Tips for making your home office

Don’t let distraction and disorganisation get in the way of success Discuss this article

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When your day revolves around school runs, soccer practise, walking the dog and picking up the groceries as well as a hundred other things on the family to-do list, being able to work from home can feel like the perfect solution – especially for someone with young kids. But there’s much more to the success of working from home than balancing your laptop on your knee and settling into a sofa, as life coach and mum of two, Zeta Yarwood, tells us when we quiz her on her top dos and don’ts.

How much space do you need for a home office?
You want enough space so that you can move around and access everything with ease. If you’re constantly bumping into things or feel claustrophobic you will start to associate your office space with frustration and stress, leaving you less motivated to work in there.

How should you choose the right space for setting up an office?
Choose a room that has a lot of natural lighting as this is good for our mood and our sleep patterns. I would probably also choose a room far from any distractions, such as the TV in the living room or the fridge in the kitchen.

Does colour really make a difference to focus and concentration?
Colour is great for lifting mood and energy, leading to feelings of inspiration and motivation which subsequently positively affect focus and concentration. It’s about personal taste and choosing colours that provoke the right emotions in you. Some people have found that red can increase feelings of anger and frustration while others have said it can increase their feelings of passion.

How do you define a work area and keep little ones from interrupting while you try to keep an eye on them?
It depends on the age of the children and how much supervision they need. I know some parents who use the traffic light concept for managing interruptions from little people. A green sign or sticker on the door means come in. Yellow means ask first. And red means do not disturb unless there is smoke or blood! It’s about setting realistic boundaries that work for you and your family.

Can you be as productive at home as you would be in an office environment?
Productivity stems from two things. First, motivation. And second, ability to manage external distractions. If you’re not fully engaged in what you’re doing, you will be more susceptible to getting distracted. Lack of engagement could be because the task at hand is boring, stressful, too complicated or overwhelming. So in effect, it doesn’t matter if you’re at home or at work. You’ll subconsciously entertain anything that will distract you. Whether that’s answering emails, checking social media, going to the fridge or making another cup of coffee. It’s a form of procrastination. Successful people are completely focused on the task at hand and will put measures in place to mitigate distractions – regardless of whether they are working from home or in the office.

Aside from the obvious flexibility, what would you say is the top benefit of working from home if you’re a parent?
Reduced stress levels. While parents might be physically at the office, mentally they might be focusing on family and home issues. Working in close proximity to their kids and being at home can help reduce stress levels because they feel more in control at home and have more mental capacity to focus on their work.

And the potential pitfalls to watch out for?
1) Feeling isolated. While you might work better on your own, it is important to remember we are a social species and living like an island is not sustainable.

2) Not feeling part of the team. If you work for a company, working from home might mean you find yourself removed from key company updates, news, changes and strategies.

3) Self-motivation. To work from home successfully you have to be able to motivate yourself. If you’re not doing a job you love, this might be particularly difficult to manage.

By Carolyne Allmark
Time Out Doha,

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