When the work world headed home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees and companies were caught off guard. In the blink of an eye, a new army of telecommuters had been created, and many of those home-based workers were unprepared for the transition.
During the early days of the telecommuting revolution, stories emerged of home offices in closets, in children’s bedrooms, and even crammed into the space under the basement stairs. Faced with those space constrictions, those new home-based workers were forced to think creatively, and that creativity can now be used to make the most of every available office space.
No matter how large or small your home-based office, optimizing that available space for maximum productivity is important. With that in mind, here are some smart tips for organizing your home office and optimizing the space you do have.
Remove Non-Office Items
It is easy for any “spare” room, including the space designated for your home office, to become a dumping ground for unwanted items. If the space you have earmarked for your home office has been unused for some time, it’s likely filled with extraneous items, and probably some actual junk — items that have nothing to do with your business.
Doing a deep cleaning of the proposed office space and finding new homes for those non-office items is a vital first step in the preparation of your home office. Once the space has been cleared, you can move on to the transformation process. Your goal will be to maximize the space you have available, allowing you to be as productive as possible.
Choose Space Saving Furniture
If you have a huge home with lots of space, you can simply choose from the suite of extra rooms, fitting one out for a luxurious home office. If not, you will need to be much more creative and aware of the space you do have available.
Many home-based workers have been forced to turn their spare bedrooms, their basements, and even their closets into office space, and that is possible with the right furniture. Even the smallest space can become a productive home office if you choose furniture pieces that are suited to the task. Compact desks can be fitted nearly anywhere, as can comfortable chairs that take up little space and task lighting that can accommodate even the tiniest area.
Create Efficiency Zones
If you want your home office to be efficient, start by setting up efficiency zones. This zone-based approach can be used for any home office, no matter what its size, and it will allow you to be as productive as possible.
One zone can be used to house the items you use every single day — things like your inbox, your calendar, your computer, phone, and so on. Go through everything in your home office, separating items into zones and organizing them for maximum efficiency.
If you hold a Zoom call once a week, you can keep the external microphone, background, and lighting in a separate part of your home office — out of the way but still available when you need it. The vagaries of the zone-based approach will depend on how and where you work, but this program can be adapted for virtually any home-based worker.
Aim for a Paperless Office Environment
If you want to maximize the use of space in your home office, reducing the amount of paper is always a good place to start. The paperless office may be an unattainable dream in the corporate world, but it is much more doable in the home office environment.
You can begin your path to paperlessness with a multifunction printer, one that can copy, scan, and fax as well as print. This will allow you to scan important documents into an electronic format. Then you can shred and discard those time-wasting physical copies. You can further reduce the amount of paper your home office generates by maintaining electronic copies whenever you can, printing only documents that really need to exist in physical form. Simply asking yourself if you really need to print a given document can shrink your storage requirements and keep your home office cleaner.
Choose a Wireless Printer
When choosing a printer for your home office, it pays to go wireless. Wireless printing capability means you can put your printer anywhere the Wi-Fi network reaches, including on top of the bookcase or in an otherwise unused corner.
Many modern office printers now have Wi-Fi built in, so finding one with those capabilities should not be much of a challenge. Once the Wi-Fi is set up, you can print from anywhere, including your tablet or smartphone.
Set a Time for Daily Office Cleanup
A clean office is an efficient office, so set a time for daily office cleanup. Taking out the trash, removing paper from the shredding bin, dusting the furniture, and sweeping up the floors will not only make your space look better, it will allow your home office to run more efficiently.
If you are a parent, you might want to outsource the job of home office maintenance. Assigning the cleaning of your home office to one of your kids will allow them to earn a bit of extra allowance, all while giving you one less thing to do.
As a home-based worker, you may not be blessed with a surfeit of space, but you can make the most of the space you do have. Whether your home office is an entire room, a corner of the basement, or an ad-hoc arrangement, there are things you can do to maximize the space you have, so you can stay happy and productive on the job.