Almost one-third of Americans have suddenly found themselves working from home because of Coronavirus. This has been a massive adjustment for millions of employees, in the US and around the world. You may be working on your kitchen counter, dining room table, or even on a TV tray in your living room. It’s not ideal, but you’ve made it work. Little to no thought has been put into the best home office setup for productivity—all focus has simply been on doing what you can, with what you have for what many hoped would be a temporary need.
But now, in light of ever-changing stay at home restrictions and uncertainty over the status of the 2020-2021 school year, you (or your employer) may be considering making the switch to remote work a permanent change. And it’s time to start creating an at-home workspace that you can be productive in long-term.
Take it from two work-from-home parents who share an office—how to create the best home office space for productivity depends a lot on the specific demands of your job, your family’s needs, the size of your home, and a whole host of other factors.
That said, we thought we’d offer up some lessons we’ve learned along the way, in hopes of saving you time, money, and a whole lot of headaches.
10 Tips For The Best Home Office Setup For Productivity
It seems simple - you need a desk and chair, a mousepad, maybe a printer stand and filing cabinets. So you order everything on Amazon (#socialdistancing) and then 2 days later… you realize it doesn’t all fit. The filing cabinets are too wide, the desk isn’t deep enough, and the first time you tried to join a Zoom call you realized your office looks more like a cave. Before you start buying anything, it’s important to consider:
- Where your office will be located in your house. Do you have an extra room you can convert into a permanent office? Or will you be working in that unused corner of the upstairs loft, the living room, or maybe even the garage?
- How much space you have to work with. Don’t guess here. If you have an extra room that will be 100% dedicated to your office and you know the measurements, fantastic! If not, get out a tape measure and measure the space! This is important—you need to know exactly how much space you have to work with before purchasing anything. Then, create a plan for the space. Draw it out if you need to see it visually. Amazon product descriptions include dimensions—use them to plan your office layout in a way that maximizes your productivity.
- What equipment you need. Do you have a desktop computer or will you be using a laptop? Will you need an extra monitor? A printer or fax machine? Filing cabinets, bookshelves, or storage for other tools or supplies?
- Whether you need a clean, professional background for video calls. If yes, you’ll need to either set yourself up with a wall or space behind you that is kept clean, or consider purchasing a curtain or backdrop of some type to hide the mess if it’s unavoidable.
Planning out your space before purchasing anything will help you avoid wasting money on things you won’t realistically use, or having to process returns because something doesn’t fit the way you envisioned.
Find a desk that maximizes your space and encourages productivity.
One quick Amazon search will tell you there are literally thousands of options available with a single click of your mouse. But if you really want to create the best home office setup for productivity, you need to make sure you find the right desk. You should consider:
- Whether you need regular, easy access to files. If you do and are having a hard time finding the perfect desk/filing cabinet combo, consider this DIY filing cabinet desk
- Ergonomics. While few corporate offices have noticed, sitting for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week can be really hard on your back. Investing in a sit/stand desk (or a converter like this one) will give you the ability to change your working position more often, and relieve that pressure on your lower back. Worried about things moving around as you adjust your desk height?
Consider work and family dynamics
Will you be sharing your office space with your spouse or your kids? Is your office space in an open area, with a door you can shut when you need to focus or have to be on calls? Is there a busy street right outside your window?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to consider investing in curtains or room dividers to give you that feeling of having your own workspace. Additionally, you should position your desk away from windows and possibly purchase a pair of really good, noise-canceling headphones.
Keep things tidy
We know this is easier said than done, especially if you have kids at home who want to sit across from you to work on schoolwork (or art projects). But the truth is, a clean work environment is a productive work environment.
If you know your kids will be working in the same space with you, make sure you have a place for them to store their school work or other supplies, or help them get in the habit of cleaning things up with you each day. Organize your desk in a way that everything has its place so you always know where to find a paperclip, extra pen, staple remover, etc. Make things as easy on yourself as possible so you can focus on the things that really need your attention.
Tired of fishing paintbrushes, markers, and other supplies out from under your desk? Our Gription® Pad keeps things where they’re supposed to be (and it can be put away with the rest of the supplies at dinner time!)
Take advantage of natural lighting
Natural light reduces eye strain, improves your mood, and reduces the cost of lighting your office (among other things) so if you have a window in your office, take full advantage of all that free daylight!
However, we also know it’s possible you’ll be working after dark, or on cloudy days. That said, it’s important to purchase lights for your office that will create the best home office setup for productivity. You should aim for lighting that is bright enough that you don’t strain your eyes looking at your computer screen, but also not so bright that the lights themselves are hard on your eyes. If you’ll be attending video conferences or virtual meetings frequently, you may want to purchase a light that allows you to adjust the angle and brightness so you can move it during calls.
Get a good desk chair
There’s a really good chance you’ve spent a lot of time sitting in a dining room chair lately. And if we had to guess, you’re probably really looking forward to sitting in a real desk chair again.
But don’t just buy any desk chair. If you’re going to be working from home long-term, we suggest investing in a good quality, ergonomically designed office chair that will last you for years to come and won’t leave you in pain at the end of the workday.
Create an atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed and encourages productivity.
The possibilities here are virtually endless.
- Plants help reduce stress, make you feel more connected to the outdoors while you’re stuck inside, and make a great background for Zoom calls!
- Pictures of your family will help your office to feel more like a part of your home.
- Certain colors encourage productivity, creativity, and balance. Choose the paint color for your office accordingly.
Keep work requirements in mind.
If you’ll be on video calls regularly, take some time to consider what you want your background to look like. Is there a blank wall behind you that you can spruce up with some simple decorations? If you’re in an open area, can you turn your desk so you have a wall to your back? If not, consider setting up a room divider or curtain behind you for calls.
Don’t be afraid to get creative.
There is a home office somewhere in your house. It just may take some real creative thought and a can-do attitude to find it.
If space is limited or awkwardly positioned, take inspiration from these real-life examples of making the space you have work for you.
And if you have the budget (and the time) for it, the sky's the limit. This garden office is one of our favorite creative solutions to the remote work problem.
Don’t try to do it all at once.
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Break creating your home office into bite-size pieces. Before you start, decide which things are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. You need a desk and an office chair but do you really need that new paint job or custom built-in cabinet unit right now? And do you really need one more project right now? We think not. So decide what’s most important, and shelve everything else for now.
The world is changing rapidly, and companies are beginning to see the benefits of allowing their employees to work remotely. The right home office setup can help you maximize your productivity and make working from home, work for you.