If you’re one of the lucky software engineers working at Google, you get to design your own workspace. And since everything the company does is done to increase productivity, you can bet this freedom to dictate how and where you work isn’t all just for fun.
You may not be a Googler, but if you’re lucky enough to work from home, you have the ability to customize your office and then some. Everything is in your hands, and you can set things up for maximum personal productivity.
While this degree of freedom can be empowering, it can also be overwhelming, especially when you consider that your performance depends on it. So here are some steps to help you out when customizing your home office to suit your style.
Use Your Home’s Limitations to Your Advantage
Unless you’re in the market for a new house, you’ll be limited by the square meters and style of your home. However, working within certain confinements can lead to surprising results.
Small Spaces: Convert Unused Areas and Minimize to Bare Essentials
Not everyone is blessed with an extra room in the apartment, an empty garage or a bright attic. But if you’re short on home office real estate, even a closet can be turned into your workspace.
Jewelry designer Jane Herro was spending $400 month on a studio every month when she really only needed a jeweler’s bench to do her work. So when she saw the closet area in her new apartment, she turned it into a home office, saving thousands of dollars per year as well as countless hours spent commuting.
Similarly, if all you really need is a small desk and a chair, you can make it work no matter how tiny your space is. If you can’t spare a closet, find other convertible areas around your home and put up a curtain or divider to designate the space as your work area, so that it’s separate from the rest of your home. It’s important to keep the office an office, rather than a living room or kitchen.
Large Spaces: Limit Distractions and Fill the Area With Work-Related Paraphernalia
On the other hand, sometimes you have that large room that you need to fill up. While a minimalist approach can certainly save you time and money spent on figuring out what to do with such a large area, it can also leave the room feeling empty.
Food writer Nigella Lawson had such a space in her former Belgravia home and filled it up with shelves and shelves of books, books, and more books — most of them containing tasty recipes to inspire any foodie.
You probably don’t have a mansion to fill, but if you have a large area to work with, filling it up with items directly related to your line of work will minimize distraction while making the space feel homier. You can even set up separate focus areas so that you can switch places during the day rather than working at your desk all the time.
Pick decorative items that help you work better
Decoration plays a big role in what kind of environment your home office will be. But the objects you choose don’t have to have monetary value; what makes an object inspiring is associated with its perceived intrinsic value rather than an external price tag.
That said, different kinds of objects can create diverse effects, from increased creativity to a sense of comfort as you work. It might be a good idea to consider some of these effects and pick the items that match your priorities.
Get a Bit of Green for Better Productivity
Even if you don’t have a big window looking over rolling hills, a bit of green in your office can provide you with peace and better performance at work by relieving stress and increasing focus. A study from Exeter University found that people who had plants in their offices were 15% more productive and showed better memory retention.
A house plant, an inspiring piece of art or poster, or a vertical garden in the style of botanist Patrick Blanc can all work wonders. Of course, it’s not necessary to line up an entire wall with plants. The research revealed that even photographs can give us similar effects as plants.
Pick your favorite houseplant, get a vase of flowers for your desk or, if you’re feeling more inspired, set up a plant wall to help you focus at work and relieve stress.
Place photos to personalize your workspace.
There’s a reason why so many people put family photos on their desks. A study at the University of Surrey showed researchers that the lack of personalization even led to reduced productivity at work.
The great thing about working from home is that you are at complete liberty to personalize your office with a whole wall of photos to remind you of your loved ones. It’s a chance for you to arrange them in creative ways that weren’t possible at a shared office.
Framed photos can be all the wall decor you need, and if you have children, hanging up your children’s drawings can also give your office a personal touch. Alternatively, a classic photo on the desk can also do the trick nicely.
Use Fun Collectibles to Inspire Creativity.
Your propensity for fun collectibles can also shine at your home office without earning comments from your colleagues. Putting unusual objects around your workspace can even help to spark unconventional ideas, much in the same way that a trip to an art museum can move you to creativity.
Check out Hart of Dixie producer Josh Schwartz’s gumball machine, which is not just fun but makes for a striking visual piece sure to catch the eye. Other items include a surfboard and a storm trooper helmet.
From arcade machines to foosball tables, anything is game for your office — as long as they don’t become sources of distraction. If you’re out of ideas, think back to the toys you used to collect when you were a child or any arts and crafts you’re into can be great sources of out-of-the-ordinary objects.
Use Colors to Set the Ideal Mood.
Research from the University of Texas revealed that a white office space led to more errors at work for most people, though other colors created different responses in different people. Fortunately, you no longer have to stick to a color that makes you unproductive.
The numerous studies on color make it clear that personalization is best — fortunately, at home, you won’t be stuck with a color that drives you crazy or leaves you terribly bored and unproductive. Simply pick your favorites and make the office as colorful or neutral as you like.
Stimulating Colors Can Help With Focus.
Painting the walls red might seem extreme, but it can work if you frequently have to pay attention to detail. As one of the more stimulating colors, it can raise blood pressure and boost motivation.
If you love the idea of red in your office but find the wallpaper too much, experiment with a lighter shade or use other objects like curtains to stimulate the space without overwhelming your office.
Natural Colors Like Blue and Green Can Provide Calm.
If your tasks require a more calm and creative approach, shades of blue and green are a better choice, known to have stabling effects on people. Brown is another color that comes from nature and has the ability to ground us.
Find your inspiration from your favorite kind of nature — mountains, sea or the earth — to give you some peace and calm as you work.
Bright Colors Should be Used in Moderation.
Meanwhile, colors like yellow, orange and purple can induce different effects for men and women and are best used in moderation. Though yellow can inspire enthusiasm, it has also been linked to irritability, while the study from UT found that purple tended to have a more depressing effect for men.
Because of the varying effects bright colors have, it’s a good idea to use them for smaller objects or areas. Use your favorite colors in moderation to serve as mood boosters.
Enjoy the Freedom Responsibly.
“Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.” – Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
Working from a home office means you’re ultimately in charge of your own career, in more ways than one. Although office personalization is indeed important for productivity, the best kind of motivation comes from within.
By all means, customize the space wherever the wind blows you, just as long as you don’t make the mistake of relying too much on external factors like home office design and furniture for a job well done. A home office should complement the way you work, not control it.
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