Jazz up your home office to stay focused

Small touches such as adding a plant and using the right colours can help

If you find yourself getting easily distracted or not as productive as you usually are now that you have been working from home a month into the circuit breaker, don't blame yourself.

Between managing children's home-based learning needs, having to think of meals for the family and sharing a workspace with your spouse, there are many things that demand attention.

A cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind.

That is why designating and organising your home office into a conducive one is important if you want to maintain productivity, especially when it looks as if many in Singapore will continue to work from home in the short to medium term.

Here are some organising ideas and tips to help you stay focused and motivated, so you can finish your tasks quickly without burning out.

Place a plant on your desk

Greenery has a knack of bringing life to any space, so don't belittle those indoor potted greens. They help make the air indoors healthier, reduce fatigue and boost morale and productivity. In fact, psychologists at the University of Exeter claim a desk plant can boost one's productivity by up to 15 per cent.

Alternatively, if you find having to take care of plants very troublesome, you can place your desk next to a window that has a view of greenery outside. It can help keep you more focused, according to a 2011 study, and is convenient for frequent vision breaks.

Get a comfy chair

No hard plastic chairs that make your bum numb or stools that give you a stiff back.

It is important to invest in a good ergonomic chair that supports your posture and won't have you slouching over your desk.

Often, we learn the hard way that some chairs are just not meant for sitting all day in and do nothing for your back, especially when you work at your desk for at least eight hours a day.

Use colours that motivate you

Different colours have different effects on our mind and body.

For example, red is used as a productivity boost. Calming blue facilitates communication and improves focus. Orange is good if you need more inspiration. Yellow energises and stimulates creativity, while green is comforting and can diffuse anxiety and helps us stay calm and refreshed.

While you cannot exactly paint the walls around your work desk as and when you like, you can bring in a splash of colour through objects.

Get a desk mat in your favourite hue, place your potted plants in bright-coloured planters or choose a colourful mug that energises you. Those multi-coloured sticky notes that you may already have work well too.

Get a pair of noise-cancelling


Working from home doesn't mean you are spared from ambient noise, especially if you are sharing your work space with other family members.

Aural distractions abound, whether it is your spouse's video call with the boss, the children having virtual class discussions or the noise of traffic outside.

A pair of headphones or earphones can help shut out all the distracting background noises and signal that you are currently working on something and don't wish to be distracted.

Organise your clutter

A messy desk does nothing for your productivity levels. It is difficult to be your most productive self if you waste 15 minutes every day looking for your stapler.

Designate a spot for stationery, folders, even your mug. Invest in stationery holders and file organisers and make use of labelling to sort your documents.

And at the end of the day, put everything back in place so you can wake up to a neat and organised desk the next morning.

Keep your desk clean and sanitised

We spend eight hours a day working at our desk, so it is important that we keep our working area clean and sanitised. Try not to eat at your desk as food remnants can slip into the gaps of your keyboard or dirty your work equipment and become a breeding ground of bacteria and germs.

If you do eat where you work, make sure you give the desk, keyboard, mouse and other high-touch areas a wipe-down at the end of the day to get the grease and dirt off them.

Be sure to wash your mug often too.

Place inspirational quotes around your desk

Studies have found that personalising our work desks can motivate us to work harder because it lends an identity to the space and creates a greater sense of ownership and control over it.

Photo frames with smiling faces can help brighten our mood, inspirational quotes can uplift our motivational levels and knick-knacks can make us feel calmer. You can also make use of a simple mood board to pin ideas and inspiration for your work.

Designate a 'water station'

Staying hydrated is very important for your productivity levels as lack of water can cause fatigue and reduce focus. This may make you more likely to turn to coffee to perk yourself up but that sets off a vicious cycle of perpetual fatigue and headaches.

Designate a small corner on your desk as your "water station". Place a mug and a water bottle or pitcher there so you can refill your mug with water, without having to go back and forth the kitchen.

It also serves as a reminder that you need to stay hydrated regardless of how busy you are.

Sufficient space

Ensure you have a working area with sufficient room to place your work equipment. The desk table should be wide enough, its design should be minimal and the structure sturdy.

It would be even better if there is storage space for you to keep away items you don't need as often as your laptop or folders. An L-shaped desk may be good as it offers ample room for work and storage. If you are working with limited space or sharing a table, be sure to demarcate your space clearly.

Invest in good equipment

An ergonomic laptop stand can adjust the angle of your laptop so you can reduce screen glare, eye strain and headaches.

A good mouse pad with a wrist rest helps to reduce wrist stress and provides support and comfort.

And if it makes you more comfortable, place a floor mat underneath your feet.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly (