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Millions of people all over the world have had to get more used to home offices in the past year. And at this point, it looks as if many of the same people will be working from home a while longer yet. This is in part because the coronavirus is still upon us, and people are still being guided to stay home whenever possible. Indeed, a BBC breakdown of the latest lockdowns here in the UK specify that people are only to leave home for work where it is “unreasonable” to work from home. Additionally, though, we’ve been hearing more about companies of all sizes allowing or even directing employees to plan for long-term work-from-home arrangements.
Whatever the case, many are recognising that they may be working out of home offices longer than initially anticipated. There are pros and cons to this reality, but one thing we know for sure is that the quality and design of a workspace at home can significantly impact productivity (not to mention wellness!). It’s with that in mind that I want to talk about some easy, affordable ways to upgrade your home office and turn it into a better working environment.
Control the Clutter
We can first refer back to ‘Five Ways to Control Office Clutter’ as a guide for how to go about making one of the cheapest and most effective possible office upgrades. Simply put, too much junk, clutter, or unnecessary stuff in any working space can drain your productivity. This is first because when the office is cluttered it may be more difficult to find what you need at any given moment. However, it’s also because messes are stressful. An unorganised space can act as a surprising mental burden, and drain your energy and enthusiasm for work.
Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve! By sorting out the space, throwing out what isn’t needed, and creating better systems for keeping track of things, you can significantly improve your home office for free.
Invest in New Furniture
If you hadn’t worked from home often before 2020, and you simply threw a space together to address a new need, you’re not alone. Many had makeshift offices while managing new conditions last year. But if you’re now looking ahead to a future in which you’ll be working from home more often, it may be time to make the office a bit more permanent. And one of the best ways to do this is to invest in proper office furniture — most importantly a desk and chair you truly like, but potentially storage, lighting and décor, and even a small couch or something of the like.
Naturally, these kinds of investments can add up, and this is the most costly suggestion I’ll make. However, I will point out that it’s fairly common to find office furniture available at discounted prices as well (particularly online). Even now, Groupon has listed some of the best online retail sales at the outset of 2021 and included a few furniture brands such as Hudson Living where pieces are available for as much as 50% off. You should still take the time to find furniture you really like for your home office, but do keep in mind that these kinds of discounts are relatively common.
Try Smart Lighting
It’s almost surprising how often you’ll see lighting mentioned in discussions about improving home office space. Typically, these conversations revolve around natural lighting. And I would certainly agree that some of the most satisfying home spaces tend to be those in which natural light is let in on a regular basis. If this is an option for your home office, then, by all means, position your furniture and set up your curtains or blinds in a way that gives you maximum control over natural lighting! But if your office isn’t in a position to enjoy this kind of benefit, I’d recommend giving “smart” lighting a chance.
You have plenty of specific options in this regard, with Philips Hue, IKEA Tradfri, and Hive representing some of the most popular among UK consumers. Regardless of the specific brand, you choose though, this is a simple upgrade. Simply by replacing a few lightbulbs (new smart bulbs will run anywhere from £15 to £60, but will last a long time), you can enjoy full control over the space’s lighting.
This means brightening or dimming the light from your smartphone, as well as in some cases even being able to change colour. It’s a nice amount of control to have over your office environment, and it allows you to make changes as you see fit for different parts of the day, different work tasks (such as Zoom calls), and so on. This also allows you to choose some funky designs and colours to add a certain mood to your office. If this sounds like something you need in your office space, make sure to check out websites like Neon Mama to browse the various designs available! You can even get a bright neon “open” sign to really make your office stand out.
Bring in House Plants
Last but not least, consider bringing in some house plants! Frankly, I could do a whole separate piece on the most satisfying plants to have in an office, because they really do such a magnificent job of making a space more pleasant and lively. But for the purposes of this discussion, Metro has already done quite a nice write-up on some of the best house plants to add to a work-from-home space. Said write-up does a particularly nice job of highlighting plants that are satisfying and atmospheric, but easy to care for — such as succulents, bamboo, pilea, and peace lilies.
Personally, we love this idea simply because it has a massive impact on a space for relatively little investment. Even a small cluster of succulents neatly arranged on your desk will brighten the office and lift your mood. It’s exactly the kind of upgrade you should be seeking out if you’re looking to upgrade your home office space without spending too much.