home can bring you energy and remind you what's important in life. Create the right time blocks and ask for appropriate boundaries so you can feel productive.
Conference call improvements: Working from home may mean attending more online conference calls. If you opt for video calls try using a service that offers blurred background functionality. This makes background details fuzzy and allows callers to focus on you, not the objects behind you. (Your organization may also offer tech tips to help set this up.) Other improvements you can make would be to tell other people in your home that you are about to get on a call or take the call from a room where the door can be closed. This will allow you to focus on the call, not the distractions. And when you aren't talking on the call be sure to use the mute button!Noise-canceling headphones: These are specifically designed to cancel out ambient noise or reduce the amount of background noise. They are great for reducing voices around you and can also help when you're working in a noisy environment. They work well on their own but can also be used to listen to music or attend conference calls.Ambient music or sound: Some people find that the right music can greatly add to their productivity and focused energy. Find the right music for you, or create a playlist that you know works for your productivity.Task lamps or lighting: Believe it or not, the type of lighting in your space could be negatively affecting your productivity. Adjustable task lamps allow for focused light to project onto a surface for better visibility and are best when you're typing or when reading text is critical. Consider other types of light adjustments like overhead lighting, natural light, adding window shades, or moving your desk toward better lighting.The right desk and chair: The best at-home office set-up is whatever works best for you, your space, and the type of work you do. Some people are very productive moving around their home finding a variety of places to sit and work. Others prefer a dedicated desk, table, or chair so their equipment doesn't need to move. You need to find the right set-up that won't cause physical injury or pain while you are working from home. "Maintaining an ergonomic workspace can limit the stress on the body from working in a seated position," says Kirsten Geary, MD, Sports Medicine. "Adjustable height desks are ideal, as one can spend some time in standing, rather than seated position."
Get up and walk around! "Adults are, in general, very sedentary," says Dr. Geary. "The typical adult spends over 8 hours a day sitting. There is an association with increased all-cause mortality with a sedentary lifestyle. This is not canceled by meeting the minimum recommendations for physical activity." To decrease the amount of sitting, Dr. Geary suggests making it a point to get up and move around every 20 minutes. This may be a short walk or a few stretches. "The seated position tends to lead to tight hip flexor and chest muscles. Keeping a strong core, including back muscles and those that support the shoulder blades is important for maintaining proper posture. Poor posture can lead to neck, low back, and shoulder pains."
At-home office supplies: Would a whiteboard or other office supplies help you be more productive? Some at-home workers like having a space that looks and feels like a traditional office space - and having the right tools to get the job done may help with your energy levels.Acoustical tiles: You may not be able to make your home office or personal workspace sound-proof, but you can help dampen distracting noise with some acoustical tiles. These are pieces of foam that can often be cut to size and affixed to walls or doors. Of course, you'll first want to make sure you can make this type of modification at home.
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