COVID-19. Economic turmoil. Restaurants and theatres closed. Sports leagues shuttered. Grocery store shopping in hazmat gear. Cooped up working from home.
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it? And it isn’t. While we couch what’s been happening over the past couple of months in sterile conversations about what we’re calling the “Great Remote Work Experiment,” this is a decidedly unsettling time for most of us. So don’t even try to pretend that everything is normal. Be easy on yourself if you’re not as focused or productive as you would like to be. We are living through the worst pandemic in a century. You should not freak out. But you also do not have to pretend this is all cotton candy and puppies.
One way to deal with the stress is to have fun with your home office. Chances are good that you have been and will be spending more time here than ever before. Make sure that it isn’t all about work by adding creature comforts. Here are a few ideas to make your home office a little more home and a little less office.
1. Set up a good music system. Okay, this isn’t necessarily for everyone. But I know that easy access to music has always been part of my working environment, both at home and in whatever external office I have occupied. If this is important to you as well, take the time to build a proper system either in your home office or in a nearby room. Use an amp and speakers that you enjoy listening to, not just whatever your PC spits out to internal speakers or crappy workplace desktop models. I go a little more hardcore here than most, with a small desktop amp, a tube amp to warm up that harsh digital sound, a DAC, and good bookshelf speakers, running lossless tracks from my own music collection in JRiver Media Center. There are plenty of options available to make this simpler. But if tunes are important to you, make music a big part of your home office.
2. Subscribe to a good streaming service for music, current affairs, and podcasts. The number of options here are incredible, whether you want to send music to your desktop, stay current with the news, or listen to true crime podcasts. There are countless free online radio stations as well, whether you want to listen to the AM station down the street or jazz from Amsterdam. Again, take the time to look at different options and match a service with your interests. Tidal, for instance, is great for higher resolution music, but it’s more expensive than rivals Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify.
3. Adorn your workplace with art that you enjoy. Remember that this isn’t the actual office, so you don’t have to worry about offending any sensibilities, calling down the wrath of HR, or even staying with something staid to maintain workplace street cred. That could mean a velvet Elvis, moving your kids’ artwork into the office from the fridge, or whatever else relaxes and inspires. I have a Milton Glaser Dylan beside my monitor, framed classic horror and sci-fi movie posters on the wall behind me, and a boarded Amazing Spider-Man #122 on the other side of my desk. Indulge yourself here. Create a work space that is as much clubhouse as it is office.
4. Collectibles and other décor also have a role in any home office. Don’t crowd out the actual work with, say, your spectacular arrangement of Star Wars action figures. But reserving space for tchotkes and collectibles can have the same impact as eating comfort food on a stressful day. No further comment on the geeky stuff I have in my office, although I will note that I always use a Zoom backdrop during meetings.
5. Establish a readily accessible place in your office for drinks and snacks. While you might not have the room for a mini-fridge, designate a spot for actual comfort food, a kettle, coffee maker, and so forth. This lets you graze during the day and grab quick pick-me-ups as needed. Also, having food and drink at hand can be helpful during tele-conference meetings, when you can’t just run to the kitchen. Having refreshments in the office also helps with the ever-present battle against procrastination, as heading downstairs for a drink or a snack can easily turn into a lengthier break than you were intending to take.
However you do it, spend some me time on making your home office homier. Your mental and emotional well-being will thank you. Happiness will increase your productivity. A little music, Robert Bateman on the walls, Hummel figurines on the desk, whatever works. No judgment here. Just take care of yourself.