Office Space? Mind Space!

Working from home and feeling distracted? It’s no wonder. When you’re “at work,” you’re surrounded by work: your cubicle, your colleagues, the photocopier. But when you’re working from home, surrounded by life and all the things that are important to you, you need to remind yourself of what makes those things possible: work.

I divide my working time between my home office and my employer’s office, and this year I’ve learned something about work spaces. No, it’s not about ergonomics or lighting. It’s about mind space.

At work, people often surround themselves with personal objects and pictures of family. I always thought this was a bit corny until I was working from home last year and started to face all the challenges of motivation and concentration that come with remote work. It dawned on me that these kinds of office accessories can actually make a real difference to your focus.

In the office, my colleagues embellish their desks, shelves and partitions with personal items: pictures of their families, the occasional stress toy, stuffed animals — you name it. I used to think people did this mainly to make themselves feel comfortable at work, but when I started working from home, it dawned on me that these items remind us of what we’re working for, or what’s important to us.

In my home office last summer, I found myself surrounded by the things I was working for — and I found that those things can quickly become monumental distractions. In my home office, family members, pets, domestic responsibilities, all called to me, every single minute of every single working day.

Then I realized something. When you’re at work, surrounded by “work stuff,” you need to remind yourself of what’s important: life.

But when you’re working from home, surrounded by the things that are important, you need to remind yourself of what makes those things possible: work.

Now, at my employer’s office, I have a picture of a Lombok beach on my pinboard: I’m working now so I can go on a holiday this year. And here’s a picture of my home workstation from last year.

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Those chapter summaries on the walls really did help me stay focused through that long summer, keeping me at my desk while the hammock swung almost irresistibly beneath the trees outside.

What office accessories do you use to help keep your focus?

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