Work at Home Series: Work Zones
This is the first post in our “Work at Home Series.” Today we’ll discuss the foundation of working from home successfully: work spaces, aka Work Zones. Stay tuned for the next two posts in the series coming later this week: Managing Communication and Dealing with Distractions!
With most of the US population under orders to stay home as I type this, pretty much everyone not in healthcare, public safety, logistics, grocery retail, or select food service finds themselves at home right now. However, many of us still need to be able to do our work at home.
This might be the first time you’ve had to work from home on a consistent basis, and perhaps you're unsure how to manage your days. Or maybe you've got time management down, but you're dealing with a whole new experience while working from home: juggling your job with havin’ your kids and significant other there, too.
Here’s the thing, working from home takes a lot more self discipline and structure than most people realize. My team and I work remotely from our own homes 100% of the time, not just now. So let us give you some advice based on the lessons we’ve learned.
The first thing to consider about working from home is WHERE you will work. Enter: The Work Zone.
Only you can decide what type of at-home work zone suits your needs. You may decide to have more than one! With the kids out of school indefinitely, they likely need to have their own spaces for school work, as well, so these options should be considered for them, too.
The three most common types of work at home work zones are Portable, Designated, and Separate. Each has its pros and cons, so you’ll want to honestly assess what works best for you.
This is exactly what it sounds like: a work space that you can pick up and move around.
Works best for:
- Projects that require very few physical supplies, such as writing, editing, developing web content, or managing teams and projects with software.
- Flexible enough to adapt to any given environment. You can take it with you when you move from place to place around your home--or even your yard if the weather would cooperate--and it is very adaptable if you have a small home that cannot accommodate a more permanent work zone.
- Great solution if the primary spaces suitable to working in your home are in shared areas, like the kitchen or living room, since you’ll want to be able to clear those areas easily for other purposes.
- Has to be set up and torn down to some extent each time it is used, which can be inefficient.
- People who deal with a lot of paper, produce physical products, or who are easily distracted by their surroundings would be better suited for another style of work zone.
Single container or cart to be pulled out, used, then put away in a corner or closet; laptop; Wifi;. chargers; headphones; pens and notepads; wifi capable printer, and additional supplies stored somewhere else in the home if needed.
My portable workstation is a rolling cart that is fully stocked with all of my necessary tools, so all I need to add is my laptop, journal, and needed files.
My assistant has a portable lap desk, a folio for her old-school planner, and a bag to carry her laptop, hard copy file folders for open projects, a computer charger, mouse and pad, and pens, and is able to work anywhere in her home or outside with this set-up.
However, for both of us our portable work zones are not our primary work spaces. We both find that with kids around so much we need the flexibility of having both a portable and a more permanent work area.
Action: Think about what you use nearly every time you work, and those are the items you will want to have with you as you move from work space to work space. Find a rolling cart, or designate an old briefcase or sturdy tote to easily keep supplies together.
A designated zone is a space set aside that does not have to be put away at the end of the day, However, it is located in a room that serves another primary purpose—i.e. the kitchen, bedroom, or family room—and it does not have a physical separation between it and the rest of the room.
Works best for:
- Projects or personality styles that are suited to leaving work out to return to quickly as time allows or when working in split time blocks suited.
- Spaces that need to accommodate multiple people or purposes simultaneously, such as working while keeping an eye on children as they play or also work on their school work.
- Always ready for someone to get productive quickly, since you don’t necessarily have to put away what you are working on if you’re in the middle of something and have to step away to make dinner.
- Fits into how you use your spaces. It can be a corner of your family room or bedroom, a built-in desk in the kitchen, or the table in the formal dining room that you never actually use for dining.
- Creates boundaries between areas in a room, and helps to avoid jockeying with the kids or your partner for elbow room since you would ideally each have your own designated spaces.
- All of your supplies, such as envelopes or your printer, can be stored at or near your designated space.
- Not isolated away from the rest of the household, so they do take up valuable real estate within the home.
- Can also contribute to a feeling of clutter and chaos if they are not kept tidy.
- May be attractive spaces for the rest of the family to decide to use for their own projects, so boundaries need to be communicated regarding by whom and how these work zones are to be used.
- If you need to participate in many phone calls or online meetings, designated spaces can be difficult if your children, partner, or pets are not cooperative with your need for them to stay quiet, calm, and out of the way.
Desk and chair; storage for files and supplies; computer or laptop docking station; Wifi; chargers; headphones; pens and notepads; printer; other supplies like envelopes, files folders, etc.
My assistant's designated work zone, with multiple work stations, serves as an office for her, her children, and her spouse to all work at home. Primarily located in the open area of the second story of their home that they refer to as “the loft,” the space also serves as a reading nook, guest room, and family entertainment area for video games, board games, sewing/craft projects, and watching movies. Not shown is the clean laundry that also usually piles up while it waits to be folded from the laundry room that is just off screen in the images. This is real life right here!
Action: Look around your home and see what niches are available to carve out for work zones. Keep in mind the types of projects and the amount of surface space you require, as well as your own habits when it comes to keeping your work zone tidy or cluttered. If you’re the cluttered type, and this might cause an issue with your family or your sanity, a separate zone might be a better solution for you, if you can spare the space.
A separate zone is a space solely dedicated to working, fully separated from the rest of the house by a door, or maybe even in a detached building on the property. It does not have a dual purpose, or if it does, the work space is the primary purpose.
Works best for:
- Tasks that require a lot of space for equipment or supplies.
- Those who recognize that they work best with complete detachment from the goings-on of the family home.
- When privacy and fewer distractions and interruptions are important.
- Provides an intentional and controllable environment (usually..but even those walls can’t separate you from the chaos sometimes, as this expert learned the hard way while being interviewed on live television!).
- You can be as tidy or messy as you want. No need to tidy up if it's not your style or is not efficient for your task.
- When you need to walk away, close the door behind you and leave your work for a while. Easy peasy!
- Literally removes you from the rest of what's going on in the home (this could be a pro or a con, depending on what works for you!).
- Requires considerable space, and not everyone has the room in their house to dedicate to a separate zone.
I am blessed enough to have a separate work space to call my own. My sweet husband converted a storage shed in our backyard into an office for me. I get the best of both worlds! I have the physical separation from my family, which allows me to be way more productive, but I also have the best commute ever: I can walk to work—usually in my pjs, of course!
Action: If you have a long term need to work at home, and you have the room, take a look at your home, inside and out. Is there a room that is really not being used much? How about the garage? Do you actually park in it or is it just used for storage that can be cleared or better organized to open up the space? Or maybe you need to look in the yard. Do you have the space and funds to add a converted shed with power? If you have the space and the budget, the sky is the limit for a separate work at home zone.
So there you have it: our run down of the three types of work zones we use to work at home efficiently and comfortably. What option works best for you?
Be sure to check back for our next post in this series, when was share some of the ups and downs of managing communication when we are rarely in the same room as a team. Can't wait to share more with you!
All the best,