Setting Up a Functional Work Space at Home for College Students

by Anna Cayot ’20

If you’re a college student like me, or someone who is working from home in another capacity, it is important to make sure that you have a functional work space. We are entering the season of final projects and exams, and your productivity can be enhanced or diminished by your surroundings.

After moving home, I realized it has been years since I did any school work here. I’ve been away at college, so I don’t even have a desk anymore. Now that I’m finishing up my semester at home, I found myself trying to “go to class” at my kitchen table. I quickly realized that was not going to be the most productive space for me.

Likewise, it was not optimal for me to work in a central area of my house, or to try to focus while in bed or somewhere equally sleep-inducing. Here are some tips based on what I’ve learned about setting up a practical work space.

Find a Designated Work Space

Whether or not you have a desk at home, find a place that you can claim as your designated work space. Ideally, it’s somewhere you can keep all your necessities—textbooks, notepads, laptop, etc.—for easy access.

If you are logging into a synchronous class, chances are you will need to have a book or notebook open as well as your laptop. Having the ability to spread out a bit helps. Even if you are working in a small space, try to find a set-up that helps you minimize the juggling.

Block Out Distractions

If you have the luxury of seeking a private space away from the main activity of your house or apartment, set up your work spot there. If that’s not an option, try to build some separation between yourself and others in your home so you can really concentrate on your work. Headphones and music or white noise can work wonders. Also, let people know when you are buckling down to work, and ask them to grant you focus time.

People are only half the distraction battle. The other is your own attention span and the lure of the entire internet. Setting a schedule, with timers for specific work intervals for each course or project, is one helpful way to stay on track.

Get Comfortable, But Not Too Comfortable

I will admit, I have fallen asleep more than once while trying to write a paper in bed. Although it is important to feel comfortable in your work space, if you can avoid it, try not to do schoolwork from bed.

Although you can’t fully emulate a classroom setting, being seated upright can help put you in that mindset and avoid falling into a lull.

Look for Good Lighting

Lighting can be more important to mood and productivity than you may realize. Studies even show that different types of lighting support different types of work. Natural and blue-toned light can improve mood, energy, alertness, and productivity, while warm light creates a feeling of comfort, calm, and relaxation.

Try to find a spot to work with plenty of lighting. If you have access to a window for natural light, that’s even better. This will engage your mind, ease the strain on your eyes, and help you stay focused.

Find What Works for You

Experiment with your work space and keep changing things up until you figure out what works for you. When I first started working from home, I tried several different set-ups before I landed on a work space in our family dining room. It’s not perfect, but it’s working for me right now in this season of change. Finding that level of comfort was huge.

However you approach your college work space at home, know this: You’re doing a great job adapting. Any tweaks you make to improve your set-up are just another way of taking care of yourself when it matters most.

Anna Cayot ’20 is a senior English major and an editorial intern in the Office of University Relations.