home office productivity tips

According to a 2012 American Community Survey, 2.6 percent of U.S. employees consider their home their primary place of work. That’s nearly an 80 percent increase in the number of workers who telecommuted in 2005—and this doesn’t include those who are self-employed.

While studies suggest that working from home can increase productivity, working from a home office can also be a struggle at times. Whether it’s trying to work while the kids are at home or wasting time with constant trips to graze the refrigerator (my downfall), getting used to working from home can take some effort and discipline. One key to solving this dilemma is having the right home office setup.

Here are some tools, technology, and furniture suggestions for setting up a productive home office.

1. RescueTime Productivity Tool

Working from a home office is a challenge for many. With no one else around, you’ll find that it’s much easier to get distracted and lose track of time. RescueTime helps you avoid hanging out on Facebook all day instead of getting your work done.

RescueTime monitors your browsing habits and lets you know when you’re spending too much time on distracting sites. If you need to focus and get a project done, you can turn on the Get Focused mode to block all distracting sites for a specified time period.

RescueTime also gives you a score to let you know how productive you’ve been for the day, week, or other time period.

RescueTime Premium starts at $9 per month; a lite version with limited features is also available.

2. Standing Desk

Choosing the right office chair is extremely important for your comfort, but sitting all day can lead to an increased risk of cancer and other health issues.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to change it up with a standing desk. However, getting the ergonomics right can be complicated. That’s where the Varidesk comes in.

The Varidesk sits on top of your normal desk. Their models include varying heights for the monitor and keyboard so you don’t strain your neck or injure your wrists.

Varidesk models start at $275.

3. focus@will

Finding the right music to play in the background can be tough. Depending on the type of work you do, pop music with lyrics can be too distracting—but not everyone’s a fan of instrumental elevator music either.

Instead of hunting around for work music, try focus@will; they already have a great selection of music that you can play continuously. There is a variety of stations to choose from that range from classic to ambient noise to running water. As indicated by the name, their music is designed to help you focus on your work.

Subscriptions for focus@will start at $3.99 per month, and a free 30-day trial is also available.

4. Noise-Canceling Headphones

If you’re in a home office, it can be hard to get away from noise. Whether there’s landscaping going on outside your window or kids pounding on your door, you need to stay focused no matter what. Noise-canceling headphones can help you block out loud distractions.

While cheaper options might work, they aren’t as effective as Bose, in my experience.

The Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Canceling in-ear headphones work surprisingly well for a compact option. These headphones boast strong reviews for their noise-canceling ability despite their small design. At $299, they’re not for everyone. But if noise is a constant battle for you, they will leave you wondering just how much quiet and productive workdays are worth to you.

5. IdeaPaint

A hallmark of time management is the whiteboard, which allows you to see what you need to do—right in front of you—at all times. While solid whiteboards can be handy, you have to mount them on the wall. Plus, they can be limited in size.

Instead, IdeaPaint lets you paint a dry erase board directly on the wall. While the price tag is a bit steep ($225 for 50 square feet), it will likely still cost less per square foot than a standard white board.

6. Better Lighting

Your workspace needs to be cozy; if you’ve ever worked in a large office or cubicle before, you’re likely grateful that you’re not forced to work under harsh fluorescent lighting.

Lighting is tied to productivity, too. Buffer says that “being exposed to dim light as well as too much artificial light makes you both sleepy and also more stressed in the long run.” With this in mind, take a few steps to improve your lighting.

Natural light is your best bet, with indirect light that mimics natural light coming in second.

Ikea has an entire section devoted to workspace lighting, with over 100 options available. Many include shades or softer lighting options.

7. Document Scanner and Management Tools

There are tons of printers out there, and your needs likely vary. But honestly, printers are usually part of the clutter problem—not the solution. That’s why I prefer to have a scanner around instead.

Scanning means that I can get paper off my desk and into a digital file.

Microsoft makes the NeatDesk scanner for this purpose. This scanner is designed to scan business cards, receipts, and other documents. Unfortunately, while this is a good idea, the NeatDesk currently only has an average of 3.1 stars out of 5 on Amazon reviews.

ScanSnap is another scanner option that works similarly to the NeatDesk. The mobile version is compact and sells for less than the NeatDesk as well.

And once you have your documents scanned? Check out Evernote.

Evernote is the go-to tool for organizing and storing all your digital information. Create notes that accompany your scanned files for easy reference later. Evernote backs up all your files to the cloud and syncs them across all your devices for easy access, too.

Evernote offers a free version or upgrade to Premium for $5/month for additional features.

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