There are a lot of advantages to working from home, not the least of which is a 30-second commute. And while many people think working from home means you can work on the couch, in the backyard, or even from your bed, in the end, you may find that you’re most productive at home when you work at a “proper” workstation. You know, the kind with a desk and a chair.
Setting up your home office means you’ve got a lot of choice and freedom. Want a purple and orange chair? Go for it! Want striped walls? Be our guest! But, no matter how you decorate, furnish, or set up your home office, we’ve got some tips that will help you create a space that contributes to your work-from-home success.
– Find the Best Location
For some people, choosing a spot for their home office is easy. They’ve got an empty room that they use as dedicated office space. It can be an actual “office,” but many people use an empty bedroom or even the basement. However, not everyone has that kind of free space in their home. When space is tight, you have to think creatively about your “office space.”
You can always use part of the kitchen table as your office space—if you don’t mind packing up your office before every meal. But resetting your office after every meal may not appeal to you. In that case, you may have to think about using what space you do have creatively. Check out unused corners in larger rooms, large (but empty) closets, or even under the stairs! There are plenty of spaces that can convert to an office with a little bit of creativity.
– Add Privacy
If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated room for your office, that room probably has walls that go all the way from the floor to the ceiling and solid doors that close. That makes privacy—and quiet—easy to come by. But when your office is in, say, the corner of your bedroom, you might find it hard to separate work from home.
Consider adding a privacy divider to your home office setup. You can get traditional dividers that sit on the floor. Or you could hang a curtain from the ceiling or on a rod. Curtains are a lightweight and generally inexpensive method of “closing the door” to your office. And, with a curtain, you can choose something subtle that blends in with the rest of the decor. Or choose something wild and crazy to give your “door” some pizazz.
– Consider Who Else Uses the Space
As you’re setting up your home office, consider who else will use it and pick the space and furniture accordingly. Will the kids also use the office for homework, and will your partner work from home, too? Consider a partner desk setup where two people can work at the same desk at the same time.
Are clients dropping by? While you could meet with them in the living room, that may not always be the best choice. Make sure you add seating and table space for clients, too.
– Invest in Yourself
Investing in a home office setup is, in many ways, an investment in yourself. You want to create a professional environment where you will be productive and also comfortable. But, like a lot of investments, you get what you pay for. And while it may be tempting to buy the “bargain” office furniture, don’t forget about what that bargain price gets you.
“If you’re working in your home office 40 hours a week… make sure you consider quality,” advises Peggy Brown. “The cheapest desk won’t save you any money in the long run if you have to replace it in a year or two.”
– Prioritize Comfort
It can be tempting to just grab a chair from the dining area when you’re working from home. But sitting at a desk for long hours without proper support for your back is a fast track to posture problems. Ergonomic office chairs offer the correct support when you’re sitting for long hours. Just like the rest of your home office furniture, investing in a supportive chair is an investment in yourself.
Brown advises home office workers to look for the following features in an ergonomic chair:
- Height adjustable
- 360-degree swivel base
- Adjustable backrest and armrest
- Adjustable seat depth
- Built-in lumbar support
– Support Your Neck and Eyes
Don’t forget to help out your neck and eyes, too. Make sure you’ve got your monitor in the perfect spot. That spot is different for every person, so you’ll have to experiment with placement. Follow some of these tips to help you get it right:
- Your spine should always stay in a neutral position.
- The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level.
- Place the monitor at least 20 inches from your eyes, farther away if you’ve got a large monitor.
- Your eyes should look slightly down when looking at the middle of the screen to help keep your neck in proper alignment. Tilt the monitor back 10 to 20 degrees to ensure you’re looking down on the screen at an angle. If you wear bifocals, tip the screen back to between 30 and 45 degrees to ensure you’re not tilting your head back to focus.
Most monitors are adjustable. But, sometimes that’s not enough, so you may need to invest in a screen riser to get the right adjustment. Or, in a pinch, some books or an old box can also do the trick.
– Get the Right Desk
Working at home means spending a lot of time at your desk. So, you want to invest in a desk that fits your budget, your workflow, and your space. And, you want a desk that contributes to your productivity by helping you stay comfortable all day.
