Welcome to your new office: your home.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced most of us to quickly relocate our work space into our homes. Working from home can be a nice break from going into the office, but having an ongoing work-from-home situation can become a little stressful when you’re not used to it.
If you’re new to working from home, you’re probably going to find yourself spending a lot of time on Zoom (or any other video conferencing service) to connect with your team.
Here are a few ways to liven up your space and create a conducive work environment just inches away from your bed or couch.
Start with yourself
Working under your own roof blurs the lines between work and home – it means logging on earlier and logging off later than usual.
Erin Condren, founder of Erin Condren Design, a company that sells planners and other custom office supplies, says no more.
“The problem is you’re starting earlier, you grab your phone and you look at something and you think you need to answer it right away and you just start working. The next thing you know, it’s noon and you’re still in your pajamas, you haven’t showered, you’re in a funk and your day is thrown off,” Condren says.
Stick to a routine when you’re home, don’t just roll out of bed and connect to work. Wake up, have some coffee or tea, exercise, get showered and dressed just like you’re getting ready to leave the house for work.
“I feel better when I look better and I feel more confident and empowered to put my best foot forward, even if that foot isn’t leaving the house anymore,” Condren says.
Plants, plants, plants
Since it’s more difficult to keep replenishing fresh flowers in this climate, Condren suggests ordering fake ones.
“A friend of mine was cutting snippets of bigger succulents from her yard and putting it in a small little container for a desk plant, so there’s just life that you’re seeing and feeling on your desk,” Condren says.
Morgan DeBaun, founder and CEO of Blavity, a media company for black millennials, says she keeps plants near her workspace to liven up the area
“Having plants around you has been proven to increase productivity and efficiency,” she says.
Repurpose furniture you already have
Many of us didn’t already have a home office to work from pre-quarantine and might be resorting to working in awkward positions on the couch or bed.
Sisters Jayne and Joan Michaels of 2Michaels LLC, an interior design firm in New York, suggest using furniture you already have around the house.
Jayne’s husband used a long bench and low-slung chair to create his workspace.
“We found things around that we could utilize and tested them out. … Maybe it’s not optimal or obvious, but you kind of just play with things,” Jayne says of his new office.
Organize what’s around you
Wherever your space is, make sure it’s organized and free from clutter, especially during stressful times.
“If it gets disorganized and cluttered, then you start to feel more anxiety,” Joan says. “We try to keep a sense of calm.”
DeBaun suggests separating your workspace from your lounging or eating area.
“I recommend people make a little bit of an investment, and if they can afford it, to make their space feel like a workspace and be efficient,” DeBaun said. Make a place for “your coffee, your tea and really just do the things you would’ve done at the office, but at home.”
Decorate what’s visible to you and your co-workers
Whether it’s art, photographs or inspirational quotes, put things in your space that are meaningful to you.
“I’m a huge proponent of inspiration quotes – for me, it’s like the song that pumps you up to exercise,” says Condren, who suggests saving quotes as your screensaver or printing them out to put on the wall. “You’ll have a fresh pop of positivity every day to look at, which can be helpful.”
Being at home is a great opportunity to get around to putting up art on the wall or placing your favorite photos in frames, DeBaun says.
Jayne and Joan also suggest taking inspiration from your colleagues. When you’re on video calls, see which of your coworkers has a background you like and emulate that in your own workspace.
If all else fails, use filters
Fixing up your workspace may be the last thing on your mind during a pandemic, and if you feel like it’s easier to just roll out of bed and hop onto your computer, by all means, please do so.
Filters are an easy fix to make your space presentable during video calls and there’s plenty to choose from, depending on your mood.
“With Zoom, you can choose your background, you can upload any photo,” Condren says. “So it’s been fun to tune in with my parents and they’re now sitting in Italy.”
DeBaun also wants to remind people that it’s OK if your background isn’t picture perfect or your dog interrupts your important work meeting.
“People know everyone’s working from home, so there are a lot of human aspects. We have families, we have things, and it might just be a time to share a little bit of who you are with people you work with,” DeBaun says. “It’s better for people to actually accept the humanity and that we’re all going through a shared experience together.”
One pro tip she has: “When you’re doing a video conference, put your laptop on some sort of elevated surface so the camera is at your eyesight. It’s just a better angle for everyone and it’s often more flattering.”