16 ways to improve working from home — plus ‘home office’ ideas

16 ways to improve working from home — plus ‘home office’ ideas
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In a recent Agenda survey of more than 4,000 subscribers about life during the coronavirus outbreak, more than 60 percent reported that their productivity has stayed the same or increased while working from home. But some of us are still struggling to hit our stride and create an optimal setup.

Of course not everyone can work from home, and those with children or other caretaker responsibilities have more on their plates.

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If you are working from home, here are 16 tips submitted by Agenda readers and team members on how to make the most of it, plus some inspiration for your home office setup.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity


(1) Swap your chair for a stability ball

“I am creative licensing manager for Laura Ashley INC, and my creative assistant is our pup, Auggie the Doggie. The exercise stability ball is amazing — I will never go back to using a chair again. As I get older I am more aware of keeping an upright posture and my core strong. Being at the office and sitting for so many hours you realize how sedentary you really are. On the stability ball I keep moving, and my body feels less tired at the end of the work day.” — Katrina Moffett, licensing manager, Laura Ashley Inc.

work from home km


(2) Surround yourself with what motivates you

“I work in digital marketing so I have been able to easily adapt to working on my computer from home. I now live and work out of my bedroom, which is tough. However, I have lots of natural light and as you can see all the essentials — coffee, water, kombucha, a second screen, bouquet of flowers, and the pups — so it works!” — Anna McAvinchey, digital marketing

work from home AM


(3) Keep your space simple and tidy

“I work from a phone booth-sized home office next to my daughter’s bedroom. It’s 5 feet by 6 feet and reminds me of the library carrels I used in college. On the built-in desk is my laptop, a yellow legal pad, and some fancy Bose headphones. That’s it. I want a nicer office chair, but I’m too cheap. I believe the simplicity allows me to focus and be more creative, but maybe I’m just nuts.” — Ted Williams, publisher, Axios Charlotte

ted williams office agenda


(4) Take stretch breaks

“I live in a one-bedroom, 600-square-foot apartment. I don’t have a home office or even a desk so my work from home setup is pretty scrappy. I snagged a monitor from the office and basically set up a standing desk on my kitchen island. My only complaint is, when I want to sit, bar stools don’t have much back support. Luckily, doing a little at-home yoga has helped (shoutout to the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel).” — Samantha Alexander, head of production, Axios Charlotte

sam work from home


(5) Try a standing desk

“I’m a content writer for a CBD company. I spend long hours at the computer, so rather than sit hunched over my laptop, I set up a standing desk in my home yoga studio. I love the natural light and I can do a quick stretch or yoga sequence when I need a break.” — Cami Cacciatore, content writer

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(6) Remove yourself from distractions, if possible

“I have worked from home for the past 13 years, so my quarantine work-life isn’t very different from normal. I work in a shoffice (half shed, half office) I set up in my backyard, and it’s the ultimate get-things-done sanctuary from the craziness going on in the house. The fake wood panelling and black rubber floors add that certain je ne sais quoi. I’m cheap so I have mismatched monitors, a battered desk, and a mid-range chair from Staples. Over-the-ear headphones and a window view to my backyard round out my productivity essentials.” — Jason Murtha, chief technology officer, Axios Charlotte

jason work from home


(7) Make your home office as much like your actual office as you can

“I normally work from home, and I’m on video calls all day long. To make a professional office at home where I don’t have a fully dedicated room, I staged the space! First photo is the space, second photo is a pan out of the room. It’s really easy to fake a whole office even if you don’t have it!” — Danielle Jefferson, small software company

work from home DJ

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(8) Capitalize on the small joys

“I’m a marketing manager working in higher education at The School of Data Science at UNC Charlotte. I currently live in a two-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, a roommate, and our dog, so our bar counter is now my makeshift workspace. While it’s not an entire office like I’m accustomed to, I do have two screens to work off of and plenty of natural light. As a marketer, I can pretty much work from anywhere and get the majority of it done. I would say the best part is my proximity to the kitchen for mid-day snacks and coffee!” — Katie Thomas, marketing manager, The School of Data Science at UNC Charlotte

work from home KT

 


(9) Pick a low-traffic area to minimize distractions

“I’ve been working in the dining room at my boyfriend’s parents’ house. It’s great because it doesn’t have much traffic (everyone eats at the kitchen table) and the view is beautiful. Plus, there’s a huge table I can spread out on.” — Alivia McAtee, creative strategist, Axios Charlotte

alivia work from home


(10) Put your laptop/materials away to signify the end of a work day

“My workspace is also our dining room table. I live with my boyfriend, so we’ve each taken opposite ends of the table catty-corner to each other to minimize the chance of distractions. I’ve found it really convenient to put all my supplies in a basket so my ‘desk’ is easily moveable as we need to use the dining table. Putting all my things back in the basket at the end of the day is a good mental exercise in ‘closing’ my office, too. I also recommend over-the-ear headphones and propping your computer on books for Zoom calls.”  — Lizzy Sirkin, chief revenue officer, Axios Charlotte

Lizzy WFH desk


(11) If your workspace isn’t working for you, change it up

“To be honest, even a month into working from home, I’m still perfecting what works best for me. Right now I’m set up in my bedroom with my desk (folding table) right up against the window. I like being able to look outside and get fresh air throughout the day. Though I can still hear the rumblings of my family talking and watching TV, it’s mostly quiet. I’m also close to outlets which is helpful since my phone and laptop are my most important work tools. Having one dedicated space for work has helped me mentally separate ‘work time’ from ‘home time,’ now that they both happen under the same roof.” — Paige Hopkins, reporter/producer, Axios Charlotte

paige work from home


(12) Surround yourself with inspiration, and things you love

“Here’s a pic of my CLT home office! I work for Wells Fargo for the in-house creative agency, but I also paint when I have time. I love my home office because I am surrounded by my paintings.” — Tara Price, Wells Fargo

work from home TP


(13) Sit by a window for natural light and fresh air

“For the first month and a half of quarantine, I was working from my dining table. That was not working, but I live in a studio apartment with not much room for extra furniture. My solution was a laptop cart on wheels that I can use from anywhere in the apartment — even my bed (dangerous). This works for me because I love being able to change up the scenery if I hit writer’s block. Right now, I love looking out this big window.” — Emma Way, managing editor, Axios Charlotte

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(14) Change it up

“What used to be my craft room, now serves as my office. Working from home for this extended time was the inspiration I needed to organize and make the space cozy and functional. Although I must admit, sometimes the kitchen table, the living room sofa, or the back deck serve equally well if I need a change of scenery.” — Dawn Newsome, owner of Moonlight Creative

work from home dawn newsome


(15) Do something that makes you feel good

“I actually work for the Mint Museum, but as you know we’ve been closed, so there is not much to do but patiently wait for right now. What am I doing with this ‘gift of time?’ I threw an old table cloth on the floor, set up an easel, covered my desk with news paper and am painting! It’s working because it’s keeping me sane, and I actually received a commission to do a pet portrait. Also, meet Snickers.” — Angela Lubinecky, Mint Museum

work from home AL


(16) Create signals so your brain knows its work time

“Luckily all I need for work is my laptop, phone, and somewhere to scribble my to-do list. In normal pre-pandemic times, I would often bounce from my house, the office, and coffee shops to keep my creativity flowing. The first few weeks working from home full time were a huge struggle for me. Now, I have a candle I light only while working and a coffee shop jazz playlist for background noise. These small things change my environment just enough to keep me focused.” — Brianna Crane, associate editor, Axios Charlotte

BC work from home

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