A small space can function as a home office, but turning that space into an optimal work environment takes time, mindfulness, and some essential items. In this piece, we provide tips for improving your home office setup so you have a dedicated space to focus on high-impact work.
One of the nicest parts of working from home is moving from your bed to your office without a long commute or the need for business casual attire. But even though working from home has its benefits, it can be challenging to combine your work and personal space.
A small space can function as a home office, but turning that space into a proper work environment takes time and effort—not to mention some essential items. In this piece, we’ll provide tips for improving your home office setup so you can work from home and focus on your most high-impact work.Create a daily planner template
Many office spaces are notoriously cold, and this is likely because employers want to ensure everyone is comfortable. If you’re too cold, you can put on a sweater, but if you’re too hot, you can’t easily cool down. A Cornell University study found that increasing office temperatures from 67 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit reduced employee typing errors by 44 percent.
Thankfully, when you work from home, you only have to focus on making yourself comfortable. Consider turning the A/C up a few notches and see whether it affects your work. It’ll also save you money on your electric bill, which isn’t a bad perk.
One hard part about working remotely is how easy it is to get distracted. You may start the workday at your desk but end up working from your living room couch by the afternoon. Losing focus at work is a bad habit, and succumbing to the couch slouch can affect your posture and eyesight. Choosing the right monitor for your home office setup can make you more inclined to stay at your desk all day.
Your monitor should be level with your eyes to avoid headaches. Other healthy monitor guidelines outlined by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) include:
Keep your monitor between 20 and 40 inches in front of you.
Make sure the top of the screen is at or below eye level.
Don't tilt your monitor over 20 degrees.
Place your monitor perpendicular to windows to avoid glare.
Purchasing a monitor with a swivel mount is a good idea because this can ensure it adjusts as you shift positions in your seat.
Tip: If you have a laptop and your desk doesn’t have space for a monitor, try using a laptop stand and an external keyboard instead.
Your laptop has a built-in keyboard and mouse, but if possible, invest in external ones for comfort and convenience. That way, you can use your laptop and second monitor as dual screens and keep both a safe distance from your face while working.
When positioning your keyboard and mouse, ensure they’re close enough to your body to keep your elbows by your sides. Extending your elbows too far while typing can strain your shoulders.
Your keyboard and mouse should also be low enough that your arms remain parallel with the floor. This could mean that you need a desk with a keyboard tray. An adjustable standing desk can also improve your posture when typing for long periods of time. To make your keyboard and mouse more comfortable for your hands while typing, consider buying a wrist rest.
Tip: If you’re unsure about which external keyboard and mouse to buy, look for ones that offer wireless bluetooth connectivity. This makes it easy to connect them and make your setup portable.
Choosing a computer desk may seem like the most important part of your home office setup, but the desk doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you position yourself around the desk. Any flat surface can work as your desk space, as long as you choose an area big enough to fit your monitor and your laptop. You can add a few personal touches to your desk and keep houseplants nearby, but the best way to be productive at work is to keep your desk clear to reduce distractions.Create a daily planner template
If your home allows it, try to put your desk near a window or somewhere that has plenty of natural lighting. If your home office setup is dimly lit or too harshly lit, it can lead to eyestrain, stress, and fatigue. Researchers have studied the effects of light on the body since 1979 and have found that both natural light and natural views reduce stress, decrease headaches, and improve mood and morale.
If you have no choice but to place your home office in a windowless room with unnatural lighting, then the best thing you can do is try to take walks throughout the day. Even brief moments of natural light can boost your motivation and engagement. You can also buy a sunlamp if you live in a cloudy climate.
Your desk chair is arguably the most important component in your home office setup. If you don’t have a comfortable office chair, you’ll have a difficult time working remotely because you’ll be more likely to suffer from back pain, and headaches. A comfortable chair can help you feel your best to complete projects and manage a remote team if that’s part of your duties. You can’t do good work if you don’t feel good. Some tips for choosing an ergonomic chair include:
Lumbar support: Purchase a chair with lumbar support so the natural curve in your lower back is supported while sitting.
Seat depth: Look for a chair that fits your body size, meaning you can comfortably lean back and have an inch or two between the seat and the back of your knees.
Chair height: Measure your chair with your desk height to ensure you adjust it properly to fit your legs under your desk and your feet can rest flat on the floor or footrest.
Arm rests: Your arm rests should allow for your arms to rest parallel to your desk and to the floor. They should be at the proper height to reach your keyboard and mouse with ease.
