Help! I’m a Remote Worker in a Tiny Apartment
So, you’ve decided to work remotely, but now the big problem of your small apartment has just hit you. As you look around your tiny one-bedroom, you wonder how you’re going to set up shop in this matchbox.
How are you going to stay productive with the TV right there? What about when the kids get home after school? The distractions seem endless, but don’t lose hope. Working remotely from a small apartment is more than doable with the right plan.
Identifying Potential Workspaces
When considering how to carve out the best workspace in your apartment, find a spare space like an extra room or empty corner that presents enough space to hold you and all of your tech. Potential areas include dining rooms, breakfast nooks, space under stairs, bedsides, behind sofas, window seats, next to fireplaces, corners, small alcoves, or just out in plain sight. With a little modification, even a closet makes a great home office.
After surveying any available space in your apartment, choose those with good lighting. An abundance of natural lighting can combat seasonal affective disorder, but too much might create screen glare. There are plenty of space saver lighting solutions for small apartments.
When you need to maintain focus or make a conference call to a client, you’ll want a space where you can control distracting noises by eliminating them (turning off noisy appliances) or soundproofing your office (hanging a fiberglass blanket over the door). So choose a space furthest from distracting noises like washer and dryers, dishwashers, or noisy next-door neighbors.
Cutting Out Distractions
Nothing spoils the benefits of working from home more than too many distractions, which can be anything from a jackhammer outside your window to the overriding need for a mid-morning donut run. You can combat external noise and visual distractions with noise-cancelling headphones or a cubicle panel, but other commotions can come from your personal life encroaching into your mental workspace.
Most remote workers love their home office because it affords them the convenience and comfort of being home, but too much convenience can make it tempting to turn on the television or do laundry when you need to finish a project. It’s easy for spouses, children, and pets to interrupt your workflow with noise or requests.
Separate your personal from your work tasks by planning a remote work schedule that leaves some down time if you need to take the dog for a walk or run to get coffee and that lets everyone at home know when it’s okay to interrupt you. Set alarms to divide up your work time into discrete segments—similar to the Pomodoro Technique—which will allocate time for personal business, increase your productivity, and minimize distractions.
Setting Up Your Workspace
After planting a flag in a corner of your apartment, it’s time to fill it with the work essentials. Since space is at a premium, start by taking an inventory of what devices you absolutely need in your work space. This helps maximize your space and ensures a clutter-free desk, which aids your productivity and peace of mind. Here are some small space strategies to consider.
For maximizing space, wireless is the way to go. A wireless connection to the internet gives you flexibility to move about your apartment, while a wireless keyboard and mouse will keep your desktop tidy. If you have a printer, connect to it wirelessly, and locate it somewhere else in the apartment. Bluetooth headphones are ideal for decluttering desks and when paired with your mobile phone, effective for quickly taking incoming client calls.
Plan for video conference calls
It’s likely you’ll be conference calling with clients from time to time. If so, plan your workspace around video calls even if you expect to use audio only. You never know when a client will prefer video, so you’ll need to keep your space looking professional and free from common distractions. The best way to achieve this is with a simple background made from a plain-looking, single-color room divider or hanging a piece of fabric. The key is to keep it simple. If you’re using a laptop with a wireless internet connection, you have more background choices, but avoid sitting in front of windows or bright lights.
Design with the right color scheme
Color doesn’t just affect the aesthetics of your workspace; it also makes a difference in your mood and productivity. It’s well known that specific colors have a psychological effect on workers, so incorporate common workplace color strategies into your tiny office. Choose those that match your personality and work goals, and stay away from drab colors like boring office-gray.
- Blue is shown to be calming to workers and helps with concentration.
- Yellow and orange are warm “feel-good” colors that stimulate creativity.
- Light greens are said to be soothing for workers, given their connection to nature.
- Red is the hue for workers who need a good boost of energy.
Tracking Workspace Success
To maintain an effective workspace, you need to evaluate it periodically by asking questions that reveal its negative and positive features. Record any problems and accomplishments in a written or online journal so you can track how your workspace contributed to either. After three months of working in your apartment, ask yourself questions like the following:
- Overall, do I feel physically and emotionally comfortable in my workspace?
- Where is it causing problems or limiting my productivity?
- How is it helping me exceed my expectations?
- Is there anything in my workspace that’s not serving a purpose?
- How has my workspace changed since I first created it? (Take a preliminary photo)
- Are there any work changes coming that will require altering my workspace?
The answers to these questions will help locate problem areas, identity what’s working, and guide the evolution of your workspace.
Joining a Co-Working Space
If remote working in your small apartment just isn’t a viable option, joining a co-working space might be the answer. Typically, co-working spaces are large office buildings, studios, warehouses, etc. that are divided into smaller areas for rent or lease. Individual tenants pay monthly fees and get access to their workspace plus other amenities such as internet access, printers, and conference rooms.
Coworking spaces are growing in popularity—especially in high-rent cities or those considered technology hubs—as gig economy and remote-working trends continue to rise. Aside from benefiting freelance workers, co-working spaces are also popular among landlords who see positive benefits like increased property values. It’s a win, win for everyone.
Sure, co-working spaces aren’t cheap, but there are some real positives to be gained that could justify the extra cost in the long run. For one, you won’t need to build your small apartment office, so there’s some savings right there. Then there’s striking a better work/life balance by having an office to go to everyday. Fewer distractions means more productivity and money in your pocket. Freelancers also cite the benefits of socializing with other co-workers to join forces in growing their business and for getting referrals.
Whether you carve out a space in your apartment or join the coworking trend, remember—there’s only one you, and there’s only one strategy that will make you the most productive. Maybe you work from home three days and at a co-working space two days. Maybe you take it easy on Mondays but work late into the night at a coffee shop on Saturdays. Maybe you’re surprisingly productive at the mall food court. While the rest of the world makes do in cubicles, remote workers like you have the flexibility to pick your own workspace. Take advantage!
About the Author
Kurt is the Vice-President of Sales & Marketing at Vast Conference. Since 2009, he has been focused on design and product development working to deliver innovation in conferencing technology.