While the hybrid model continues to gain traction in corporate India, there is a keen preference among employees to continue working from home in India.
Whether you work as a hybrid employee or have the autonomy of being self-employed, having a home office is essential.
As an experienced freelancer who set up my home office during COVID19, I will show you how to set up your own home office in India. We will explore the benefits of having a dedicated workspace and discuss essential digital office solutions you'll need. Look out for step-by-step instructions to set up your home office and tips to boost productivity. Let's get started!
Home office & work from home trends in India
Contrary to popular belief, a home office would not be a hindrance to your business. Indians have discovered and then embraced the flexibility offered by virtual meetings. Research found that Indians, contrary to their counterparts in China and Japan, preferred virtual meetings over in-person meetings. While corporations in India have been pushing for in-person and hybrid work, the mindset of many Indians have shifted. Many want the freedom and flexibility offered by working from home. Apart from the comfort and flexibility to work from their homes, many reported that they gained more productivity working from home and not dealing with pronounced traffic conditions which could span three to four hours each way.
As the demand for remote work continues to surge, employees are increasingly seeking ways to optimise their productivity in a personal environment while maintaining a clear boundary between the personal and the professional. This is precisely where the concept of creating a home office becomes invaluable.
What is a home office?
A home office is a designated workspace within your home where you can focus on your professional tasks. It is crucial to create a separate and distraction-free area that mimics a traditional office environment. This space should be used exclusively for work, allowing you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Benefits of having your own home office
It is important to create a home office as converting bedrooms into makeshift office spaces restricts your movements. Imagine yourself eating, sleeping and working in the same space. You might find it challenging to focus, and this could in turn negatively affect your mental health. A well-designed home office provides the ideal environment for concentration and focus, allowing you to maximise your productivity. Many employees found that the solitude of a home office as well as the freedom to design their home office made them more focused and productive.
By working from home, you can save money on commuting, office rent, and other expenses associated with a traditional office setup.
Research found that the second most common advantage of working from home is the lack of commuting and the associated savings. Saving time and saving money were both a benefit of working from home as well as establishing a home office.
Working from home offers vast freedom. You can set your own schedule, choose your preferred work environment, and tailor your routine to suit your needs. Research has shown that the most common advantage of working from home during the pandemic was the flexibility to manage your time. Employees could schedule their working hours so that they had more time for their families and household chores. This can lead to a better work life balance. Creating a home office gives you this flexibility.
Improved work-life balance
With a home office, you can efficiently manage both personal and professional commitments, reducing stress and enhancing your overall well-being. Instead of spending time on commuting, these saved hours can be spent more meaningfully. Whether it's exercising, preparing healthier meals or spending time with loved ones, you can focus on your family and health.
“Having a little more time, if you’re using it wisely, can be very beneficial,” said Marilyn Skarbek, an assistant professor of exercise science at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. “There are a lot of other things you can do around the house to keep you moving: laundry, cleaning — all of that keeps you active.”
Related: Create a work from home policy
Essential digital tools for your home office
You may think that an ergonomic office chair and the perfect desk are vital for setting up a home office. Many individuals tend to prioritise physical aspects of their workspace rather than digital home office solutions necessary for efficient work from home in India. However, without these digital home office solutions, effective collaboration with your team would be challenging, if not impossible.
Similarly, in a work-from-home set up, prioritising digital tools sets the foundation for successful and efficient remote work. After establishing a comprehensive digital home office infrastructure, you can shift your attention to finding a comfortable chair! Here are some tools that you should look into getting:
Microsoft 365 (M365)
M365 is a comprehensive suite of productivity tools, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, to streamline your work processes and collaborate seamlessly with clients and colleagues. As this is on the cloud, you don’t have to worry about storage and just focus on the work. Establish boundaries between personal and professional conversations by using Microsoft Teams instead of instant messaging options like Facebook or WhatsApp. Elevate your business interactions by leveraging these industry-standard digital tools, allowing you to meet, chat, and collaborate seamlessly with your team, customers, and suppliers. With their widespread adoption by multiple corporations, these tools lend credibility and professionalism to your business, setting you up for professional success!
Get started with the Microsoft 365 Productivity Suite and set yourself up to work from home in India or anywhere!
Establish your professional identity with a domain-based email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, using services like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. A professional email id shows that you mean business and helps you stand out from the others!
