I feel like the words “organize” and “busy season” don’t really jive, but due to the disease that won’t be named, I recently took some proactive steps to make my office more ergonomic and work-friendly.
Stacking a box on top of your kitchen chair to put your laptop on is not an ergonomic-friendly workspace. If you continue working from home in 2021, it’s time you made yourself a grown-up space, my friend (your public service announcement from me for the month). Even if that space is a corner in your bedroom (ahem … my bed is 8-feet from my desk; thank goodness for camera angles and virtual backgrounds), there are real concerns you should address in your home office setup.
#1: Make sure your space meets or exceeds ergonomic basics
Try a stand-up desk if you are feeling brave. While Uplift makes some lovely fancy-schmancy ones, I have an equally wonderful one from StandDesk, complete with wire hammock and grommets. Complete your set up with an ergonomic mat, and make a conscious effort to keep good posture and walk around during the day. I have my presets, so that I can increase and decrease the height, depending on the task at hand.
My previous desk was a massive solid wood corner monstrosity that carried me through two decades, but alas, the CD racks and knickknack drawers sat empty for the last several years, and the familiar back pain at the end of every day had to be mitigated. I may be the last one to realize that standing desks are actually awesome (a small part of me, admittedly, thought they were fad – sorry!), but I have no regrets – just better posture and balance. I just wish I had transitioned sooner.
If you are still working from a regular desk, make sure you take the time to move frequently, Also, make sure your monitor and office set up is moved to a table, desk, or anywhere besides putting it on top of a box on the chair. Please, do it for your over-opinionated accountant friend in North Carolina! If you want to mini-splurge or gift a fellow accountant, get a Shiatsu foot massager for under the desk to help with circulation and overall comfort.
#2: Purge the paper and unnecessary technology
Technology continues to rapidly evolve, and now is a great time to curate your office tools for 2021. Make sure everything in your office has function. If it doesn’t, and instead is covered in an impressive layer of dust, consider donating or recycling any old tools.
If you haven’t taken the time to go paperless, now is a great time to work on that. Thermal receipts just do not archive well. Instead, practice what you preach to your clients, and use QuickBooks® to attach receipts to transactions. Depending on your retention policies, you can either destroy, return, or stow the paper copies in storage. I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo. If something doesn’t have a purpose or make you happy, it needs to go.
#3: Make a plan for storage
While I lean toward minimalism, I do still have things I have to store. If your space is on the smaller side, as mine is, think about taking advantage of walls and ceilings. Add shelving, or think about closets that can be purged for storage. Reimagine how your ideal workspace would look and function, then take steps to move toward that incrementally.
#4: Make yourself happy
You have to work all day in your space! Let that sink in. Invest in some inspirational wall art, or put your kid’s artwork on a wire or bulletin board. Your surroundings motivate you, and you should be reminded why we actually do what we do every day, through the day. Whether it’s your puppy smiling from a recent hiking trip, your family vacation, pre-COVID-19, on the beach, or another memory, put that in front of you. I love Shutterfly for affordable photo art.
#5: Don’t forget your digital office
The reason our physical offices can be more organized nowadays has a lot to do with the fact that much of our clutter has been moved to the digital realm. Think through an effective online file structure, and make sure you have filed and organized your online presence. Use apps like Zapier to create workflows to make your day more efficient and organized. Think outside the box.
#6: Use your digital assistant
I love my Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google. I keep a Google Dot on my desk that has important alarms set to guide me through my workday. Unfortunately, and in the interest of complete honesty, the effectiveness of Outlook meeting reminders wore off long ago, so I have to have something a little more … shall we say … persistent? I set my Google Dot alarm to go off 10 minutes before each important meeting so I can effectively prep. It’s the little things that make a big difference!
Note: make sure you pay attention to privacy settings when you set up your assistants. Many of them will ask for permission to save audio, for example, and when they aren’t in use, turn off their speaker for extra protection. On top of being my personal reminder, I use my speaker to play Spotify throughout the day. Different assistants have different, but similar skills. Get to know the assistant that you find easiest to use, and try to use that system throughout your home and in the future, as we continue to move toward smart homes and smart offices.
#7: Master the “Do Not Disturb” modes on your computer
Don’t be shy about saying you aren’t available. Focus time is very important, and if you aren’t assertive in taking some solo work time for yourself, you will forever be trying to catch up. I know some colleagues have email alerts that let you know they are unavailable. I’m a fan of these in times of massive crunch, but I don’t think it needs to be quite so blunt most of the time. Use your Outlook settings to set your Send/Receive syncs to be further apart. Go into DND mode in Teams. Block time off your calendar so Calendly won’t let people plan meetings during certain times.
Focus on self-care
Take charge of your work experience for 2021 and help your mental health, especially because 2020 has become increasingly muddied around work-life boundaries. We are living through an evolution. We have to make sure we maintain control of our lives as we move through it. The small acts of organizing your office for maximum comfort and productivity in 2021 will repay you time and time again, and are an easy and fun way to focus on self-care.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Firm of the Future.