Reclining: Getting a chair with reclining capabilities can allow your body to relax while working. Sitting strictly at a 90-degree angle can cause muscle strain and may place you too close to your monitor.
The best way to choose the right office chair for your home office set up is to test chairs out in person. Buying a desk chair online can be risky because you may not like the feel of the chair once it arrives. When you go to an office store, you can test various chair materials, try different depths and heights, and determine which chair will work best for your needs.
Many people find joy and excitement in adding personal touches to their home office space. If you're new to working from home, you may spend hours looking on Amazon at home office design ideas. This isn’t a bad thing, but you can save time and money when you know what items to buy.
The most important elements to consider for your home office workspace are:
Storage space: Depending on your job, you may not work with physical papers often, so how much storage you need is relative. You might need a filing cabinet in your office or something as small as a paper tray on your desk.
Clear desk: You’ll likely want to add personal items on your desk, whether that be photos, plants, or inspirational decor. Whatever you put on your desk, ensure that you have ample room to move your arms, see your computer screens, and write with pen and paper. You should also limit the items on your desk to avoid distractions.
A distraction-free room: If you have kids, pets, roommates, or live in a loud neighborhood, consider how these distractions may affect your workspace. Try getting a sound machine to drown outside noise, shutting the door to your workspace, or hanging a blackout curtain over the threshold.
A clutter-free computer: Keeping your desk clutter-free will help you stay on task, but a lot of the work you do likely happens on your Mac or PC. If you don’t organize your desktop apps and know how to navigate your files, you’ll have a hard time getting your work done. Decluttering your computer is an important part of your home office setup.
While making your home office space feel comfortable is important, embrace the minimalist feel. Having too many gadgets or too much decor will ultimately be a distraction when working.Read: 5 ways to keep your team motivated when you can’t see them in person
Now that you know how to improve your home office environment and how to arrange your desk for optimal productivity, there’s one more list you need in order to complete your home office setup.
This list includes some work-from-home essentials already mentioned as well as some additional items you can use to improve your focus, happiness, and ability to collaborate remotely with your team.
Laptop or PC: This is a no-brainer, but you’ll need a laptop or PC with reliable Wi-Fi to work from home. No matter what brand or style you have, you’ll need to ensure that your computer can run the various programs your company uses, like Zoom or project management software.
Second monitor: A second monitor is worth the investment and can make your life much easier when working remotely. A second monitor can reduce eyestrain, improve posture, and increase productivity by giving you more room to work.
Desk: Having a desk that fits your monitor, laptop, and keyboard is important. Your desk should also have extra room for you to write with paper, potentially have a desk lamp, and store papers to the side. You can have a compact desk and still have room for these things if you avoid clutter.
Ergonomic office chair: The importance of a good office chair can’t be overstated. When you feel good at work, you perform better.
Headphones: Headphones may not seem like a necessity, but if you live in a noisy neighborhood or have roommates with varying schedules, headphones can help you focus.
Cord organizers: You can keep your workspace free from clutter by using cord organizers to clean up the wires on and behind your desk. Wires are a pain to look at and can get in the way of your work. With these inexpensive organizers, you can gather your cords into something more manageable.
Office plants: While you won’t want to crowd your desk space with plants, having plants in your office can benefit your work flow. Plants can purify the air and give you a feel of the outdoors while working.
Idea boards: Adding an idea board behind your desk is a great way to fuel inspiration without distracting you. You can look at your idea board to motivate you throughout the day and boost your morale.
Humidifier or fan: A humidifier or fan will not only add airflow to your office space but it’ll also provide white noise so you can concentrate. The constant whirr of air moving while you work can be calming.
Place to stretch: Sitting in a chair all day isn’t healthy for your mind or body. You should schedule time to get up from your desk and stretch if you want to do your best work. Having a place near your desk to stretch can hold you accountable to this habit. You can use a bosu ball, a yoga mat, or simply stand and stretch it out.
Some items on this list are necessities, while others can help improve your mental and physical health. Remote workers go without many of these items and rarely realize how much their quality of life could improve by making a small investment in themselves. If you don’t have a lot of the things on this list, try adding them to your routine one at a time to see how much they help.Read: How to be productive at home: 11 tips to promote efficiency
When you customize your home office setup, you’ll feel calm every time you sit down to work. When you’re relaxed, your mind can go to work without obstacles. Working from home has many benefits, but when your home office is a place where you can do your best work, you can accomplish your biggest goals.
You can make remote life easier for your team by using remote work software. These tools can increase team visibility, improve remote team communication, and keep your team aligned—no matter where they’re located.Create a daily planner template