Dave Hulst from Bush Business Furniture points out that “sitting all day and standing all day can cause both aches and pains or even long-term health issues.” While they can take some getting used to, consider getting a standing desk instead of a traditional “fixed” desk. “With an ergonomic height adjustable desk, you can sit when you feel like it and stretch your legs when you need to by bringing your desk to standing height with a push of a button.”
Beyond eliminating aches and pains, standing desks may be better for you. Let’s face it. Modern life is pretty sedentary. Working at a desk all day (while maybe snacking, too) doesn’t do much for your health. There is some evidence that standing desks are better for you. One study found that standing six hours a day instead of sitting at a desk for the same period resulted in a loss of 5.5 pounds of body fat a year. While it’s not the same as an hour at the gym, a standing desk may improve your long-term health.
– Stash It Away
When you think about the supplies you need for remote work, we often picture a laptop…and not much else. But, depending on your particular job, you’ll likely have at least some papers, pens, and other office supplies floating around. And yes, even some paper files to maintain.
Dedicated storage options aren’t just good for the rest of your household items. They can also be used in your home office to house files, papers, stationery, and more. It doesn’t have to be large filing cabinets or huge desks and drawers. A simple cubby system with small bins could work. So could plastic storage tubs if you need to pack up your office at the end of the day. Even if you just clear a small area in an existing shelving unit and dedicate it to work items, you’ll immediately feel more organized.
– Protect Sensitive or Important Documents
Shelves and cubbies aren’t the right solutions for all of your storage needs, though. Sometimes there are sensitive documents that you can’t leave lying around the office—especially if it’s in a shared space. Brown advises people to “invest in lockable file and storage cabinets,” when there are things you just don’t want to risk losing.
Fortunately, locking cabinets doesn’t mean “ugly neutral colored metal.” There are plenty of secure, locking cabinets and drawers that look beautiful and stylish.
– Think Up and Down
Yes. There are some downsides to a home office. One of the problems is that home offices tend to be tiny, even when your office is a dedicated room. When you’re setting up your home office, don’t just think side-to-side. Think vertically, too, to maximize your storage options. A hutch, tall bookcases, or even floating shelves can give you more storage without taking up precious floor space.
– Tame the Wires
Sure, Wi-Fi is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a lot of cords in your office. Even your mobile devices have to plug in to recharge sometimes. Your home office is the one place you can count on cords, cords, and more cords.
Invest in some kind of cord management system. This can be as simple as a twist tie, or something a little more elegant, but make sure that whatever you get, you use it. Also, when your office is in a dedicated but public spot, think about where the outlets are when you’re setting up shop. You may not have a lot of options and find you have to run power strips and extension cords across the floor. When that’s the case, make sure you find a way to do it safely (like with cord covers).
Also, while you’re setting up the cords, think about the Wi-Fi, too. There may be days you want to work from home but not in the office. If you think you’ll work on the couch or even outside some days, test your router to make sure the connection doesn’t just reach, but it’s also strong. You may need to invest in a Wi-Fi extender or even Wi-Fi mesh system to make sure you can work on the patio and stay connected.
– Light It Up
Lighting is often overlooked when setting up a home office. Most work is done on computers, and since monitors (and even keyboards) light up, what’s the big deal?
Plenty. While poor lighting in your office won't cause blindness, it will cause you to strain your eyes. Over time, that eye strain can cause headaches, making you a less productive employee.
Set up your home office where you get as much natural light as possible. It can help you feel good and may even boost your productivity. If nothing else, using natural light to light up your office is better for the environment.
When natural light isn’t possible, or you just need more light, invest in the right kinds of lamps. While you may think overhead lighting is the way to go, they can create a glare on your screen or desk, making it hard for you to see. That said, sometimes a task lamp helps you shine a light right where you need it. Look for a task lamp with a solid shade that can point the light directly at your desk for when you need it.
Indirect light, though, may be your better lighting choice. Indirect lights have lamp shades or diffusers that soften the light, creating less glare and making it easier on your eyes. Just make sure the light isn’t too diffused; otherwise, you may not be able to see what you’re doing.
– Setting Up The Perfect Home Office
A home office can be anything—and anywhere—you want. In a cozy corner or spread out across the basement, the options are only limited by your space and your imagination.