Home Office Close-up
Desk view from my home office
For the past 6 months I’ve been working entirely from home, and it’s been wonderful. Avoiding the distractions of a traditional office have made me more productive than ever. However, this isn’t the case for everybody. Working from home adds many new distractions as well.

If you work from home these tips may help you create a productive and healthy home office environment.

Simplicity & minimalism is key

Whenever you find yourself questioning your organization methods, or wondering about the best way to file something, keep the K.I.S.S. principle in mind.

Try to throw away what you don’t need, and do your best to avoid the gradual art of hoarding. Okay, that may be a little drastic, but uncluttering your life whenever possible will reduce stress and improve productivity in the long run. I try to bring this ideology into everything I do, especially my work at home.

Make your work space as minimalistic as possible. Less clutter means less distraction and better focus. Try the following:

  1. Keep your desk clear of any excess at all times
  2. Try to store all files and books digitally whenever possible (be sure to have a backup plan)
  3. Re-examine your use of paper
  4. Eliminate unnecessary stuff your attached to
  5. Simplify your filing system
  6. Clean out your desk drawers, do you reall need everything?
  7. Keep the room clear and clean

Music drives creativity & productivity

My Home Office
Home Office Setup
I always work with music, and there have been studies that prove it’s effectiveness. For this reason a quality set of speakers was important for my office.

I wanted something powerful and well-balanced that had a simple and clean design. I went with Harmon Kardon Soundsticks III and have no regrets. Some people swear by headphones, but I prefer speakers. It’s nice to have some background ambiance coming from outside once summer roles around.

I’ve found that certain music helps with different types of work. I may throw on some Tupac or Biggie when I’m in Photoshop, but for development rap doesn’t cut it. I like to tune into indie rock, a mix of electronic stuff, reggae and even some baroque classical (which is actually the most productive).

When my iTunes library begins to sound like a broken record I find new music with Last.fm, Pandora (using Mac OS X and PadoraJam), Radioshift, and Grooveshark.

Good lighting

Everything around you — sound, lights, what you’re sitting on, what you’re smelling – sends sensory stimulation to your brain. This sensory data competes for your attention, and potentially draws energy away from mental activities such as creativity, performance, and clear thinking.Suite 101: Introverts, Extroverts’ Response to Surroundings: Personality Traits Affect How People Perceive Light and Sound

Always try to have natural light in your office. It helps improve your mood and productivity. If you have a window that opens, even better! In the summer it’s great to have a breeze roll through on a nice day, it completely changes the work environment and mood. Avoid florescent lights when possible, over-illumination has been shown to cause annoyance and health effects.

The Right Chair

The office chair you choose is more important than you might think, so certainly don’t skimp on this one. A good chair can be better for your health, and can help avoid carpel tunnel syndrome and other work-related injuries. Don’t be fooled though, you don’t need the latest Herman Miller. It’s important to adjust the height so that your elbows are at a ninety degree angle with the keyboard, and to fix the chair in the upright position to avoid slouching.

I use a Global office chair from Staples, and it’s great.

Dislaimer: Don’t take my advice literally, I provide no medical gurantee about the things stated in the article.

The Desk

A nice desk can make an enormous difference. My desk was handcrafted in Vermont by my grandfather in law, and it’s irreplaceable. It’s solid maple, and the earthy feel really helps inspire me to do great work. Before this I used a table top that I picked up from Ikea for $50. It rested on top of the 2 simple wood bookshelves I picked up from Christmas Tree Shop for about $20 each. For $90 it was a great desk, and fit the bill. Case in point, you don’t need to break the bank to build a great desk.

Plants & Greenery

Having plants in the office helps drive creativity. Combining wood-tones and greens has really brought a lot of personality to my office and I highly recommend it. Green plants have also been shown to keep office workers happier.

Design your space

Your office is an area where you can work at your best. It’s important to make it your own. Before I took that trip out to Ikea I found some inspiration online and gathered a few ideas. I suggest planning what you want before you begin sliding that credit card. If you need inspiration:

My office is still a work in progress, and I’m always looking for new ideas. Do you have any suggestions?

About the Author

Kevin Leary is a freelance web developer in Boston, MA specializing in enterprise WordPress development, conversion optimization and JavaScript development.