Staying productive while working remotely is often an uphill battle. Without the structure and physical boundaries of a traditional office, staying on task can be difficult. But it might not be you, but rather, your workplace, that is hindering your success.

A considerable amount of research has been done exploring the effects of professionals’ work environments on their productivity, and while much of it has been conducted in traditional office spaces, the results are relevant for remote workers whether they’re at home behind a desk or in the back corner of a café.

Wherever you choose to work, creating—or finding—a healthy workspace is an important part of being happy and productive while on the job. Here are a few parts and pieces of your remote workplace that may be causing you problems, and tips for how to resolve them: 

1. The Space Itself

The space you work in is a major determinant of your productivity. Though many traditional companies are designing trendy offices with open floor plans, research shows that professionals perform best when they have a quiet, private space to focus that is free from distractions. A 2011 study published in Procedia Engineering revealed that research participants had “reported problems with open offices,” like “noise, lack of privacy and other distractions.”

For remote workers, this means the ideal workspace is one that is dedicated to work, where you won’t face frequent—or loud—interruptions. Whether you rent a desk at a coworking space or clean out a closet to function as a home office, finding a spot where you can be alone and on task will help you get your work done.

2. The Furniture and Equipment

If your home office is causing you pain, you won’t be able to work your best, so choosing the right furniture is vital. A 2020 report from PC Magazine suggests selecting a desk chair that allows you to sit similarly to how you would in a car, “with your feet flat but legs extended and your body not vertical but tilted slightly backward.” Your computer monitor, the report suggests, should sit at eye-level, so you don’t have to strain your neck to see it.

If you don’t already have a home office designed with ergonomics in mind, there is some good news: you don’t necessarily need to go out and spend a lot of money to improve your set-up. You can make yourself comfortable with a cushion under your feet, a rolled-up towel behind your back, or a book (or several) under your keyboard or monitor to prop it up. It may not be pretty, but the boost in productivity could help you save for some upgrades.

3. The Room Temperature

The temperature of your work environment also plays a role in your ability to get things done. Studies have shown that working in a room that is either too cold and too hot can slow your workflow. In particular, excessive heat has been shown to negatively impact productivity; research cited by The New York Times found that “every degree rise in temperature above 25 Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) resulted in a 2 percent drop in productivity” among workers.

Researchers have placed the optimal temperature for productivity at 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). It’s a simple change for professionals who can easily adjust the thermostat at home, but if moderate temperatures aren’t readily available in your workspace, consider options like space heaters, fans, and portable air conditioners.

4. The Color Scheme

You may be surprised to learn that the color of your work environment can have an impact on your mood, stress levels, productivity, and creativity. But while researchers agree that color is important, identifying the optimal color scheme has proven more challenging. 

Some experts suggest that blue can be calming and help you focus, while green is better for working long hours. Some say yellow is good for creativity, and that red inspires passion. But the data is mixed, and there’s no definitive answer on what colors work best across the board.

Instead, it seems reactions to color are an individual experience that is based on a variety of factors, including culture, age, and gender, among others. With this in mind, the best way to use color to optimize your remote workspace is to bring in your own preferences. Explore how different colors and color combinations make you feel, and bring in a color palette that makes you feel alert and inspired.

5. The Right Light

In addition to color, the lights you have in your office space can have an effect on your productivity. A study shared by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan Flagler Business School showed that it’s the temperature of the light that makes all the difference: Low-temperature lights, or those with a warm, yellow-white light, tend to make people feel comfortable and relaxed. High-temperature lights, or those that give off a blue-white light, on the other hand, can improve alertness, mood, and productivity.

Above all, researchers recommend taking advantage of natural lighting as much as possible. But if you are camped out in a closet or basement, try filling your space with cool white or blue-white bulbs to maximize alertness.

6. Too Much Clutter

A 2019 study from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute indicated that our brains like order, according to Harvard Business Review, and just looking at a disordered or cluttered workspace can affect your ability to focus. It may also leave you feeling overwhelmed or trigger unhealthy habits like procrastination.

Minimizing the accessories on your desk and clearing off your workspace daily are some of the best ways to stay clutter-free. If you’re busting at the seams space-wise, invest in additional storage solutions like bins and boxes, and make sure to keep your work items in your designated office space to avoid spreading the clutter throughout the house.

A Final Word

The next time you’re scratching your head at 5 p.m. wondering where the day went, try looking around your workspace to see if any of these factors may be contributing to your lack of productivity. Employing the simple tips above may quickly have you setting productivity records.