If you have a small business but lack a professional email or access to Microsoft 365, now is definitely the time to get them. GoDaddy offers business bundles— offering you savings if you purchase both together!
If you are running your own business from home, or are a freelancer, it is important to have a domain and website. These are your digital calling cards. Having your personal domain and website would help clients discover your work. On top of that, it allows you to present your portfolio in an organized way to your potential clients.
Register your domain name through trusted providers like GoDaddy, ensuring your online presence is secure and easily accessible. The perfect domain lets your clients know about your business at a glance. It is a great way to showcase your prior work. Lead generation is an important aspect of every small business, which is where a website comes into play.
Stable internet connection
Invest in a reliable internet service provider to ensure uninterrupted connectivity, essential for seamless communication and research. Ensure the speed of your WiFi connection by utilising free tools. If your connection is unstable, prioritise establishing a more reliable connection before scheduling work calls with your team and clients. Nothing is more frustrating than experiencing freezing video calls while presenting important pitches!
Setting up your home office in India
Now that you have your basics in place, it's time to focus on physical aspects of your home office. As you will be spending a lot of time in it, ensure that the space is free from distraction and helps you focus. Here are some things to keep in mind while creating your workplace:
Choosing a dedicated space
Identify a quiet and well-lit area in your home, preferably away from distractions and with sufficient natural light. Thoughtful lighting design can be a powerful tool to increase employee performance as there are actual costs associated with not addressing lighting issues at work. Natural light is preferred in a home office. This is because it is much easier on the eyes. Windows also provide a way to incorporate the world outside your room. Additionally, natural light can help you concentrate better and won’t add to the clutter in your room.
Ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging the physical environment and equipment in a way that optimises human well-being and performance. It focuses on creating workspaces, products, and systems that are safe, efficient, and comfortable for people to use. The goal of ergonomics is to enhance productivity and prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.
For your home office, it is important to invest in proper lighting, a comfortable work desk, and an ergonomic chair.
A home office standing desk with adjustable height might be in trend, but you should get a desk that you would be comfortable using for years. An ergonomic chair helps you to maintain good posture and prevent health issues associated with prolonged sitting. The chair should have an adjustable spine, offer lumbar support as well as armrest. It is also important to ensure the size of the chair is perfect for your home office.
If you want to set up a home office that lacks clutter, invest in a computer desk with more storage space. Ensure the height of the desk suits your chair or it is an adjustable desk. With respect to lighting, it is important to ensure that the artificial lighting like desk lamps do not lead to a glare. Avoid competing with the light offered by the laptop and consider installing an overhead light.
If budget is an issue, keep an eye on the local markets and secondhand furniture sales, you can furnish your home office at a bargain as long as you know what you are looking for. Remember, a good home office setup keeps you healthy, physically and mentally!
Use shelves, file cabinets, and desktop organizers to keep your workspace clutter-free and enhance efficiency. Studies have found that clutter can negatively impact mental well-being, particularly among women. Clutter can also induce a physiological response, including increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Keep the clutter out of sight to give yourself a mental break and focus on having a clean workstation to create the illusion of extra space. Plan what you need to store in your home office and buy file cabinets, desktop organizers etc. after you know the quantity you would require. If you are a more visual individual who likes to use sticky notes, plan to have a blank whiteboard or pin board in your home office. This gives you the option to organize your thoughts or schedule in a way that is comfortable to you.
Pro-tip: Stock up on office supplies! Because let's face it, your pen will magically disappear when you need it the most.
Personalize your space
Decorate your home office space with elements that inspire and motivate you, such as plants, artwork, or motivational quotes. While office buildings come with certain restrictions, the beauty of working from home is that you have the freedom to unleash your creative side! So, seize the opportunity and let your imagination run wild. Want to adorn your office walls with temporary wall decals (some beautiful options available at Amazon) or even paint them in vibrant colours? Go right ahead! After all, you'll be spending long hours in this space, so you should make it a fun and cheerful environment that truly reflects your personality! Embrace the chance to customise your workspace.
Privacy and noise reduction
It’s not just clutter that hinders productivity and leads to increased stress, noise does as well. If your home has very thin walls or multiple individuals are working from your home, consider soundproofing your home office with curtains, rugs, or acoustic panels. By using these to minimise external disturbances you would be able to concentrate better.
