5 Ways to Optimize Your Work from Home Space

From spotty wifi to sharing a space with virtual learners, working remote is tricky. A local professional shares her tips. 
by Melissa Howsam

Between kids, dogs, cramped space and glitchy technology, the hurdles for working from home can feel endless. “The three biggest hurdles my clients deal with when working virtually are technological challenges, digital literacy and uncertain boundaries,” says Geralin Thomas, founder of Cary-based Metropolitan Organizing. 

Since many of us won’t be returning to an office anytime soon, it’s time to tackle these issues. Your workspace can have a crucial impact on your productivity, efficiency, sanity—and, ultimately, professional success. Here, the professional organizer shares five tips for optimizing your work-from-home space. 

Photograph by Catherine Nguyen

Designate a Workspace

Working from the kitchen countertop, dining room table, bed or couch, is fine for short-term night or weekend projects, but it’s not optimal forwarding from home daily, and can be disruptive to both you workflow and home life. If at all possible, designate a dedicated work zone in your home that you can use just for working, even if it’s just a small table in the bedroom. (For tiny homes, consider such space-savers as a desk that can easily be folded and moved or tucked away.) If you share your home with kids, a spouse or animals, try to find a place with a door that closes.

Make Yourself Comfortable

Don’t let your WFH space wreak havoc on your body—comfort is key to physical, and thereby mental, success. Consider investing in an office chair, or use a support pillow to make a kitchen or dining room chair more comfortable. A glass chair mat helps for easy gliding on carpeted floors, and counter-height chairs can be made more comfortable (and toasty) with this heated foot rest. Those wanting to stand more and sit less can try a standing desk converter (or this one), standing desk mat and anti-fatigue mat. And if you are relegated to a bed or sofa, consider an under-the-knee bolster to relieve pressure on lower back, and consider a lumbar support pillow.

Rev up Your Tech

A few items that might be helpful: a docking station, printer, USB hub and mutlifunction power strip with USB ports (this option clamps to the desk for easy access). If your wifi is weak, consider relocating the router closer to your desk or investing in a signal extender. Noise-canceling headphones come in handy if you share your home. If you’re working from a laptop, see if your office will invest in a monitor, keyboard and laptop stand to get things more ergonomic.

Photograph by Finn Lively Photography | Courtesy Kelley Jonkoff

Gather Your Supplies

Any time you leave your desk, it’s an opportunity to get distracted , so once you’ve chosen a spot, make sure you have the necessary resources on-hand for efficiency. If you deal in paper, consider a portable file box, or this Poly project organizer, and turn a favorite mug into a pen holder. A little trash can saves a trip to the kitchen, and a coaster can house your water bottle. A desk lamp can help, too, for dreary afternoons and better Zoom lighting.

Establish Boundaries 

Set crystal-clear boundaries for weekends and evening hours to be off from work—Just because your office and home are now merged does not mean you need to be on duty and responsive 24/7. Similarly, establish routines and signals within your home so that both you and your household know the difference between work time and time off: get dressed for the office, sit in the same space every day, close a door or put on headphones. Consider placing a noise machine outside the door to muffle personal conversations, or building yourself a cubicle with a screen or even a room divider ceiling track.  

Ultimately, advises Thomas, the single most important factor for a successful work from home space is “compassion.” Be patient with yourself and with colleagues as you adjust to new workflows, and understand that it may take a while to get a routine that works for everyone. She says, “without a doubt, these are trying times—financially, emotionally and physically.”