The Way We Work
October 27, 2010 by Tamara Rice

Sooner or later most contract workers realizes it’s difficult to maintain a long-term freelance career without a defined workspace of his own. Sure there are exceptions to the rule, and there are times when every contractor benefits from a change of scenery — a coffee shop, a library, etc. — however, the most productive space for most will have the elements of an actual office. In fact, 85% of those who responded to our recent survey work from a dedicated home office.

So, whether you choose to rent a cubicle, share workspace or create a space at home that’s all your own, here’s what we recommend you invest in:

1. A room you can control. Whether it’s music you need or total silence, you have to be able to create that ideal environment to be at your most productive. Having a place where you can shut the door and shut out the world is often the key to controlling your focus at work. If you don’t have a room at your disposal, consider converting a walk-in closet or part of a garage. Get innovative with what you have to create the space you need.

2. Proper lighting. For most of us, at least the tiniest bit of a window and some natural sunlight would be a bonus, but more important than that is lighting that will not contribute to headaches and eye strain. The lighting needs of a graphic designer, working with colors and photographs, may be different than the lighting needs of a writer who is typing black words on a white background all day. Know what you need and light your space appropriately.

3. An organized work area. Cluttered doesn’t function as well as clean. It just doesn’t. Those with cluttered and messy desks may spend an average of an hour and a half a day just looking for things. It adds up. Stay organized so you can enjoy your space.

defined workspace three3. A comfortable chair. If you are working eight-hour days, there’s a chance you are spending more time in that chair than your own bed — shouldn’t it be comfortable? Note that comfort  may not equal stylish, but your whole body will thank you. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good chair.

4. A designated work computer. Depending on what you do, this may also include a printer or scanner. The point is that you need one in your office space, so you don’t have to share with everyone else in the house. You can’t be waiting in line behind your junior-high-age child to print a document when you are on the clock.  Get the technology you need. It’s worth the investment (and it can be a tax write-off).

5. A functional desk. Small is cute, but it’s rarely functional. You need space to collect ideas, store any non-digital records, and conduct your day-to-day business. Get this space to spread out in whatever shape or form you can. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even new. Older wooden desks often hold up better than new, cheaper versions — think of it as an eco-friendly choice in home office design.

Defined workspace two6. A few pieces of inspiration. It might be a picture of your child or it might be a poem, but whatever it is that puts light in your eyes, place it in your workspace. In those moments of  boredom or frustration, it can be the little things — like a comic strip from the newspaper or a bobble-head character from The Office — that give you a few sparks of relief, laughter and motivation to complete the tasks at hand.

Tell us about your workspace. Have you seen increased productivity by having a defined one to call your own?

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

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  • Tamara

    Jennifer, I hope you can do that! It makes all the difference, especially if you have children around. A back porch office sounds wonderful! And your soda will be so handy!

  • Jennifer Arellano

    I would just like to say what a great piece of advice for people working from home. I have 3 children- 3, 2 and 1 year old. If I try to do something on the laptop they are all over me and it. There is NO way of putting my concentration on the task at hand if I don’t have a place to

  • Tamara

    Avdi, that’s such a great accessory. Very important for those who like to work away from home–or those whose homes are not all that quiet!

  • Avdi Grimm

    For me, the most important aspects of my office are the accessories. For instance, my wireless noise-cancelling headset makes extended remote collaboration sessions far more pleasant than they might otherwise be.