It’s been 21 years since I started my freelance career. At the time, I set up a dedicated office area in my home with a desk, ergonomic chair, clunky computer (with a boat-anchor-sized hard drive), filing cabinet and lots of boxes for storage.
Although seemingly archaic today, it gave me a place to go each day and the feeling of being part of the corporate world (I never admitted that I was wearing my pyjamas until noon each day). My, how things have changed. I now have a trendy knapsack, a cellphone and laptop — that, essentially, is my office. I sit on my couch, in a café or shared workspace (not in my pyjamas!) and get my work done without the need for a “corporate” environment. My computer weighs a couple of pounds and uses Wi-Fi, my files are stored in a “cloud,” and my telephone is my message centre and camera (do I actually ever talk on it anymore?). With this in mind, I still like a few comforts wherever I work. Whether it’s from home or on the road, my workspace survival tips and tricks can make working more productive, comfy and (dare I say it?) — inspiring.
I’ve worked in shared workspaces and the biggest distraction for me is other people’s conversations. I find that working with my back to others helps me concentrate, and a good noise-cancelling headset keeps me focused when writing or talking on the phone. A big trick I learned many years ago: If working at home, hang a mirror in front of where you sit and look into it when making business calls. Seeing your expressions will help perk up your voice and keep you from sounding bored when having phone conversations.
Probably the worst thing about working at home is distractions (or am I just a procrastinator?). In my case, it’s the kitchen (I love to cook) and the television. Find a place in your home that’s separated from temptations that will take you away from the work at hand. If sitting up to type or talk for long periods of time, get a portable ergonomic seat pad that encourages you to maintain good posture (it also helps to keep you awake). Dedicate a spot on a console or dining table for your paperwork and laptop from Monday to Friday, and ensure it’s well-lit.
On the go
Whether juggling your workday from your (parked) car, a coffee shop or a commuter train, no one you work with needs to know where you are when you are in communication with them, so a quiet place is key. A few considerations: Do you have enough space to work from the front seat of your car or a bistro table at a café? Don’t set up shop in places where casual conversations are part of the atmosphere (like a busy local café where stay-at-home parents bring kids for mid-morning get-togethers). Ensure you have power outlets to keep your phone, laptop and tablets charged while on the go, or carry a portable battery charger if working in places without accessible electrical outlets.
Tricks of the trade
Sometimes working by yourself can make you feel isolated and uninspired. Here’s how to stay motivated, focused and productive throughout your workday.
— Schedule a Skype, FaceTime or other type of video conference each day. This will force you to present yourself in a professional and presentable manner.
— If you have children, teach them that your work time in the home needs to be respected and, of course, plan breaks to have fun with them!
— Plan a day each week to look after paperwork. That way, there’s only one weekday that your table needs to be cluttered with bills, invoices and papers.
Karl has worked as a home decor expert and product designer for 25 years. He appears Thursdays during the 8 a.m. hour on Global News Morning Montreal.