Whether you are an aspiring remote worker or just working from home temporarily, you will need to have a comfortable and productive working environment. To ensure you know how to set up a home office the right way, we have compiled a guide that will guide you through the process.
The key to setting up your first home office is in good preparation. First, you should identify your needs and preferences when working. Do you prefer to sit or stand? Do you need absolute peace and quiet? Do you need any additional equipment? Once you know what you need and like, you can plan ahead and get the most out of your workspace.
Next, measure the place that you plan on using to ensure you will have enough space for everything. Make sure you write down every measurement to ensure there’s no confusion when you’re planning. If there is any extra space, you can think of a way to utilize it once you set up a home office there.
Make sure you’re comfortable
The biggest priority you should have when setting up your home office is your comfort. Think about it - you will spend a big part of your day there, at least eight hours. However, when you work from home, you actually end up working way longer than you usually would. So, the least you can do is make sure you are as comfortable as possible.
Support your back and neck
The most common problems with backs and necks are related to bad sitting. Improper posture, especially one maintained for so long, can wreak havoc on your body. So, make sure you are resting comfortably and naturally.
Position your arms & hands correctly
No matter how well you sit, you will still need to use your hands, and this is where the second challenge arises. The safest position for your body is to have your elbows bent at 90-degree angles with your forearms resting on the table. Of course, no one can keep their elbows always bent at precisely the right angle, so it is natural if you deviate from it a bit. However, your shoulders should be relaxed and you should not strain when moving your hands.
Looking at a monitor all day can seriously hurt your eyes. And even when you’re not working in your home office, you will most likely be looking at another screen. So, you should do what you can to reduce how much you strain your eyes while working.
First of all, you should have your monitor at about an arm’s length away from you. Too far and you will lean forward and twist your neck to see it. Too close and you will have to move your neck to see the entire screen when you should be moving your eyes.
Next, the top of the screen should be at eye level with you when you’re sitting down. As with reading a book, you should look down on your monitor.
If you are using more than one monitor, make sure you are looking directly at the one you’re using most of the time. If you are using them both equally, you should place them so that you are in the middle.
Finally, look at something other than the screen from time to time. Whether it’s out the window, at the knick-knack on your desk, or at the ceiling. It will help your eyes shift focus and rest a bit.
Add a personal touch (walls, pictures, personal details)
There are more types of comfort than physical, and one of the best things about a home office setup is that you can personalize it however you want! Paint the walls your favorite color, put up posters or pictures you like, or get some cool gadgets to spice up your workspace. There are no limits to how you can design and furnish your home office, as long as it doesn’t become counterproductive.
Remember that you’re supposed to be efficient and not just comfortable. So, don’t overdo your home office design so much it will cause you to lose focus and become unproductive.
Have a way to keep time
Your clients or remote team manager should have a way to track performance in remote teams, but you should have a way to track your time as well. Performance tracking software will let you know how quickly you finished the tasks or how many hours you spent on them. This is great, but you will need something else. Have a visible clock in your home workspace. Not only will it help you keep track of your working hours, but you can also use it as a reminder to get up from the chair and move a bit.
Why would you need a clock when you have one on your computer? Well, it is easy to miss a small clock on the screen and not look at it often enough to remind yourself about stretching and exercising your neck.
Find the perfect place
The main characteristic of a home office is that it is a place in your home. However, this doesn’t mean that any place in your home will do. You can not expect to have a conference call in your living room, with the rest of your household there. So, to have a productive workday and set up an amazing home workspace make sure you have room and privacy during the working hours.
Your home office space should ideally be set up in a separate room of your home. The room should be away from the most frequented part of your home in order to reduce deconcentrating noise.
Additionally, by isolating your “work” space from your “home” space, you are more likely to focus better and perform more efficiently. And that means less time spent doing today’s tasks. As experienced remote workers understand working from home can cause you to work more slowly and take longer to finish the workload. This can cause you to work much longer than necessary.
Finally, by ensuring some privacy when you’re working, your housemates (family or roommates) are less likely to see you and randomly interact with you.
