I had my first child in 1991 and was excited to sideline my marketing career for staying home and being a mom. I looked forward to being more involved with women’s Bible studies at church and building community with friends who had also joined the ranks of stay-at-home motherhood. Six months later, everything changed.
I received a call from a graphic designer friend who did freelance work with a major travel stop company based in my city. He quickly explained, “They need someone to coordinate and design their employee newsletter. I think you’d be perfect.” At the time, I didn’t have the computer or the software, but he assured me it would be worth the investment to consider starting a business out of my home. The next nine years I found myself working part-time from home, and I saw how the Lord was able to combine my love for working with being available to my young children. Even when I returned to the workforce full time, I continued to do freelance work from my home office.
While having a home office has been part of my routine for many years, we can all thank COVID-19 for a sudden and complete shift to working from home, homeschooling, and sharing space with a variety of technology. While some of you might be dreaming about the detached “She Shed” that would provide some additional privacy, most of you are adapting your work within the confines of your current space, whether it’s an apartment or a house.
I’ve learned a few basic principles along the way that help make working from home not just manageable but also productive and enjoyable. By incorporating a few of these ideas, I hope you’ll find working from a home office can be a joy.
First, find a designated workspace no matter how big or how small it might be. I’m not opposed to changing things up when you need a change of pace, such as working outside on the back porch or spending some time at a coffee shop, but if you want to set some boundaries around work, setting aside a specific place is best. I’ve always been fortunate to have room in my home for a dedicated work area, which includes a desk, room for books, a computer monitor, and office supplies. And while these are the basics, it’s always a good idea to make your space more inviting. (Don’t forget all those Zoom meetings where coworkers see your space!) During these recent months of working from home, I realized the need to update some of my décor. So I said goodbye to the ‘90s and welcomed some new updated purchases. They include a new accent chair, updated art, lamp, curtains, clock, office supplies, and a monitor stand for my laptop. I spent less than four hundred dollars, and now, I look forward to going to my office and working each morning. And when the end of the day arrives, I close the door and “leave” for the day.
If you don’t have a separate room you can use for a dedicated workspace, it’s still important to find a place you can call your own. Whether it’s in a spare bedroom or in a corner of a dining room, the most efficient way I’ve found to work from home is to use the same area day after day. Surround yourself with a few things that make the space inviting, whether it’s a plant or a favorite photo. I’ve seen a few friends paint a wall in a favorite color or invite their pet to be their work buddy.
If you’re working from home and you have small children, consider their schedules and work around them the best you can. When my children were very small, I scheduled projects around naps, early mornings, and in the evenings when my husband could take over. My children loved going to Mother’s Day Out once a week, and when a big project was looming, I called in a babysitter to ease the load. It wasn’t always easy or convenient, but flexibility was the key. I can still remember delivering a project to a client the day before I was induced with my second child!
If you’re looking for a list of essentials for your home office, here are my top picks. (Of course, your type of work will dictate your needs, but these are things that have worked for me.)
- A good computer monitor, the best internet connection you can get, and a heavy duty power strip for all of your technology.
- File organizers to keep projects at your fingertips. Not only do I use these for file folders, but I also keep notebooks I need to access quickly. Don’t overuse paper files since most everything is stored on your computer and avoids extra clutter, but sometimes you might need hard copies of important documents or research.
- A bookshelf or containers with extra supplies. Make the most of storage and find what works best for you. Keep large containers in a closet for easy access to things you don’t need daily. A small basket that includes note cards, scissors, and stamps are handy when you need to remember someone’s birthday, send a thank you note, or write a note of encouragement with Scripture attached.
- A comfortable desk and chair. My first desk was an antique dining room table, and today I still use a writing desk I’ve had for almost twenty years. While the style isn’t the latest and greatest, it still provides a large work area I can call my own. The monitor stand I purchased contains a drawer where I keep extra cords, a keyboard, and my computer glasses.
Finally, spend a little time keeping your workspace tidy and clean. If you are using an area in your house others will see on a daily basis, you’ll get more accomplished when everything is in order. Plus, your family will thank you. Take thirty minutes at the end of your week and eliminate any trash or put things away that are crowding your space. It’s an excellent way to end the week, and you’ll face the next Monday ready for another day of working from home. And the commute is definitely something to smile about!
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church. You can hear Kelly at Lifeway’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.