By Janelle Kihlstrom

I find I need a certain amount of order around me to be productive.  I’m not extraordinarily neat or fastidious (wish it were so) but, still, I can’t operate surrounded by visual and auditory chaos.  At the same time, even more crucially, I need to be comfortable.  I need a good chair, a good caffeinated beverage, and for most types of writing or editing work, I need some good background music that’s just interesting enough while at the same time not being too distracting.  This is my “must-have” home office list.

When someone begins to work from home, they face the dilemma of needing to figure out what aspects of office aesthetics they want and need to be most productive in their own living environment.  

For some, this might involve literally trying to replicate their old office environment, maybe permanently or maybe just for starters, as they ease into the change of setting.  For others, they may find that working in their PJs with their laptop and a coffee on the nightstand is actually the most productive environment.  Others may want something in between.

So what are the absolute basics that all three of these groups would require?  For one, anyone whose gig is centered on technology needs a good, reliable computer and a good, reliable Internet connection.  That is really essential and worth an investment in whatever quality is necessary for the sort of work you’re doing.  

If your work is not primarily done on a computer, and you only need a computer to work on logistics related to finding gigs, getting paid and other activities that are job-related but not part of the work you’re being compensated for, then maybe it’s not as important to invest in top-notch technology.  Maybe instead what you need is a reliable vehicle or a good studio or space in which to host clients.  Whatever it is that enables you to do your work at the same level as you would when using the equipment provided at a company or organization, make sure you invest there first.  Then make sure you have the other things you need, technology-wise or otherwise, in order to do your work.

Secondly, find a way to make your workspace your happy place.  Sometimes small touches are all that’s required in order to accomplish this.  Do you like bright flowers?  Find some artificial ones for when you can’t have fresh ones, or find some art to place at eye level on the wall across from your workspace.  What’s your favorite color, texture, your favorite artist, favorite saying, or favorite hobby?  Surround yourself with reminders of these things.  Who are the people you most cherish?  Make sure you have their photos on your desk or nearby, just as you would in a traditional office.  If you’re a “more is more” person, make sure you have enough stuff around you to keep your mood bright and engaged as you go about your work.  If you’re a “less is more” person, then maybe spartan really is more your style, and you don’t want to bury yourself in things that will distract you.  What’s great about being able to work in your own living space is that there are no outside limitations on these criteria.  You can relax and create a space where you can genuinely thrive.

Thirdly, make sure you’re stocked up on things you’ll need to get through the course of your day.  Are you a coffee or tea person?  Make sure you have a way to get your cup without too much hassle.  Maybe you want to have a personal coffee or espresso machine right beside or even on your desk, or a mini fridge within rolling distance of your office chair so you can access healthy snacks.  That said, a good chair is probably a must, and if you aren’t able to invest in a great one right away, maybe some comfy pillows can make your existing chair more ergonomic and comfy.  Again, it’s not one-size-fits-all.  Do what you need to do to be comfortable and productive.

Finally, if you find the space you’ve created isn’t working, just change it.  Again, there’s no one else you need to consult for this.  Keep tweaking things until they’re as good as they can get in order for you to work without too much distraction, but with enough of the equipment and technology you need to do your job and enough of the aesthetic touches around you that keep you motivated.  In a way, this can be one of the most fun and creative aspects of your work-from-home life. 

Janelle Kihlstrom

Written by Janelle Kihlstrom

Janelle Kihlstrom is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a published poet and founder of an online literary journal.  She holds an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  She has edited, contributed to and assisted in the production of books, white papers, websites, and articles for organizations such as Carousel30, Yes&, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, and American Journal Experts.  Her book reviews have appeared in the Iowa Review, and she has published poems in various literary journals, along with a poetry chapbook that appeared in 2011, with a second forthcoming later this year.  She lives with her partner and their two young children in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.  You can connect with Janelle on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/janelle-kihlstrom-1356a1/.

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