Whether by nature or out of necessity, a lot of entrepreneurs qualify as workaholics. In a recent Gallup poll, 57% of small business owners surveyed reported working six or more days a week. Nearly 40% of survey respondents indicated that they still tended to business while on vacation. Chalk it up to passion or pressure, but many entrepreneurs feel like they’re “always working” — at least in their heads. Perhaps you’re one of them.
The difficulty in separating work life from personal life is likely due, in part, to the fact that some 50% of small businesses are home-based. And that was before the global pandemic closed many workplaces and we became a nation of at-home workers.
Are you taking advantage of the many opportunities and tools available to boost your efficiency? Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can enhance your home office.
For more on how to maintain your productivity while WFH:
The Ideal Workspace
We get it. Many of us are working with space and budget limitations and can’t necessarily set up the Taj Mahal of home offices. But if at all possible, it’s best to have a dedicated spot in your home where you can conduct business, whether that’s a separate room or a permanent desk in a space you use for multiple functions. You’ll save time each day if you don’t have set up before you can begin your workday. Moving files and other office supplies or plugging in chargers requires precious minutes organizing instead of tending to the work that matters.
Those of us who work from home often have to contend with more distractions than office workers, whether that’s a toddler tugging at your sleeve or a golden retriever barking at the UPS guy. Setting limits can be challenging, but you should set them whenever and wherever you can.
A closed door or even a simple sign on your desk can signal when it’s okay to ask mom or dad a question and when it’s time for kids to amuse themselves. Giving a child small rewards for respecting your boundaries can be helpful. For example: “Let mommy work for an hour, and then we can read a book together.” Try to set up your workspace far away from the TV or place where your kids play video games, too. If necessary, you could also drown out the constant bings, bongs, and explosions emanating from a Nintendo Switch with a white noise machine (psst — they make a mobile app for that, too).
According to the National Institutes for Health, lower back pain is the most common cause of employment disability for workers under 45. When you’re a one-person show — particularly one without the benefit of short-term disability insurance — it’s all the more important to look after your skeleton. If you spend hours working at a desk all day, one of the best investments you can make is to outfit your office with high-quality ergonomic furniture.
The marketplace offers a wide range of choices, from chairs to desks to stands that can raise your monitor to the optimal height for comfort. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that ergonomically-designed chairs can help prevent lower back pain in office workers. It stands to reason that if your back hurts, you’re likely to be less productive. Some scientific studies confirm that with improved ergonomics comes improved productivity to the tune of 17%. What could you do with 17% more time?
Top Tech Tip for Your Home Office
Do you love your internet service provider as much as your coffee maker? If not, it’s time to find a new one. The best internet service providers create value, not constant consternation. While we all try to limit our monthly expenses, internet service isn’t something you should skimp on. It’s also a service you should research carefully before committing to a plan.
Many internet service providers promise high speed. Some offer a choice of plans — the higher the speed, the more you’ll pay. Do you know what speed you’ve been promised and whether your ISP is living up to its commitment? You might want to check and can do it right now as you’re reading this article.
When comparing ISPs, note the difference between download speeds and upload speeds. If you send a lot of large files — for example, if you’re a graphic designer or video pro — then upload speed can turn out to be very important. Not only will having a faster upload speed make your clients happier, but it will also improve your work experience, too.
Data caps are another feature you should consider carefully, particularly if you’re sharing your connection with other household members. Once you’ve reached the data limit of your plan, your ISP will start dinging you, usually in small, expensive increments, for bandwidth you use in excess of what you’re contracted for.
Are you having trouble remembering your password for the online subscription you paid for last month? You’re not alone. The average person has between 70 and 80 passwords to remember. Business users typically have a lot more. One time-saving, security-boosting technology you might want to look into is a password manager. Password managers remember hundreds of passwords, so you only have to remember one for every digital device you use, every bank account you maintain, or website you visit. Consider how many times a month you consult a list of passwords you keep or wind up resetting passwords to get into your accounts. A password manager offers far less hassle and greater cybersecurity.
Most passwords managers cost between $20 and $60 per year. Some basic but well-regarded services are even available for free. That’s a pretty modest investment to make to safeguard all the data you generate, receive, and are otherwise responsible for.
For additional remote working tips:
Look After Your Health, Not Just Your Business’s
Running your own business, by many measures, can be more stressful than being an employee. That means entrepreneurs need to take an extra measure of precaution to stay in top physical and mental health. So, keep your routine medical appointments, grab a healthy lunch, and don’t forget to stretch your legs during the day. And above all, don’t forget to optimize your home office for a better work experience. It pays to treat yourself!
Susan Doktor is a journalist and business strategist who operates from a home office. She covers a wide range of subjects, including finance, technology, marketing, and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter at @branddoktor.