The shift to telecommuting has become permanent for many workers, with fewer employees than ever driving to an office five days a week. But whether you work from home part or all of the time, a good home office is essential. Follow these 10 simple organization tips to set yourself up for success when you’re working from home.
1. Personalize Your Workspace
Whether you’re working from a corner of your living room, your dining room or a dedicated office in a spare bedroom, it’s important to make the space your own. Just as you’d personalize your office at your employer's place of business, you should also put those little touches into your home office. Personal photos, a potted plant and a fun desk organizer and accessories can make it a place where you look forward to spending time.
If you have spare wallspace, consider hanging something like a corkboard. You can add a few personal touches there, like inspirational quotes and photos, but it also becomes a handy place to store notes. Instead of having a small piece of paper here and another there, scattered all over your desk, you can simply pin them to your corkboard where they’ll be posted when you need them. Decluttering yet keeping it where you can see it!
2. Gather the Right Supplies
Your home office also needs a solid set of office supplies. Maybe your employer provides these, or maybe you have to buy them out of your own pocket. Either way, it’s best to make a list of what you need and make sure you have it all.
In addition to your computer, some common office supplies that can be useful include:
- Writing tools such as pens, pencils and possibly whiteboard markers
- Sticky notes
- A printer and printer paper
- File folders
- File cabinet
- A stapler and paper clips
- A desktop calendar
3. Create a Place for Everything
To organize your workspace, you’ll first need a place to put everything. Otherwise, your desktop will be constantly cluttered. Try to get a desk that has drawers to hold smaller items like paper clips, and invest in drawer organizers to ensure that you can find things without having to dig for them.
Another must-have item is a place to organize your important documents in file folders. You don’t need to have a full filing cabinet if you use very little paper. But a desk drawer with rails and maybe even dividers for hanging file folders can help you keep any paperwork you do have well organized.
You'll also need a place for thing you don't need right away, so keep your eyes often for storage solutions that work in your space.
4. Be as Paperless as Possible
When it comes down to it, one of the best things you can do for any space is to keep clutter to a minimum. It’s easier than ever to achieve a paperless office with so much being stored in the cloud and on devices. As an important first step, make a serious effort to reduce your reliance on paper, shifting everything to electronic format that you can.
However, keep in mind that no matter how hard you work to minimalize your workspace, over time, things can accumulate, leaving you with clutter blindness, meaning that you don't notice the mess because it's personalized and actually offers some comfort. Still, the effects of this "blindness" can be detrimental to your productivity and mental health.
Set time aside every week to declutter, tossing out anything you don’t need. A paper shredder can be a great way to dispose of sensitive documents, and a scanner will let you store important paperwork digitally, while also getting it off your desk.
5. Set up Systems
One thing you’ll find in any list of organizational tips is the importance of creating systems. If you waste even five minutes looking for something in a given day, that’s five minutes you’ll never get back.
The key to reducing that wasted time is to ensure that everything has a place, and make a concerted effort to always put it there. In addition to a filing system, containers for various items can help you stay organized. A label maker is an investment that can pay off over the years.
6. Have a Storage Plan
No matter how effective your office makeover is at eliminating clutter, there will still be items you want to keep. Storage containers can help you keep those items while also freeing up your home office space.
But before you start buying storage containers to help, make sure you have a storage space to keep them. It could be a closet or somewhere in your garage or your attic. Just make sure it's somewhere that's easily accessible. Also, if you’re storing paper in an area like an attic or a garage, make sure your container safeguards the contents against moisture and insects.
7. Make Use of Your Walls
The walls around your workspace aren't just for corkboards and whiteboards. Shelving can expand your storage options, giving you another way to stay clutter-free. For example, you can set your pen holder on a lower shelf, along with any reference manuals you regularly use, and save the upper shelves for plants, framed photos and other items you want to see but don’t need to reach while seated.
The best thing about shelving is that you don’t need them to be professionally installed. There are plenty of DIY shelving projects that you can implement inexpensively and with minimal labor. Even better, you can purchase some shelving on Amazon or from a local hardware store that’s ready to install. Just make sure you have the necessary tools on hand.
8. Consider Cord Management
No matter how hard you work to create an organized home office, cables and cords can create clutter. Unfortunately, these are an unavoidable part of life when you rely on laptops and mobile devices to manage your work each day.
First, inventory all the chargers you’ll need. You’ll want a way to easily charge all your devices every day while also keeping the cords from getting in your way. Cord management tools like clips, sleeves and Velcro strips can help you manage things.
9. Don’t Neglect Your Background
If, like many people who work from home, you spend a part of your week on video calls, the area behind your desk can be just as important as what’s on your desk. Plan what your background will be as part of your home office design. Even small spaces can make a great impression, since all the person on the other end sees is what’s behind you.
Many professionals go for a bookshelf, but keep in mind that busy backgrounds like that can be distracting. Your meeting guests might spend more time trying to decipher the titles on the books behind you than listening to you speak. A less distracting background with fewer items is usually better.
10. Don’t Forget Your Seat
When you’re looking at organization ideas, typically experts leave out one important detail: the chair. You’ll likely spend hours seated each day, so it’s important that you choose a desk chair that’s comfortable while also providing support. One that supports good posture can reduce your risk of health problems like back and neck pain, incontinence and digestive issues.
While you’re making a list of supplies for your home office organization project, don’t forget the mat or carpeting that goes beneath your chair. Wheeled chairs will give you the best mobility, but you won’t want them to scratch up your floor. The right floor covering will also ensure the wheels glide smoothly.
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.