Our homes are our sanctuaries, and for many people, they’re also where they clock into work for part-time jobs or even full-time careers. If you have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you’ve probably taken measures throughout your home to make it a more comfortable place, but if you haven’t yet addressed potential stressors in your home office, it’s time to take action. With a few simple fixes, you can create a more comforting home-office environment that will help you avoid triggers and boost your productivity.
Paint the Walls in Muted Colors
Light shades are usually recommended for any home office, but they can be especially beneficial for those with autism, because they’re less stimulating and distracting than bright colors. Off-white and beige tones are great options, but don’t be afraid to play around with color — pale green, blue, and yellow can help promote a sense of calm, and they add a little life to rooms without the need for additional pieces of decor.
Soften Sources of Light
The right lighting is essential for home offices. Too much light can be overwhelming and detract from your focus when you’re on the clock, and glare is a nuisance that can trigger stress, eye strain, and headaches. Give your home office the right glow with these tips:
- Use matte wall paint rather than options with glossy, light-reflecting finishes.
- Add blinds or shades to windows to adjust natural light as needed.
- Place picture frames, mirrors, and other decorative elements in places where they won’t catch light and produce glare.
- Swap out fluorescent bulbs in lamps and overhead lights for soft-glow bulbs. Fluorescent lighting is harsh and can quickly wash out a room.
Add Soundproofing Measures
Sound is another element that many people with ASD find overwhelming. Control the volume with these measures:
- Add soundproofing elements to your walls. Insulating the interior of your walls is a big project (and not one you can do without a professional’s help), but there are do-it-yourself (DIY) strategies you can implement. Hanging thick blankets on walls will help block out ambient noise, and you can add or remove them as needed. Sliding a towel under your door can also help reduce sound that carries in from other rooms in your home, especially if there are kids or other people in your home during working hours.
- Upgrade the windows in the room to more soundproof versions. As a bonus, they’ll also keep you more comfortable as you work by blocking airflow in and out of the room and keeping the temperature consistent.
- Blackout curtains on your windows help limit noise as well as light. Be sure to choose yours carefully — solid options in pale colors are less distracting than busy patterns.
- Add area rugs to hard flooring surfaces. You should do this in your home office as well as the room above it if it contains hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring that people walk across while you’re working.
Choose Calming Decor
It’s usually best to keep decor at a minimum if you have a sensory-processing disorder like autism, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your home office some personality. Choose calming, simple pieces to liven things up without creating chaos, such as:
- One or two potted plants.
- Serene artwork, like landscape paintings.
- Photos in matte picture frames.
- A unique desk lamp that’s both functional and fun to look at.
Organize It Strategically
It’s difficult for anyone to work productively in a disorganized home office, but it can be an extremely overwhelming undertaking for remote employees. Use these strategies to create a space that will help you stay calm and focused:
- Open up your layout. Even if you have a small work area, keep an open flow by arranging large pieces of furniture in a way where you don’t feel too closed in.
- Keep the items you use the most within reach, including files, tablet devices, and pens and pencils.
- Consider setting up stations that are devoted to each aspect of your job. For example, rather than work solely from your desk, use it to process orders and take client calls, and add a table where you package the items you need to ship to your customers.
Create a Schedule You Can See from Your Desk
If structure is helpful in keeping you feeling at ease, create a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule you can easily see from your desk. A large wall or desk calendar will help you create a timeline that helps you stay organized and confident about your daily routine.
Just as important as the space itself is what you fill it with. Be sure to invest in a comfortable office chair, a desk that gives you plenty of room to work, a quality laptop or desktop computer, an ergonomic mouse, and any other items that keep you comfortable while you work.
Keep It Clean
Keeping your office tidy and sanitary will remove sights and smells that can be distracting and overwhelming. If you’ve got a lot of stuff clogging up any aspect of your home office, whether the flow or organization of it, spend a few hours decluttering it. Remove anything you don’t absolutely need in your workspace, either by taking it to a different part of the home or selling, donating, or discarding it. Once you’ve downsized the amount of items, it will be much easier to keep it clean and prevent dust and other grime from building up, nuisances that can seriously rob you of feeling comfortable in your work area.
Creating a home office takes some strategy for any remote employee to feel comfortable and productive. If you have ASD, focus on creating a calming space that meets your specific needs by addressing the light, noise, and organizational issues that can trigger your autism symptoms.