Whether you’re telecommuting or freelancing, working from home is an option for many more workers than it was in earlier times. 20% of Americans work from home and that number is expected to increase by 63% in the next five years. A new study shows that moms who work from home are more successful.
Grabbing your laptop and getting to work on the couch is definitely a way that many people get to work at first, but if working from home is going to be a regular state of affairs for you, then it will behoove you to set up a proper home office. It can even have tax benefits, if you do it right.
So how do you set up a home office to maximize your productivity?
Make It a Dedicated Space
Even if your office ends up being a corner of the living room, don’t have distractions there. Point your desk away from the TV, play areas, or other congregating spots in your household. It’s much better if you can set up your office in another room, especially if the door closes.
Many people choose to set this up in a spare bedroom that isn’t used often. As long as you have an alternative when you have guests, this can work just fine.
Pay Attention to Design
While the evidence around color science is blurrier than many marketers would like, what we do know is that colors elicit certain reactions in people. While office designers have to rely on surveys and statistics to choose the right colors, home workers have the benefit of simply looking for colors that make them feel energized and focus. It could be a warm yellow color, a deep blue, or a bright white.
Whatever makes you feel like you’re ready to get up and get going is the right color for you.
Make sure your desk is the right height and that your chair adjusts properly for your body. Working at home doesn’t give you an excuse to neglect your ergonomics. Adding plants to a home office can also serve multiple benefits; they warm up and humanize a space, making it feel more relaxing and comfortable.
They also help clean the air just through their existence, which can be important in a closed in environment.
Set Working Hours
One difficulty of working from home, whether you’re telecommuting for the day or building a business from home, is that it’s easy to let things slide. You can decide to listen to one more podcast, or get to the next piece of design just as soon as you finish a game of solitaire.
You’ll work most efficiently if you structure your day carefully. Have work hours, break times, and a scheduled time to be done with work for the day. If you’re telecommuting, this may be easier; your hours are set by your employer.
For those who work from home regularly, however, this kind of time bleed can cause two problems. First, you can put off work to the point that you’re either missing deadlines or working overnight to catch up. Next, you can feel like you never stop working. This is where that single purpose room becomes helpful again; if you’re not in that space, you’re not working, but if you are in that space, you need to work without distractions.
If you live with family, it is often very difficult to get them to respect your working time. They aren’t generally being malicious about it; kids or relatives for whom you are a caregiver have real needs, and spouses may think they’re just being social. Again, having a door that closes is helpful.
But if you have kids who need help during the day or after school, or an elderly relative who needs some assistance, it may be a good idea to hire help, even if it’s just for a short period of time as you work on an intense project. This can give you the space you need to get your work done without feeling like you’re being pulled in every direction.
Learn IRS Rules About Home Offices
When you file taxes as a self-employed person, one question the IRS asks is whether you maintain a home office. Working on your living room couch rarely qualifies, but if you are able to set up a dedicated space, then you may be able to deduct the costs of running your office, including some of the bills from your home maintenance and utilities.
These rules are complicated, however, and it may be difficult for the average worker to sort out whether or not they qualify. At that point, it’s important to check in with an experienced tax preparer to make sure that you are getting all the deductions you legally deserve.
By setting up a home office, you can maximize your productivity and improve your work quality over time.