Posey's Tips & Tricks

Where To Focus Your Efforts as Work From Home Drags On

We're probably going to be here for a while. Time to make things more comfortable to improve productivity.

When the lockdowns happened, I doubted that many people realized that two years later a lot of us would still be working from home. While some organizations have reopened their offices, there are plenty of companies that have made a permanent switch to work from home (or to hybrid work). So if you are stuck working from home for the foreseeable future, where should your priorities be?

In my mind, there are two important questions that those who are continuing to work from home should be asking themselves:

  1. What about my home office setup is working for me and what is not?
  2. How has my job changed since I began working from home?

The answers to these two questions can help you to figure out what your priorities should be with regard to your work from home situation. After all, it seems safe to assume that work from home is a permanent situation and so it makes sense to look for ways to make working from home easier, less disruptive or more pleasant.

Obviously your options are going to vary based on your living situation, occupation and budget, but I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.

Decluttering
I stumbled onto this one by accident, but decluttering your work environment can go a long way toward making your work from home experience more pleasant.

Before COVID, I used to travel to a particular studio a few times a year in order to record video courseware. The studio has been closed ever since the COVID outbreak, so I have been having to record these courses from home.

This goes back to my question about what is working and what is not. Whereas my neighborhood used to be really quiet, that seems to be a thing of the past. All of the noise from air traffic, cars, barking dogs and other things has made it nearly impossible to record videos free of background noise. Since traveling to the studio that I used in the past is no longer an option, I was forced to build a studio in my home.

Of course a recording studio takes up a lot of space so I had to make room for it. Initially, I thought that I would just need to rearrange some things in order to make room for the project, but as I really got into it I began to realize something. In the fifteen years that I have lived in my current home, I had accumulated a lot more clutter than I realized. Over a couple weeks' time I spent a few hours each day doing some serious decluttering. My efforts have caused my office to feel more spacious and airy. That alone has gone a long way toward making those marathon writing sessions more pleasant.

Identify Problems
Another thing that I would recommend for long-term work from home is to identify anything that just isn't working for you and then look for creative ways to fix the problem. My recording studio project is certainly an example of that, but let me give you another example.

Someone that I know didn't have any dedicated office space in her home, so when the pandemic hit she resorted to doing all of her work at the kitchen table. Over time though, she began to notice that she was having a lot of aches and pains. Her kitchen chairs were fine for the amount of time that it takes to have a meal, but were never intended for all-day use. My friend initially tried to solve the problem with a cushion, but that caused some problems of its own. The cushion elevated her a few inches, but the table top height didn't change, which meant that her posture was all wrong, leading to more problems. Eventually, my friend bought a good quality chair, which made a huge difference in her quality of life and made working from home much more bearable.

Obviously, not everybody needs a new chair, but I wanted to mention my friend's story because it illustrates how a small change can yield dramatic improvements.

Make a Wish List
My advice would be to ask yourself, what's the single biggest thing that annoys you about working from home? Another way of approaching this might be to ask yourself what one change you would make if you could.

Some wish list items will inevitably be impractical, but there may be some easier things that you can do to get a somewhat similar result. In my case, for example, the number one change that I wish I could make would be to knock out one of the walls in my office and turn the attic space behind that wall into another room. While I could theoretically do that, it would be a crazy expensive project. It would also likely be super disruptive to my work because it would mean turning my office into a construction site.

Thankfully, a major construction project isn't the only option. Another option is to make more efficient use of the space that is already available. After a quick search online, I found an inexpensive application called Room Arranger. I was able to use to create a 3D model of my home. That gave me the ability to experiment with rearranging my office so that it better fit my needs. Eventually I found a much more efficient way to arrange everything, and that gave me the space that I needed, without having to knock out any walls.

Making Work from Home More Pleasant
You don't necessarily have to buy furniture or rearrange your home to improve your work from home situation. Improving your working situation may just be a matter of painting your walls in a more cheerful color or making other small changes. Sometimes the little things can make the biggest difference.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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