How to build an inspiring and productive workplace at home

Whether you work from home already or dream of doing so in the future, I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this:

One of the biggest perks of working remotely is your ability to get stuff done from anywhere with an internet connection.

Whether that’s a local coffee shop, a coworking space, or a beach in Bali, remote work arrangements allow you to do your job in an environment that’s comfortable for you.

And while that flexibility can really come in handy when it comes to travel or just getting out of the house, chances are that you’ll still spend a good amount of your time working from your home.

work from home build an inspiring workplace

of course, there’s a big difference between parking yourself on the couch with a laptop and setting up an inspiring and productive workspace in your home.

And with employers concerned about productivity in remote work arrangements (even though reports show a 13.5 percent increase in productivity for remote work), it’s in your best interest to create a space in your home that maximizes your efficiency and effectiveness at work.

So, that’s what I’m going to show you how to do here today.

No $1,500.00 standing desks. No mood lighting.

Just a simple, affordable guide to setting up a workspace at home that helps you get more done remotely.

 Excited? Then let’s dive in.

tip #1: keep costs to $10 per month

Even if you’re one of those people who find a bit of background noise increases your creativity, I’ll bet there are times where you just need to bunker down and focus on your work without distractions.

But, if you’re anything like me, that’s not always easy.

Not only do I have a two-year-old running around my apartment, but when I’m not travelling the world with my family, I’m based in New York City where - if you didn’t already know - the apartments are laughably small.

So, I don’t have an office at home - my desk is right in my living room:

And that’s a common problem for many “work-from-homers”:

how do you stay productive without a dedicated office space where you can close the door and focus?

Simple answer:

A decent pair of headphones.

No need to go crazy and drop $400+ on noise-cancelling, wireless Bose or Beats. You need just a simple pair that you can pop on and escape into your own little world of music and productivity.

(I like these ones from Audio Technica, which retail for $125 CAD ($99 USD), or just over $10 CAD per month.)

and what should you listen to while working to maximize your creativity and productivity?

HelpScout put together a great post outlining the best music for focus and creativity, and while you may not find yourself jamming out to classical or ambient music on the weekends, studies show there’s a relationship between these types of music and higher work output.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to my work playlist on Spotify. Feel free to follow the playlist to get updates as I add new albums!

tip #2: cut out the clutter

Look, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m far from the most organized person.

Parent brain is partially to blame, for sure, but most of the problem existed long before my little guy came along.

Still, I make a concerted effort each day to start with a clean physical space and mental state. 

That means cutting out the clutter in my workspace and in my head before I try and settle into any focused work.

Here’s how:

  1. rule: nothing on my desk that doesn’t need to be there

    That means any papers, books, baby toys, food, or anything else that has accumulated on my desk gets cleaned up and put away before I dive into my tasks for the day.

    I treat this time as a replacement for my morning commute. Instead of sitting in traffic or riding the train for thirty minutes, I spend ten getting my desk in order before “clocking in” and starting my day.

  2. rule: make (and prioritize) a to-do list for the day

    Doing so gives me focus on what I want (and need) to accomplish so that I can mentally prep for the day ahead.

  3. rule: kick things off with a short meditation

    It’s no secret that meditation is one of the biggest wellness trends of the last few years.

    But people often hesitate to get started because they don’t believe they can “stop thinking” long enough to get anything out of it.

    The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re able to clear your mind or not. The practice itself of taking ten minutes a day to close your eyes and just focus on nothing but your breathing is a healthy habit no matter what.


(image source)

tip #3: don’t discount the importance of ambiance

Alright, I know I said no mood lighting earlier and I stand by that. But that doesn’t mean the overall vibe of your workspace doesn’t matter. In fact, aspects like lighting, color, and plant life can have a measurable impact on your productivity.

Here are a few ideas for creating an effective workspace ambiance:

  1. Whenever possible, station yourself by a window.

    A study from Northwestern University highlights the impact natural light can have on workplace productivity and even your sleep patterns.

    So sitting by a window isn’t just about gazing longingly outside on a beautiful day, it’s actually directly tied to your health and well-being.

    (Not to mention that an open window helps regulate temperature and provides some ambient noise - two other components of a more productive workspace.

  2. Attempt to delight all of your senses.

    I already talked about the right kind of music to listen to, but what about the other four senses?

    Well, smell is an easy one. Pick up a candle or some essential oils and get your workplace smelling fresh and floral.

    Touch and taste go hand-in-hand. Consider keeping a stress ball or one of these fidget toys along with a semi-healthy yet still tasty snack by your desk (remember: not on it - cutting out the clutter).

    Finally, there’s sight. Here’s where things get interesting: a study from the University of Texas found that the colour of your workspace can have a

    profound effect on your wellness and productivity.

    And while most colours have benefits for certain types of workers, if you want to go with a safe bet, choose blue.

  3. Buy (and keep alive) a plant. You can do it.

    I’m a great dad but an awful gardener. Nevertheless, reports show having plants around the workplace to increase productivity by as much as 15 percent. So, if you’re like me, consider one of these hard-to-kill houseplants for your workspace. 

tip #4: splurge on a good chair

Everything discussed up to this point costs well under $200 CAD. But if you’re going to drop some serious coin on any one piece of your home office, make it a really good, ergonomic chairOffice workers spend 93 percent of their day sitting in a chair and though the standing desk is growing in popularity, a good chair remains a smart investment even if you’re hip to the standing trend.  

Lifehacker calls it “the comfort principle”: Spend your money where you spend your time.

So let’s say you decide to drop $700 on an office chair. Yikes. But if you’re working 10 hours a day on average, that adds up to about 2,600 hours a year spent in a chair.

And as Jason Chen puts it: “If you spread your $700 over the course of 2600 hours, that comes out to about 25 cents an hour. Would you pay a quarter an hour to be comfortable? My guess is yes.”

A great chair is a solid investment for any remote worker.

final thoughts

Working from home is a privilege and you should take advantage of the flexibility to get your job done from anywhere.

But building an inspiring and productive workplace at home ensures you have a go-to spot where you know you can focus and be creative.

Hopefully, this post gives you some great ideas on how to maximize your home workspace for better productivity and efficiency.

about the author

Zack Andersen - Freelance Content Writer

After three years in recruiting and two with LinkedIn, I recently embarked on a new adventure with my wife and one-year-old son to travel the world while building my content creation business, ZackWrites.com. I'm excited to share my journey and the insights I learn along the way with the Randstad community.

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