Simara James is a mother of two, mindfulness coach and consultant, author, podcast host and flexible work expert looking to improve the lives of women across the globe by sharing tips to creating more balance and design a live that's full of fulfillment. 

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How to Create a Great Work Environment at Home


When most of us think of working remotely, we imagine that being home will provide so much relief from the stress of waking up early, getting dressed and battling traffic, that we will surely be motivated to open up those laptops and be more productive than ever. The truth is, there are reasons why office spaces are set up the way they are. Although they are not completely distraction free, they do provide easy access to all the equipment you need as well as an environment where almost everyone is committed to behaving in ways that allow themselves and others to be productive. You won't find loud music, televisions, a bed to lie down, etc... in most office spaces (of course there are always exceptions).

When considering remote work, you have to be very honest with yourself about whether you'll be able to duplicate the necessary work environment in your home. You may be thinking you can save money on childcare, but I can tell you first hand that having a child under the age of about 6 can prove a distraction that will not only impact your productivity as a remote worker, but make you question whether the office is really all that bad. If you have a large enough home and can hire in-home care, this set up could work. If you know the exact hours you'll need to make phone calls or attend virtual meetings, you could schedule child care around those times. The truth is, at home it's even more essential to minimize distractions. There are so many inherent temptations to slack off including your bed, refrigerator, couch, television, that book you've been meaning to catch up on, etc...

Set up a Dedicated Work Space

The human brain operated most efficiently when there are habits and routines in place. Having one location you always come back to in order to complete your work (a home office, the dining room table, a section of your bedroom, etc...) is a great way to enhance your ability to shift into work mode and focus. The other reason why having a dedicated space in your home is so important is that when you file taxes, in order to write off spaces in your home used for work purposes, you will need to know the square footage of the area to report to your tax preparer. To find the latest requirements for work from home related tax deductions, please visit https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc509.

Ergonomics are Important

Though it may be tempting to pull in some old unwanted office furniture to throw in your home office, consider that an investment in ergonomically correct office equipment can make a world of difference. Being comfortable in your work space can make a huge difference in your in your productivity by making tasks that you may not particularly enjoy more bearable. Consider the savings you will enjoy when it comes to gas, tolls and other work related expenses and redirect that into creating an inviting home work space.

Stay out of high traffic areas

When considering where to set up your work space, remember to choose areas with low traffic if you live with family members. I have a lovely guest room in my house that would make a perfect home office, but it sits right next to my children's rooms. When they are at school and in child care, this works fine, but on those days when I choose to work from home when they are sick or I want to use my home office to log some extra hours on the weekend, my productivity levels will go way down if I have to deal with the noise and easy access my kids will have to me. Also consider if you have a spouse, live in partner, or roommate that there will be certain times during the day when areas of your home will become busier. Do your best to choose areas that remain quiet and isolated for most of the day.

Get Tough with Distracters

If you can't get around having family members around when you're working from home, you've got to set and re-enforce some strict boundaries. With my children, I make sure they understand that when Mommy is on a work call I can't talk. Sometimes I lock the door to my office when the call is very important or involves a large number of participants. If necessary, I make child care arrangements both in and out of the home so that my environment is sure to be noise and distraction free. In the case of a spouse or a roommate, it may be necessary to hang a sign on the door during periods where you'd rather not be disturbed at all and set expectations for the amount of interaction you can allow for during your work hours.

Take care of yourself/Dress Nicely

One of the temptations many remote workers face is the desire to lounge around in pajamas from morning until night. If you are a part time remote worker, maybe going into the office 2-3 days a week, this can be a nice perk. If, on the other hand, you work remotely 100 percent of the time, not getting dressed, doing your hair, and putting your best foot forward can begin to take it's toll on your self-image. There's an old saying "dress for the job you want" and many may assume that the main reason for that would be so that people change the way they perceive you. The most important reason to dress professionally or in ways that make you feel confident is because of how it affects your perception of yourself. If your hair is combed and you're wearing an outfit you carefully put together, you're less likely to slack off or go and lie on your couch instead of finishing up that report you know you need to get to your boss.

Acceptable Perks

There are a lot of reasons to be strict about protecting your work space, but there are also some acceptable distractions for remote workers that I'd like to highlight.

Taking breaks without judgement is one of the best perks to working remotely. Maybe it's just me, but there have been times when I wanted nothing more than to get up and do a cartwheel at the office to get my juices flowing, but I had to remain "professional" and just take a quick walk to the coffee room. At home, that cartwheel is perfectly acceptable. One important key to productivity that I think all kinds of workers underestimate is taking breaks. There are 2 major reasons among many that breaks are absolutely essential.

1. Breaks give our brain the opportunity to make connections.

Science has shown that when we are in relaxation mode, different parts of the brain are activated that allow us to problem solve more effectively. After we've had a major "download" of information, taking a mental break can assist us in determining the best way to utilize the information. If we've been busy hammering out tasks all day, taking a mental break can help us see new and more efficient ways of executing moving forward.

2. Breaks help us re-evaluate our goals.

Working harder is not always necessarily working smarter. Being able to take a step back, shut off the brain for a while and come back to the task at hand can open our eyes to whether or not we are really headed toward our original goal. It can also help us determine whether or not that original goal is the right destination.

The kinds of breaks you can take when working remotely can be much more conducive to entering a completely relaxed state of mind. In an office environment, you're likely to run into people, places and things that keep your mind in crunch mode. You may run into a team member and be pulled into a hallway meeting or you may walk past a conference room and see a team talking about a project your familiar with and start turning over potential next moves in your head. It's very difficult to totally disconnect when your breaks take place in the office.

At home you can dance to your favorite song for 5 minutes, watch a you tube video, or do 5 minutes of yoga. These activities can give your mind the opportunity to completely switch gears enhancing the positive impacts your breaks have on your productivity levels.

Make it Your Own

The last and most obvious benefit to being able to have full creative freedom over your work environment is that you can really add elements that are not acceptable or may not be tolerated in an office environment.

For example, I love to use scents to impact my moods. The different essential oils out there have been proven to have significant impacts on mood and energy levels. At home I can run my diffuser, burn candles, etc... and use scent to increase productivity. I can also use color and lots of other tools to influence my senses to make for a much more pleasant and comfortable work environment.

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