With 3.7 million employees in the U.S. working from home for at least half the time, telecommuting (more commonly referred to as remote working) is more popular than ever.
If you’re a modern professional who’s ditched the traditional office setting to work from the comforts of your own home, you need a home office setup that keeps you comfortable, productive, and focused. So, where do you start?
Whether you work from home sometimes or all the time, have your own business, or work for a company with a remote work policy, here are 10 tips for setting up a home office that will empower you to get the job done!
1. Prioritize your home office needs.
Similar to making a wish list before going to look at potential new homes, it’s a great idea to make a detailed list of what you’re looking for in your workspace before setting up a home office. You should prioritize your needs such as a desk, computer, printer, and telephone, but also include any additional wants like natural lighting, live plants, or hanging artwork and decorations. This way, once the essentials are set up, you can go down the list and add your “nice-to-haves” if you space and budget permits.
The way you prioritize your wants and needs will depend on the space you have to work with, your own personal preferences, and your job role. For example, if you are a graphic designer, your must-haves may include enough desk space for multiple computer screens or a large table for sketching. However, if you are a consultant, having extra space and chairs for when clients come to your home to meet with you might be a bigger priority.
2. Choose a dedicated workspace to setup a home office.
Once you have made a list of all the things you need for your ideal home office, you’ll have a better idea of how much space it will require. Then, you can select the area of your home that would work best. While some people have a built-in home office space or guest room available, not everyone will have an entire spare room to transform into a home office. If you’re wondering how to setup a home office in a small space, having a single desk or designated nook in a bedroom or living area can work, too.
Ideally, your home office setup should be in a quiet area with some level of privacy—especially if you share the home with a spouse, roommate, or children. It’s important that you’re able to separate your working space from your living space in order to minimize distractions and stay focused.
3. Get creative with storage space.
If your home office setup is in a small room or corner of another room, it can feel cramped with just a chair and desk. However, you need to have ample storage space to keep the files and supplies you need on hand and easily accessible. This way, you can quickly grab what you need when you need it instead of having to rummage through the whole house to find a tool or document. So, if you’re wondering how to setup a home office in a small space and still stay organized, you may need to get creative.
For example, you could buy (or even build your own) desk with file cabinets or storage drawers at the base or hang floating shelves on the wall to make the most out of limited space. Instead of having multiple clunky file cabinets or boxes lying around, consider using one narrow, vertical file cabinet that takes up less floor space.
4. Use a separate phone number.
If your home phone and business phone are the same number, you can only have one voicemail message for both. If you have your own business and a customer calls, or you work for a company and a team member or manager calls your home phone to reach you, it can lead to confusion when they hear your home voicemail.
It is best to use a separate phone in your home office. This could include simply using your cell phone number (if you are the only one using the phone), a VoIP (Internet-based) line, or installing a separate landline as part of your home office setup.
5. Establish “home office hours.”
Flexibility is a key benefit of working for yourself or taking advantage of a company’s remote work policy. However, too much flexibility can lead to distractions, especially at home. For this reason, you should set loose “office hours” to help you stay focused. For example, your daily schedule could include staying in your home office from 9 am to noon, taking a break from noon to 1 to eat in the kitchen, take a walk, or tidy up the house, then going back into your office space until the end of your workday.
Having these home office hours can keep you on track throughout the workday and prevent you from doing other tasks, such as cleaning the house or watching a TV show in the living room. If you have your own business and have clients coming into your home for meetings, keeping standard office hours also helps them know when you are available.
6. Keep a clock in your home office.
While this may seem obvious or unnecessary, don't forget to hang a clock in your home office that can be seen from your desk. When working from home, it’s all too easy to lose track of time. You could be so engrossed in a project that by the time you walk out of your home office, you realize it’s 7 pm and you’ve worked a 14-hour day.
Even though you’re working from your own home on your own schedule, you still need to have a work-life balance. If you spend all day long in your home office without taking breaks or ending the workday at a reasonable hour, you could become burnt out work-wise and put a strain on your personal life. Seeing as 22% of survey respondents in Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report claim unplugging after work is the biggest struggle of working from home, it’s incredibly important to make sure you’re able to disconnect and have time for other hobbies, family time, and personal care.
7. Prioritize comfort.
If you’re going to be sitting in your home office for several hours each day, you want to make sure you’ll be comfortable. Invest in a good chair that is the right height and provides proper back and arm support for the type of work you will be doing.
You could even consider getting a standup desk so you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. This can alleviate back pain, get your blood flowing, and keep you energized after hours on the job.
8. Have bright, natural lighting.
Good lighting is often overlooked when setting up a home office. However, it’s something you shouldn’t ignore since it will influence how you feel in your home office and impact how productive you are. Natural light from a window is the best, but you can also experiment with different intensities or light tones to find out which one works best for you.
To reduce eye strain, be sure that you have proper lighting over your reading/writing area, on the computer, and behind you so that there's no reflection or glare off the computer monitor. This helps to prevent squinting and headaches so you'll be able to work longer, safely, and more comfortably.
9. Make it personal.
Add personal touches to your home office to make the space more inviting and a place you’ll actually want to spend time. The colors of your room will impact your mood, so choose ones that align with you working style. Some prefer bright colors such as red and orange to stay energized, while pastels like sea-foam green or light blue can be more calming.
Whether you prefer neutral colors and a minimalistic design to stay focused or lots of photos and artwork on the walls for inspiration, make your space yours!
10. Invest in the right equipment.
When working from home, it’s essential that you have access to the equipment you need to do your job efficiently and effectively. If you can’t access files, documents, and business apps or communicate with your clients, coworkers, or managers, working from home can turn into one big frustration.
On the other hand, if you have reliable access to the tools and technologies you rely on to complete your job tasks, working from home can make you more productive and provide a stronger work-life balance.