If your work entails frequent meetings, it's worth investing in high-quality headphones. Not only do they provide excellent sound quality, but many also come equipped with amazing soundproofing capabilities. With a reliable pair of headphones, you can bid farewell to the anxiety of your colleagues or clients overhearing any background noises emanating from your kitchen or surroundings.
Stay focused, maintain privacy, and ensure your mental peace by investing in your home office. This way you can concentrate on your business and its success.
Boosting productivity in your home office
Now that you have set up your home office, there are certain steps you need to take to ensure you are set up for success and working from home in India does not hinder your performance. By implementing the following measures, you can optimize your productivity and create a conducive work environment:
Set a routine
Establish a consistent work schedule that aligns with your peak productivity hours and ensures a healthy work-life balance. As time flexibility is an advantage of the home office in India, it is important to identify when you, as an individual, are most productive. You can also use focus techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to consciously focus on a single task.
The Pomodoro Technique uses a simple timer to block out intervals for uninterrupted, deep-focus work. Once the time expires, you can take a short break to give your mind a rest before starting the next interval. You can either use the timer on your smartphone or use multiple digital applications to apply this technique.
A routine is also an important way to set boundaries when working from home. I suggest blocking time for chores, lunch and even the time spent commuting to your clients in your Microsoft 365 Outlook calendar.
Apart from boundaries at work, it is also important to create boundaries at home. Create boundaries by setting clear expectations with family members and silencing notifications on your electronic devices during work hours. This way, even if you are home they are aware that you are not available at certain times. Communicate when you would be having meals and how much time you would have to help in advance. This way, you can ensure you block the time required in your professional life. While it may be tough to set these boundaries at home, it is important to have an effective work environment at home to ensure your performance does not suffer. Communication is key here!
Make a to-do list or use project management tools like Trello or Asana to stay organized and focused on your goals. Push back on last minute tasks and prioritize those that are urgent. It's easy to end up working longer hours in the home office if you do not have a task list. Those who neglect to prioritize effectively often experience burnout or produce work of subpar quality. By setting clear boundaries and ensuring a healthy work-life balance, you can maintain your well-being and consistently deliver high-quality results. Remember, taking care of yourself is crucial for long-term success and satisfaction in a remote environment.
Incorporate short breaks into your workday to recharge your mind and prevent burnout. Utilise techniques like the Pomodoro Technique and Parkinson’s Law to manage your time effectively.
While the Pomodoro Technique is a great way to ensure you take breaks, Parkinson’s Law focuses on ensuring you work effectively in the time you have. This law believes that the amount of time you give yourself to complete a task is the amount of time it will take you to complete that task. British historian Cyril Parkinson became famous for the phrase “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Some ways you can use this Law to ensure you work more efficiently is by doing the following:
- Work without a charger. This will force you to finish the project before the computer dies and then take a break.
- Set a deadline and then cut it in half: This will ensure you have the remaining time for a break.
- Limit time for certain administrative tasks: Give yourself only 30 minutes in the morning to answer emails. This will free up time to handle the more important tasks and avoid burnout.
Individuals who have a hard time focusing at their home office and procrastinators would be able to take advantage of these two focus techniques to ensure they take breaks and avoid burnout.
Harness the power of digital home office tools such as Microsoft Teams to enhance communication and collaboration with your clients and colleagues, fostering a strong sense of teamwork.
While staying connected is vital, it's important to recognize that being available on these platforms 24/7 can lead to burnout.
To maintain a healthy work-life balance, separate your messaging tools for work and personal communications. Use a different messaging tool only for work. For example, do not give your personal WhatsApp number unless absolutely necessary. This approach helps establish boundaries between your personal and professional life, enabling you to switch off from work when needed. With this separation, you can safeguard your well-being, prevent work from encroaching on personal time, and ensure sustained productivity in the long run.
Get started on setting up a home office in India
Creating a home office in India can be a game-changer for your professional life. By creating a dedicated workspace, leveraging digital tools, and implementing productivity-enhancing strategies, you can boost your efficiency and achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Remember to continuously adapt and improve your home office setup to meet your evolving needs. This article is just the starting point. Embrace the freedom and flexibility of working from home, and reap the rewards of a successful freelance career!