April 15, 2020
Joan Law, Feng Shui Joan's Way and Mary Beth Nelsen, The Right Resource
Tips for Creating "Space" in Home and Work Environments
One day you’re heading to work after making sure your kids got on the bus, stopping by Starbucks to grab a coffee; the next you’re sitting at your kitchen table wondering how to make a shared home office/classroom. You look to your dog for sympathy, but he just wants to go for a walk. You pour Bailey’s into your coffee and think, strange days indeed, mama!
With some planning and foresight, you can create a space that works for you and your family.
Here are some factors to consider:
One office space for one person, or do you need shared space and an area for homeschooling? Or just a place to hide from the 24/7 family time, in which case your best option might be to lock yourself in your car!
Temporary or permanent
We’re in uncharted waters. The ways that we’ve traditionally worked and done business are getting a dramatic makeover; some of these changes will become a permanent part of the business landscape. Now is a good time to think creatively and long-term. You may want to re-think using the dining room table “temporarily”. Which leads to the next factor:
The first go-to is usually the bedroom. Not only is it not the only option, it may be the worst option. Are there other rooms that could be re-purposed? Rooms shouldn’t be defined by their names. Do you still have “the kids’ rooms”, even though they’ve moved out? How often do you entertain guests in the guest room? Is the guest room actually the junk room?
Type of Work
The type of work will be a significant factor in choosing your space. Sales calls vs quiet work. Videoconferencing. Are you supervising people or doing consulting that requires privacy? If you’re working on architectural drawings, you’re going to need plenty of space.
Once you’ve defined what your type of work requires, you’ll know whether you need a door, or how much space you’ll need. Also consider the normal sounds of a home- dogs barking, TV, people talking, etc. Consider a “Meeting in Progress” sign.
Some people welcome the idea of working in blissful solitude, away from chatty co-workers, interruptions and noise. Others are so quickly unnerved by the lack of human interaction that they’re sitting on their stone walls or front stoops, chatting up dog walkers. (OK, maybe that’s just me…) What is your preference- some background noise, music, opportunities for interaction? Or do you prefer quiet? Try to develop the environment that will work best for you, or you will be uncomfortable.
Is your wifi fast and reliable? You’ll be significantly increasing your use of bandwidth, especially if there are a number of users, or someone is using a VPN. Do you need to call and upgrade your speed? Hopefully you have most of the items you need: laptop or desktop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. Ensure healthy ergonomics: position your monitor so that the top of the screen is at eye level (use that unread stack of books if your monitor isn’t adjustable) and vary your position from sitting to standing whenever possible. Another helpful item are noise-cancelling headphones with microphones, especially if your office is the kitchen table. They’re also useful for video conferencing or phone calls.
A lot of people whose only experience with video calls involved sitting on the couch Face Timing with family are now trying to master Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting or Facebook Messenger Video. Video conferencing doesn’t require special equipment and is easy to master. All you need is a webcam, microphone (built into laptops, smart phones and tablets), computer and a strong internet connection. Consider your appearance and environment. #1- look into the camera! Set yourself up so that you are at eye level with the camera. It’s more natural to look at the person on your screen, but what they see is you looking down. When you look directly into the camera, you are making direct eye contact. Be sure that you are not above your camera looking down, or below it, as if you’re peeking up from a hole. Look at your background. Is it a pile of laundry? A plant growing out of your head? Make sure you have a simple, professional-looking background. Zoom has a fun option to change to a virtual background, which can be a simple portrait studio grey, or the Eiffel Tower. The other important element is your lighting, which should be in front of you, not behind you. The worst background is a window- you will be a shadow.
“Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup!” You don’t have to dress up, but you should look professional from your waist up. Think “TV newscaster”.
Set clear boundaries between work and home. It’s easy to find yourself in a blend of both worlds, where neither distinctly begins nor ends. Ideally you should have a time when you close the office door and go home. Even if that means just clearing that pile of paper off the table to make room for dinner. You’ll be smarter, happier, healthier and more productive if you strike the right work/life balance.
You’re not stuck at home;
you’re safe at home.
We’re in this together!