Working from home has become the new normal, and that’s not changing anytime soon. “Most major companies are planning to continue remote work through fall of this year,” says Lucy Milligan Wahl, the professional organizer behind LMW Edits. Because of that, creating a home workspace that supports productivity and reduces stress is crucial.
A few problems arise when you don’t have a dedicated home workspace: You can get easily distracted, start experiencing back pain due to not working in an ergonomic environment (a couch or bed only feels good for so long!), and you’ll be stressed. Very, very stressed. “There are simple tactics you can use to decrease the struggle and help every day run a bit more smoothly,” says Milligan Wahl. Here are her top tips.
How to Create a Productive Home Workspace
1. Pick a Dedicated Workspace
When Milligan Wahl says a “dedicated workspace,” she means only work happens there. “A dedicated workspace is a cue for you to be productive while you’re there, and it also functions as a signal to others that you’re currently working and shouldn’t be disturbed.”
While Milligan Wahl says many people don’t have the luxury of a home office where you can shut the door to cut down out distractions, you can still take the same concept of a dedicated workspace to create a workstation—”either something permanent, or something you can set up at the beginning of the day then break down at the end,” she says.
You can do this in any quiet area that’s available… except for the bedroom. “Sleep is absolutely essential to our health and well-being, and research says we don’t sleep as well when we associate our bed with activities other than sleep and intimacy,” she says. “But if you absolutely can’t avoid the bedroom, create a dedicated workspace within the bedroom and avoid working in bed.”
2. Set Up the Appropriate Technology
You can’t get work done without the proper technology. “What I tell people when they’re setting up workspaces is that everyone should have their own device that allows them to do everything they need to do,” she says. “If you find you’re more productive with things like an external monitor or an external keyboard and mouse that help you feel set up for success, that’s worth investing in. Especially given the assumption that we’re here at home working until the end of the year.”
Aesthetic matters, too. “It doesn’t take much time or effort to put zip ties around cords, for example, to clean everything up and make it look better,” she says. “That can help you feel a little bit more like your space is meant for working and you’re supposed to be there.”
3. Pay Attention to Ergonomics
You can set up a dedicated workspace pretty much anywhere, but not always one that’s ergonomic. Without taking that time, you could wind up with back or neck pain in the future. “If your spot is uncomfortable and unsupportive, that’s going to take a toll on your body over time,” says Milligan Wahl. Especially when you spend hour upon hour in the same position every day.
“The key aspects of an ergonomic workspace are seating, keyboard and monitor positioning, and lighting,” she says. “The general idea is that your chair should support you with your thighs parallel to the floor and your spine upright over your hips. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees to work at your keyboard, and the top third of your monitor should be at eye level.
She also says you’ll want a workspace that’s well-lit—”ideally with natural light and no glare on the screens you’re using,” she says.
4. Keep Your Workspace Clear of Clutter
Not only does a cluttered workspace look bad, but it also causes stress. “Both physical and digital clutter has been shown to raise levels of cortisol, which is the hormone that causes stress. Stress makes you more susceptible to distraction, which means your productivity will take a hit.”
To keep your workspace clear of clutter, Milligan Wahl says to only keep things that are actually being used on your desk area. Things may pile up throughout the day, so make it a habit to tidy up after you’re done working to get rid of any clutter. That way, when you’re ready to work again the next morning, you’ll be greeted by a clean, organized, and stress-free space.