Working from home can’t even be called a thing anymore. It’s now as much of a reality as masks and hand sanitiser. In between home schooling, the cat throwing up on your lap, the kettle magically switching itself on every 15 minutes and numerous failed attempts at avoiding Netflix, you need a space to conduct your business.
I transitioned from a 9-to-5 job to running my own business from home about four years ago. My old desk was a tiny wooden number with a cube as a chair – and frankly – I looked for every excuse not to sit at it. Furthermore, my desk’s close proximity to the kettle, fridge, microwave, couch and ultimately my bed, tested my reserve more than any client or project could. Productivity suffered but more so, my body. A year of discomfort resulted in a pinched nerve and aching hunched shoulders which forced me to relook my workspace.
Did you know: your head weighs 5kgs? Sitting at a desk with your eye level with your computer screen is the most important factor to consider when setting up an office workspace. You’ll instantly relieve the strain on your shoulders and back by not having to support the weight of your head.
I live in a small 2-bedroom apartment so space is limited. To accommodate a decent-sized desk and proper office chair, I had to shorten my dining table from an 8- to a 6-seater. It was a huge sacrifice but nothing beats working from home and smaller dinner parties are just fine.
So, here are my 10 tips for setting up a small workspace at home, if you don’t have a designated room for an office.
- Spend the bulk of your budget on a well-made chair; your back and butt will thank you. Then, to determine the right height of a table, when seated, your elbow should rest comfortably on your desk without having to lift your shoulder.
- Your head weighs 5kg. (I know, right? Crazy!) You won’t believe that back fatigue is often sustained by carrying that weight. Relieve pressure off your shoulders and back by ensuring that your computer screen is level with your eye. Use a laptop stand or a pile of magazines for a desktop, to lift the screen to the correct height.
- Feng Shui dictates that you shouldn’t have your back to the door. This isn’t always realistic especially in a small space like mine. So I’ve respectfully asked the gods to go kindly on me until I get a bigger home. Til then, I’ll be increasing my bamboo shoots to six which symbolises good luck and wealth. The two I currently have signify love. I’ll take it.
- We’re also advised to set up office in the quietest space in our homes, preferably without a TV. Once again, challenging in a small space so set boundaries. My office aka a corner in the living room is literally a no-go zone during my office hours.
- On that subject, working from home requires intense discipline. It’s easy to garden or do housework when you should be working, then answer emails late at night. Once again, be ruthless when setting office hours. Allocate tea breaks and lunchtimes and don’t eat at your desk. Having said that, be gentle on yourself when you don’t get it right every day. Just make sure you complete your allocated work for the day or week.
- Now the fun begins. Declutter the area you’ll be working in and choose a simple colour palette. Be ruthless because distractions kill productivity and the workspace needs to blend in with the rest of the room.
- Save paper. So many documents can be generated or stored on Google docs or the cloud. Remember you’re working remotely so files need to be accessible should you need to dash off to the office or meet a client.
- Wires are messy. Use cable ties to neaten or trucking to hide power cables. Go wireless with your keyboard, mouse, speakers and earphones.
- The sky’s the limit when it comes to smart storage. I have a truck for all my files and office stationery. I really don’t want to see anything I’m physically not using at the time.
- And finally, surround your space with things that bring you joy. A holiday photo, an oxygen generating plant or a fragrant candle. Who says a workspace needs to be stuffy.
I guarantee that a comfortable, beautiful space – with set operational boundaries – is the best gift to yourself for a successful start to your business. And more importantly, we all want a happy little space to call your own even if for a few hours a day. As Jamiroquai sang, “I know this corner of the earth, it smiles at me.”
Here’s to spaces and places that make us happy… and successful.
love & light