How to create a productive home office environment

Friday 27th May, 2016
Contractor Info

As of 2014, some 1.5 million people in the UK worked from home full-time, as a freelancer, limited company contractor or in another self-employed capacity, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The world of work has undergone significant changes over the past few years, with an increasing number of people choosing to work from home rather than pay for business premises.

But with the distractions of a TV, the laundry, dinner that needs cooking and kids to pick up from school, how can contractors and freelancers who work from home ensure optimum productivity levels?

How productive are homeworkers?

According to a study carried out by researchers from Stanford University in the US in 2013, people who worked from home dealt with 13.5 per cent more work-related calls than their office-based counterparts over the course of a week, suggesting higher productivity levels.

This is despite traditional perceptions of homeworkers being lazy and wanting to work from home to skive from their professional responsibilities. Research conducted by Dell and Intel in 2014 found that attitudes towards home-based workers are changing, helped by the fact that more than one-third (36 per cent) believe they are just as productive at home as they are in a formal office environment.

The Dell and Intel survey showed that just 14 per cent of workers felt less productive doing their job from home, but why might this be the case?

What could be getting in their way?

It can be a challenge for home-based, self-employed workers to achieve a healthy work-life balance, so it's vital that these individuals are able to draw a clear line between their personal and professional lives.

In fact, research published last year by FlexJobs saw freelance writers cite distractions at home at the third biggest hindrance to delivering the best possible service to their clients, with almost one-fifth (19 per cent) reporting this to be an issue.

However, it's not just household chores and the people they live with that can get in the way of contractors and freelancers doing the best job, but also the environment they are in. Everything from how well-lit their home office is to how many plants it features can play a part in helping or hindering their productivity.

In addition, some self-employed workers may find their productivity adversely affected when it comes to dealing with administrative work and filing their taxes due to a lack of confidence in this area.

PayStream's My PSC limited company service can help in this situation. The service provides limited company contractors with help and support with their limited company admin so they can be assured that they are remaining compliant with HMRC, while being given the opportunity to devote more of their time to growing their business.

Get the most from your working environment

A poll carried out by Love Energy Savings in 2016 led to the discovery that over half (55 per cent) of UK workers do not feel inspired by their workplace or the area of their home that they have made into an office. So how can contractors, freelancers and other self-employed individuals get the most from their designated working environment?

To start with, the colour of the office walls can have a significant impact on productivity. Scientists at the University of Texas found that women were more likely to feel gloomy and unmotivated in rooms painted white, beige or grey, while walls of purple or orange had a similar effect on male workers.

Walls painted in pale blues and greens were found to improve people's moods at work, naturally boosting their productivity levels at the same time, due to their calming nature.

The temperature of the room is also important, according to Cornell University research from 2014, which showed that turning the heating up from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius could increase typing output by as much as 150 per cent, alongside reducing errors by 44 per cent.

Meanwhile, research from the University of Stuttgart suggests that dimming the lights in a room can help people to think more creatively, so this is worth bearing in mind for contractors and freelancers when they're in need of some new ideas for their business.

What's more, furniture with curved, rather than straight edges, was found to have a calming effect on workers, increasing their productivity, according to an Oregon State University from 2013.

With all of this in mind, it is clear that the environment contractors work in can have a significant impact on their productivity levels. There is no reason that homeworkers cannot be as, if not more, productive than their office-based counterparts, as long as they do not have any distractions preventing them from getting their work done.

The colour of the office walls can have a significant impact on productivity. Scientists at the University of Texas found that women were more likely to feel gloomy and unmotivated in rooms painted white, beige or grey, while walls of purple or orange had a similar effect on male workers.

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