Working from home has become a common arrangement during the COVID pandemic, including for legal professionals.
However, nothing has changed the constant demands of the legal industry. This means legal professionals must adapt by maintaining productivity at their home office.
So when working from home, what is the best office setup for productivity?
The following are some home office setup ideas for the legal professional looking for the work-from-home edge.
Designate a workspace
The first essential element is to select a dedicated workspace within your home.
To the greatest extent possible, keep that workspace separate from your living space. Find a quiet corner of your home without a lot of traffic, preferably in a room of its own.
If your available living space is limited, consider some tried-and-true methods for how to make a home office in a small space. These could include making use of a spare closet, empty corner, window seat area, or even your couch.
Also consider your comfort with background noise. While some people will find any noise distracting, others actually need background noise to work effectively. It may be best to avoid proximity to noisy areas, such as a play area or television that others will be watching.
In the legal world, having a designated area is especially important. You don’t want anyone else, including kids or family members, listening in when you’re having sensitive discussions with clients or discussing other private business.
If you need to, try creating a privacy system in your household. Use a sign, a closed door, or some other signal to indicate that you need to be left alone in your workspace.
Maximize your physical comfort for a productive home office
Do not neglect your physical comfort in setting up your home office. It’s hard to be productive when you’re feeling cramped or sore.
Make the investment in a comfortable chair. Also ensure you are sitting in an ergonomically correct position. The whole point of ergonomics is to have your body do less work while your environment adapts to you.
Since working hunched over a laptop can take a toll on your comfort level, consider investing in a monitor that you can place at eye level.
For those who become uncomfortable sitting for long periods of time, a standing desk may be a viable option. You can even get an adjustable desk that allows you to sit or stand depending on your needs at that moment.
Remember to get up and move at least once per hour. Stretch, take a walk to the kitchen for another glass of water, or do some quick desk-friendly yoga poses. For more ideas, you can download our free wellness cheat sheets.
Get your technology and office supplies in order
When working from home, your goal is to have access to the same levels of technology and office supplies as if you were physically working in the office.
For office supplies, ensure you are well-stocked with essentials such as pens and notepads. If it’s something you used regularly in your shared office, you’ll still want it in your home office.
However, be mindful of printing or writing down confidential information — if you’re going to handle anything that isn’t public, be sure that you have a way to store it securely. You don’t want kids, houseguests, or others to accidentally (or on purpose) get their hands on those documents.
With your home office technology, think beyond your computer and monitor. That’s a good starting place, but it’s just a baseline.
You may benefit from multiple monitors or a phone headset. Perhaps you could implement a home office printer or copier/scanner. A wireless keyboard and mouse can drastically reduce clutter from cords.
Always use a computer that is dedicated to work and follow cybersecurity best practices.
Don’t download extra applications or programs on your work computer. When you download free games or even some work tools, you risk installing malicious software on your device that can put your clients’ personal data at risk. Only download and install software you know, trust, and need on your work computer. Everything else should go on a different personal device.
One of the home office hacks that may be less obvious is also one that is no less critical.
If you can reduce interruptions from distracting people, this is a huge step toward remaining effective on the job.
This will mean setting firm boundaries with the people around you, whether those are other members of your household, your kids, or a friend who works a different shift. It might take time to get people to respect those boundaries, but stick with it.
For household distractions like chores, children, and the temptation of entertainment, a schedule can help you create healthy boundaries. Be specific about when you’ll take breaks and when you need time to focus. Your kids are only allowed to come ask for things during those break times, and if they want something outside of those times, they must wait. We’ll talk more about setting a schedule in the next section.
Treat your work hours as if you were at an office and unavailable for social visits, and others will learn to do the same. There’s no need to answer the door or the home phone. You wouldn’t come home from the office to answer a call, so don’t do it when your office is inside your home.
Nor should you apologize for your unavailability during work hours — this discipline is simply part of establishing a healthy work-life balance.
When your work time is dedicated to work, your personal time can be dedicated to your personal priorities.
Keep a set schedule
Sticking to a set schedule for your workday is an excellent way of setting time boundaries.
This will help you stave off burnout by avoiding late-night work. Schedule your meals and get away from your desk so that you get back to your afternoon to-do list refreshed and ready.
If the people you work with know you are available during certain hours, this helps with perceptions of your professionalism and dependability, too. Working remotely makes you less visible to the others at your firm. Get in the habit of checking in regularly and make sure you’re available when you say you are.
Also be sure to incorporate meaningful breaks into your work schedule. Experiment with increments of time for your work breaks that effectively recharge your energy, while still allowing you to be sufficiently productive throughout the day.
Clean and declutter
Set aside time and effort to clean and declutter your workspace since a cluttered workspace can be a productivity killer.
Keep your desk and other areas organized to avoid distraction and stress. This will also minimize the time spent searching for essential documents or supplies throughout the day.
Be ruthless with clearing out junk mail, old notepads, coffee cups, and knickknacks.
Some legal professionals may also want to devote some attention to the rest of their home. You may find your peace of mind and ability to concentrate increasing when the entire living space is cleaned up.
Decorate your workspace
If you want to make yourself a highly effective work-from-home professional, you need to move beyond a home office that is merely adequate.
To create the perfect home office for you, you also should decorate your workspace according to your tastes and work style. This will keep you engaged in your work with the right mental states for productivity.
Experiment with different colors — such as red for high energy or blue for calming energy — for your furniture, carpets, and walls.
If you are trying to decorate a home office with no windows, you can still achieve quality aesthetics without natural light. Finding the right lighting and painting the walls a neutral color will both help, along with a few house plants. Mirrors can also brighten the room and make it appear larger.
No matter what type of living space you are dealing with, these are just a few tips that can help you be the most productive legal professional possible in your home office.
While productivity isn’t entirely dependent upon your workspace, your environment does have a huge impact on your ability to focus and get things done. Of course, if you’ve optimized your home office as much as possible and you’re still struggling to get through your work, there could be other factors that you need to address.
Here are some resources that might help: