Want To Increase Productivity, Efficiency And Creativity In Your Home Office? These Tips Will Help You Take Your Home Office From Ho-Hum To Top Gun

This article provides readers with tips on how to design their home office work environments for peak performance. The first step, notes the author, is to create a space that moves your mind from home to work. One expert consulted believes that soft, instrumental music can help define the work-home boundary as well as physical partitions can. The author next addresses how to plan the layout of the office, with a particular eye to creative storage space and a reminder to plan for growth.

Color and lighting have a direct effect on productivity, so readers are advised to avoid unusually stimulating colors that make it difficult to focus – pastels and muted tones are more calming – and a step-by-step guide to choosing colors follows. The three types of lighting are then addressed – ambient light (from overhead fixtures), natural light (sunlight) and task lighting (used to illuminate specific work areas), with discussion points ranging from fluorescent flicker to computer screen glare.

The article ends with a look at ergonomic issues, and an admonition to “buy as much chair as you can afford.” The importance of footrests, keyboards and wrist angles are all treated and readers are provided with resource links for education and ideas on designing an optimal home office. One site (ErgonomicsSimplified.com) even provides a free interactive evaluation in which you answer a few questions and receive specific ergonomic advice.

Source: Brittany Glenn, Success (Lake Dallas, TX); July, 2009

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2009 Success Magazine

When you’re in your home office, do you feel inspired, productive, efficient and creative? Or do you feel overwhelmed, distracted and unorganized?
If your home office isn’t living up to its potential, neither are you. Getting your work environment in tiptop shape is the first step toward peak performance. Here’s how.

Ace Your Space

“You need to carve out space, so that when you step into it, your mind automatically moves from home to work,” says Pat Heydlauff, a South Florida-based consultant and speaker. Heydlauff, author of Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It, suggests playing soft, instrumental music to help dedicate the space and help you shift from home to work mode.

One of the keys to operating at peak productivity is getting rid of the clutter. “I recommend using organizers or some type of desktop filing system for the files you use regularly,” Heydlauff says. “Try using vertical sorters, which allow you to store folders in upright pockets. This way, you can keep information at hand and you can reach for it if the phone is ringing or if you get sidetracked from one project to another.

“If you do nothing more than unclutter your space–and that’s absolutely free–you will increase your efficiency dramatically.” Heydlauff says. “You can lose at least four hours a week just looking for papers and information. This reduces your efficiency, effectiveness and creative thinking.”

When planning the layout of your office, make sure you have enough drawers and storage space so all those office supplies won’t crowd your desktop. To maximize your space, consider the room’s length and width, but don’t forget about its height, says Monica Ricci, certified professional organizer[R] and author of Organize Your Office … In No Time.

“Storage space exists on the walls, too,” Ricci says. “Shelves can be wall-mounted for storing books, office supplies, computer peripherals and more.”
Other storage areas she suggests are above doorways (think single narrow shelves); inside closet doors with hooks to hold jackets, backpacks or laptop cases and over-the-door racks for storing media; and the sides of furniture or file cabinets, where you can attach bins for papers as well as hooks or corkboard. Create homes for papers by attaching bins, hooks or corkboard to the sides of furniture.

Be sure to plan for growth, suggests Natalia Smith, interior designer for Bellevue, Wash-based Idee Chic Design. “If possible, plan for your space to be large enough to accommodate a conference zone,” Smith says. “Invest in a good-size conference table and comfortable chairs that coordinate with the room decor. You will notice a positive outcome from your meetings.”

Color Counts

You can dramatically and quickly change how you feel in your home office with a coat of paint.

“Color and lighting can have a direct effect on how you feel–your mental state and your productivity,” Ricci says. “A color you might kitchen, perhaps a bright yellow, might not be the best color for your office because it would be too visually stimulating, making it difficult to focus and concentrate.”
Generally speaking, pastel, muted tones will create a peaceful, calming atmosphere, while brighter colors are more invigorating.

Heydlauff says each color has its own unique energy and effect on the way you feel. “If you find that you’re not productive and energetic in your home office, you have the wrong colors on the wall,” she says.

The first step in choosing paint colors is imagining how you want your office to feel when you enter it, Ricci says. “Because colors can create very real emotions, this imagery exercise is helpful in choosing the best colors to achieve the atmosphere you want in your office,” she adds.

If you want to boost creativity, try painting one wall with a single-coat, roller-applied paint that transforms it into a dry-erase writing surface. So instead of installing whiteboards, you can use an entire wall to brainstorm and generate creative ideas.

Let There Be Light

Kelli Ellis, an Orange County, Calif.-based interior expert, says lighting is the most underrated element of home office ergonomics.

“Symptoms of poor lighting include headaches, indigestion, nausea, blurred or double vision, flickering sensations, itching and burning eyes, tension, and vision fatigue,” Ellis says. “Most office lighting problems are due to low wattage and excessive background light behind your head, which create glare on computer screens.”

