If you work from home and are privy to your family’s conversations, television or outdoor noises, it might be the reason you’re having such a difficult time focusing.
Another concern for home office workers is safety. It can be difficult to concentrate if you’re constantly worried about inviting new clients into your home and meeting with them alone. In addition, if your office isn’t child-proofed or set up in a way that makes you feel safe, you may subconsciously be worried — which can negatively affect your productivity. If you find that you’re exposed to a lot of noise or unsafe conditions, don’t despair. Following the tips below will have you working up to speed in no time.
Reduce the Noise
It can be difficult to concentrate on the work in front of you when you’re following a conversation taking place between two people within earshot. But that’s exactly what happens to many home office workers, because they work in the middle of things — literally. The best possible solution is to have an office that is completely isolated from the family home and all of its distractions, but that’s not always possible. If your work is suffering and you don’t have an isolated space to use, check out the following tips.
Proper flooring both in a home office and in the room above can significantly reduce the amount of noise. But just what is proper? Carpet alone will reduce some noise — especially one with a high Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating — but installing a mass loaded vinyl barrier will do much more. Just ¼ to ½ thick, this pad lies beneath your regular flooring to create a barrier between you and the rooms above or below. It reduces 85–90 percent of airborne sound that comes from voices, footfalls, televisions and other distractions.
But if you miss just 3 percent of the floor surface, a full 50 percent of the sounds can still travel though. You can stop that from happening by using an acoustical sealant around wall and floor junctions, cracks, and heating and air-conditioning ducts. Use weather stripping to seal cracks around windows and doors, and then cover the windows with heavy draperies. Double-paned windows can also help reduce noise from outdoors.
Ceilings and Walls
By creating space between your immediate ceiling and the room upstairs, you can create a sound barrier. Do this by installing acoustical ceiling systems, which are categorized by the Absorption Coefficient designed to rate the percentage of sound absorbed. Aim for a rating between 180 and 200.
You can also decrease the noise by modifying your walls. Install soundproof wall panels in the room, or install non-combustible rock wool insulation batting in your walls. In addition, adding a layer of sheetrock with a thick layer of silicone caulking in between will create an effective sound barrier—especially if you live in a one-story home.
The average worker faces distraction two hours every day because of noise. You can eliminate this problem by utilizing sound masking. While some of the other options reduce noise, adding a low-level noise to your office space will help cover it. It emits white noise, which is sound that doesn’t communicate anything, such as the hum of an air-conditioner. Because it cannot be “understood,” the human mind tunes it out. You can have a professional install a system in your office, or you can purchase one yourself.
It’s difficult to concentrate and be productive when your children are coming in and out of your office demanding attention. But there are solutions. For smaller children, make the workday fun by setting up their own desk, complete with projects for them to do. Schedule serious tasks or conference calls while your children are napping or away from home. Some people schedule a baby-sitter for a few hours a day so they can get crucial tasks done. If your kids are older, you can do most of your work while they’re at school, and then don’t allow their friends over until after work hours.
If you feel unsafe in a corporate environment, all you have to do is pick up the phone and call security. But a home office worker doesn’t have that option. And if you have concerns about your safety, you’re not likely to be at your most productive. But there are some safety measures you can take to ease your mind.
If you have to meet with new clients in your home office, it can put you in a vulnerable position unless you take some precautions. The first should be deciding who you will give your address to. Don’t publish it on your website or promotional materials, but instead only give it out when you must meet with a customer in your office. Set up a video cam and Skype on your computer and hold virtual meetings. Rent a post office box, and use that address for your invoices and other business correspondence, and use email for most of your communications. If the new client is an unknown, or you have an uneasy feeling, arrange to meet someplace else like a nearby business center.
There are also some practical considerations. Keep your draperies closed while at work in order to prevent would-be thieves from seeing your expensive office equipment. Think about getting a guard dog and letting its presence be known. Automatic lighting systems that come on and off at pre-set times are other ways to mask your comings and goings. And whenever you’re in your office, the house alarm should be set, and you should have a panic button within easy reach.
Your equipment is likely an important part of your job, and it just makes sense to do everything you can to protect it. Take an inventory of it and keep the photos and inventory in a safe place. If you experience a break-in, fire or flood, your insurance company will want proof of the items that you need to replace. Consider a fire-proof and water-proof safe that will keep these — and other important business documents — safe. In addition, make it difficult for burglars to break into your office by installing a special steel-plated door with deadbolts. Make sure your office windows have extra protection, too.
A fire could do major damage to your business, but you can help prevent one by having an electrical inspection done. An expert will be able to point out any areas that are creating a hazard and tell you how to adjust them. Make certain that you’re using the right light bulbs — ones too strong could create a fire — and don’t overload your electrical sockets. Of course, you’ll want to have a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm installed in your office. .
You’ll never be able to concentrate if you’re constantly worried that your child will get injured while in your office. Make sure that all unused electrical outlets are covered, and then wrap up all of the cords in a cord cover. Little ones like to climb, so make sure that all shelves are bolted firmly so they can’t tip over. Keep all your important papers, disks, and thumb drives put up and out of the way.
The higher your productivity, the more time you’ll have for other things you enjoy, such as family, vacations and down time. Why not ensure that your work environment is as efficient as it can be? HBM
Suzanne Kearns has been a full-time writer for more than 20 years. She specializes in writing about small and home-based business issues and writes website copy, articles of all types, and books — both under her name and as a ghostwriter. In addition, she blogs and ghostblogs for numerous sites. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.