Picking the right spot of isolation isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have a designated room to use as a home office. If this is the case, you should ask the people you share the home with to respect your working hours and reduce noise to a minimum. This can get particularly challenging if you have little children, but you will need to ensure you get some peace to have the most productive working day.
Room to move
No matter how well you sit or how awesome your ergonomic chair is, after some time we all begin to slouch. No one can hold the perfect sitting position forever, so make sure you move and stretch from time to time. The ideal home office will have enough room for you to walk away from your desk a bit. You won’t need that much space for this, and it beats working from the office as you can stretch properly. Additionally, a bit more room will open up your workspace and make you more productive. It is proven that most people work better in open areas rather than tightly packed areas.
Managing your cables is much more important when you’re working from home than it is in the office. Not only do you risk tripping on all the jumbles cables, but you can also overload the house’s power grid and blow the fuses. So, make sure there is more than one socket in the room you choose for your home office. Also, if you are using a power strip or an extension cord to accommodate all of your electrical needs when working remotely, make sure they have a surge protector. This will ensure nothing happens to your technology and your home, in case you overload your home’s fuses.
Invest in equipment
They say that the craftsman is as good as their tools, and WFH is concerned, they may be right. If you want to set up a productive work environment in the comfort of your home and overcome the challenges of working remotely, you will need the right tools for the job! This isn’t about the proper office supplies either. Though useful, good stationery is not exactly likely to make you more efficient when working from home.
A separate computer
If you are working from home temporarily, you probably have the company’s computer, so there shouldn’t be too many problems. Just don’t use your business computer to watch youtube or download things on it.
If you are a freelancer looking to set up a permanent home office, you might want to consider investing in a business only laptop. This machine doesn’t have to be anything special or expensive (depending on your business), but it will greatly help you separate your personal and professional data.
The perfect desk chair
The first and most essential thing you should do when setting up your home office is to get a good ergonomic chair. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution to this challenge as everyone has different sitting habits. Even though the proper position is more or less universal, your posture will determine what kind of office chair you need. And you should never purchase a chair until you’ve tried it a bit. The fact that it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will be comfortable for you.
With all this in mind, getting the best chair is not an easy task and should definitely be your top priority when customizing your workspace. Make sure the chair provides support for your neck as well as your lower back, as those are the most problematic areas. Armrests on your ergonomic chair can help you rest your elbows more naturally. Be warned, though: in some cases, the armrests can cause even more problems. Once again, it depends on your preferences and posture.
Make sure your desk and chair are compatible when you’re setting up your workspace. You would not want one to be taller than the other, as this can put an unnecessary strain on your shoulders. If a traditional desk does not cut it, you can get a standing desk or even one that can change heights. Then you can adapt it perfectly to your needs.
Alternatively, your desk doesn’t even need to be a desk. A treated wooden board on top of two file cabinets from IKEA can be the perfect desk if it is comfortable for you.
If your desk and ergonomic chair are too tall for you, make sure you use a footrest. Dangling your feet from the chair might be fun, but it could cause serious problems to your hips and legs.
Once you set up the main part of your WFH area, you will need to add other items, such as a keyboard, headphones, or a mouse. If you are working from home temporarily because of the COVID pandemic, you don’t need to go all out and get the best possible equipment. If you are an aspiring remote worker.
If the desk you have at home is too tall and it is causing you discomfort when typing, you should consider getting a keyboard tray. You can attach it to the desk’s edge and customize the height of the keyboard. In case you work with a mouse a lot, clicking and moving things around, ensure you have a mouse that won’t cause you problems after extensive use.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to spend a fortune on peripherals to have a productive day at your home office. However, you should find the equipment that is suitable for your needs and comfortable after prolonged usage.
Mind your connectivity
When you are working from home, your teammates and managers will not be able to reach you as easily as they would in an office. If you are a freelancer and don’t have any teammates or managers, you will still want to reach your clients and have them be able to reach you. This is why it is crucial to ensure a stable and fast internet connection when working from home.