There are three kinds of lighting: ambient light from overhead lighting fixtures; natural light (sunlight); and task lighting that is used to illuminate specific-work areas.

“If your overhead lighting is either too bright or too dim, task lighting gives you some control over your environment,” Ricci says. To minimize eye strain, use task lighting that is adjustable, such as a gooseneck lamp.

Lowering light levels in the room while keeping task lights on your desk can minimize glare from overhead lights on the computer screen and help ease eye strain, says Chris Sorrells, a Denver-based occupational therapist, certified hand therapist and certified ergonomic assessment specialist. Another way to minimize eye strain is to adjust the contrast or brightness on your monitor, Sorrells says.

For a darker office space, also incorporate lighting that shoots upward to minimize glare on your computer screen, Heydlauff says.

If energy efficiency is your goal, use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs use less power and last much longer than the typical incandescent bulbs. Although they cost three-to 10-times more than incandescent bulbs, CFLs can save more than 12 percent in electricity costs during the bulb’s lifetime. (You can find CFLs, which are the curly shaped bulbs, at your local supermarket.)

The only drawback to CFLs is they emit fluorescent light, which is harder on the eyes than natural light or incandescent bulbs. “Fluorescent lighting constantly flickers at a very high speed,” Ricci explains. “This is nearly undetectable by the human eye, but it can cause migraine headaches and seizures in epileptics.”

Ergonomic Extras

If you’re going to invest in new furniture, make sure you have an ergonomically designed chair.

“My rule of thumb is to buy as much chair as you can afford,” Ricci says. “Make sure that it has adjustability in the seat, back, height and arms.”
Kate Lister, a writer based in Carlsbad, Calif., says investing in a well-designed office chair was well worth the money. “My arm was going to sleep while. I typed, and my neck and back pain kept me up at night,” she says. “I finally invested in a good office chair. It’s made a huge difference in my aches and pains.”

Experts agree that having a footrest is an important piece of the ergonomics puzzle. “An ergonomic footrest stimulates your calf and leg muscles,” Ricci says. “This is good because when people sit for hours at a time, they can get blood clots.”

It’s also important to place your wrists in an ergonomic angle, so you don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome. “You don’t want your wrists to be flexed backward when you’re typing,” Ricci says. For this reason, it’s a good idea to purchase an ergonomic keyboard that is curved so your hands are at a more natural angle rather than pointing straight forward. “Once I used the ergonomic keyboard, I could type all day long with no issues,” Ricci says.

Using your mouse a lot can cause wrist pain, too. In this case, Ricci recommends purchasing a trackball mouse. “Instead of having to move the entire mouse around, the trackball sits directly under your thumb,” she explains. “You control the entire mouse with your thumb, so your wrist and forearm never move.”
Now that you have the tools and information you need to create your optimal home office, it’s up to you to use them correctly. However, just as important as having the right tools is having the right habits to use them. As Ricci says, “Be sure to create administrative time to take care of the business of doing business.”

Home Office Options
Check out these helpful resources for education, inspiration and ideas on designing your optimal home office.
ErgonomicsSimplified.com–Take a free interactive evaluation and answer a few questions to receive specific, ergonomic advice. Also check out the keyboard and chair choosers, which give you three options: budget, midrange and high end.
IKEA.com–IKEA is known for its well-designed, economical furniture, shelving and accessories, including storage boxes and task lighting.
ShelfGenie.com–ShelfGenie designs, builds and installs high-end Glide-Out shelving systems that are custom-built to fit existing cabinets.
SeeJaneWork.com–This site is for the accessories aficionado. It has a line of office-organizing products that are useful, colorful and beautifully designed.
SortingwithStyle.com–Sorting with Style has everything you need to organize your paper–in cool patterns and colors.
SmartFurniture.com–This site features everything from wall organizers to office furniture with a variety of brand names to choose from.

CB2.com–CB2 is a sister store of Crate and Barrel, but with more affordable prices. The site features well-designed office lighting, furniture and supplies with practical price tags.

RELATED ARTICLE: Ergonomic Angles

Is your home office a pain in the neck–literally? Consider these solutions from Chris Sorrells, a Denver-based registered occupational therapist, certified hand therapist and certified ergonomic assessment specialist.

To minimize neck pain, place books or reams of paper under your monitor. “The top of the monitor should be at eye level and about an arm’s length away,” he says. “This eliminates the need to lean your head forward to see the screen, which results in neck tension. For bifocal users, monitors should be a little lower so they can view their screens without tipping their heads up.”

“If you have a laptop, place it on an empty three-ring binder–with the high side away from you,” Sorrells says. “This can reduce neck strain.”

A document holder decreases neck strain caused by looking from your documents to your computer. “It also gets your documents off the surface of your desk,” Sorrells says.

Desks with cutout areas that allow users to get closer to their computers get a thumbs-up from Sorrells. “These kinds of desks also maximize desk space,” he adds.

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