Now, if you are writing to ask your client to pay you, even the weakest connections will do. Unfortunately, sending emails is the only situation when you don’t need a strong internet connection when working from home.
In most situations when your wi-fi isn’t up to snuff, you can connect to your smartphone internet hotspot. In some cases, though, you might have to use LAN cables to connect your computer to the router if the wi-fi connection in your home isn’t strong enough.
Additionally, since you probably won’t be able to utilize your home’s phone line for your professional needs, you can install a software phone on your laptop. Alternatively, you could use your cell phone as a way people can reach you. Keep in mind that having a strong phone line doesn’t mean that you don’t have to have a stable internet connection in your home office.
Find the perfect lighting
Proper lighting will not only help reduce the stress on your eyes, but it will also breathe life into your home office and open it up. On the other hand, improper lights will have a detrimental effect on your focus, posture, and productivity. The light in your office should be bright enough to read and write by, but not too bright to hurt your eyes.
When you are choosing the perfect room for your home office, make sure it has at least one window. Natural light is healthier than artificial and it can give your attention and concentration a boost. Having at least one window is also useful because looking through it can exercise your eyes’ ability to focus and refocus, thus reducing the atrophy that can happen from looking at a screen for too long.
Unfortunately, we cannot always work in natural lighting conditions. So, once the natural light goes away, the desk lamp enters. It is not relevant which type of lamp you use, as long as it provides enough light to productively work by. The positioning of your desk lamp will matter though. Make sure you place it on your non-dominant side. This way the shadow from your hand won’t be covering what you are doing.
Protect what needs protecting
There are most likely going to be things in your home office you’ll want to stay safe and out of the way. Copies of sensitive files with your or your clients’ information should definitely be kept safe wherever you are working from. For hard copies, it isn’t that hard. Just get secure lockable filing cabinets and you are set! Your digital copies might be more of a challenge. In order to properly protect them, you might need protection or encryption tools.
If you are working from a home that houses many people and/or children, make sure everyone knows which filing cabinets are off-limits and not to be touched. Likewise, if you are using a computer that someone else is also using, make sure you don’t leave any sensitive business files on it.
Get the most out of a small space
Even if your potential work area is small, you can do wonders to customize it into a pleasant home office. You will just need to go the extra mile when planning and preparing your workspace.
The right wall paint
One of the easiest ways to make a room look bigger is to paint the walls a light color. Since you are setting up a home office, you can pick any color you want, just make sure it will fit well with the space you have available. Light green is the usual go-to choice as it is calming and pleasant to look at.
Increase the storage space in your remote work area with shelves instead of boxes. Utilize your walls to increase the amount of usable space you have. The right kind of shelving can be very useful as well as open the place up.
Keep it clean
One of the biggest problems a small workspace can have is getting cluttered too easily. Even a couple of things on the desk can leave the impression of a disorganized work area. So, make sure you keep your home office clean and organized at all times. Not only will this improve your general productivity, but it will make a small workspace seem larger.
Only what you need
Another great way to open up a small space is with a minimalist approach. Simply, remove everything you don’t need from your workspace. Anything that isn’t essential in helping you work better shouldn’t be there.
In addition to opening up your work area, you will also feel more relaxed without all the clutter covering your desk. Besides, there is something about a desk with nothing but a mouse and keyboard that just screams classy and efficient. So much so, actually, that this approach is often adopted even by remote workers who have more space, as it removes any distractions and looks pleasing to the eye.
Finally, as long as you are comfortable and productive, it doesn’t matter where you have set up your remote work office. If it is suitable for you and makes it enjoyable to conduct your daily business activities, it is a good way to set up a home office.
With that in mind, there are some things you should never do when trying to set up a productive work area:
- Never work on the kitchen table instead of a desk
- Never buy an ergonomic chair before trying it first
- Never work on a bed or couch
- Never set up a workspace in a room that has a TV
- Never eat in your home office
- Never work in the dark or poor light conditions
- Never paint your home office walls solid black
- Never set up a workspace in a room with only one electrical socket