Over 4 million Americans work from home offices at least half of their time, a statistic that is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. Many companies view remote employment as a win-win for workers and owners alike: businesses save money on overhead and office costs while giving employees autonomy and freedom to create their own work environments.
But setting up the ideal home office can be a challenge. A good home office fosters productivity by having the right equipment paired with comfortable surroundings free from distractions. Here are five ways you can create that type of functional workspace in your own home.
1. Find Great Success with Great Office Equipment
Strange as it may seem, many remote workers still use only a single laptop computer in their home offices. Setting up a dedicated monitor—or two—is often overlooked, but it can be a game changer in terms of productivity, especially when keeping track of emails, office chats, and online calendars. Adding in a wireless keyboard and mouse (along with wireless Bluetooth speakers and headsets) keeps the desk layout free of wires.
A comfortable chair and desk should align with your personal tastes. Many people prefer a smaller desk to discourage clutter, while others prefer a larger space to lay out equipment.
Whatever your style, the addition of good lighting will tie your workspace together. LED desk lights offer a variety of brightness settings and hues to match the time of day you’re working. Some even feature a rainbow of colors—a nice touch for those working late into the night. They can also help with your space’s energy efficiency.
Wireless printers are another good option for home offices since they aren’t tethered to your computer. Setting up a small printer station with extra paper and replacement toner/ink cartridges frees up more immediate space.
2. Invest in Reliable Internet and Communication Tools
No other change has been more critical to the success of remote work than high-speed internet. Whether your company is paying for it or it’s funded out of your own pocket, reliable internet is at the heart of most home offices—don’t skimp on it!
You don’t have to enroll in the fastest plan possible, but it’s worth doing some research into optimal speeds for a home office. It’s also wise to know how to set up your smartphone as a mobile hotspot as a backup in case of a network outage.
Quality internet connections mean all your communication tools will work more efficiently. Everything from Wi-Fi phone calls to remote video conferences will stream more smoothly over a good high-speed connection.
Be sure to test your microphones, speakers, and cameras before any business calls you need to make so you’ll be seen and heard clearly.
3. Don’t Let Clutter Close You In
One good tip for at-home workers: don’t eat meals at your desk. It’s easy to let a dish here or a cup there turn into clusters of clutter.
It is important that you set up shelves, drawers, and cabinets to organize items. The main reason is that It may take extra discipline to maintain a home office’s tidiness because no one is looking over your shoulder.
Take a page from the trendy KonMari method and prioritize the items you use most, clearing out the non-essentials and distractions.
This is especially important in small rooms or confined spaces. Do your best to spend a few minutes at the end of each workday organizing your workspace so it’ll be clean, neat, and ready to go in the morning.
4. Take Advantage of Natural Light and Pleasing Colors
There’s a reason those corner offices are so highly coveted in the cubicle-ridden layout of corporate offices—access to natural light and a view of the outside world is good for the soul and for productivity. This is one of the great benefits of a home office that few company office spaces can provide for workers. Setting up your workstation near a window is also good for fresh air and gives plants and flowers a place to live.
Along with good lighting, decorating your walls, carpets, and furniture in colors that resonate with your personal tastes is an excellent design consideration. The more intentional you are with the decor of your office (no matter what the size), the more personal and comfortable it will feel. Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in your office space.
It’s fine to take inspiration from other sources, but be sure that your office is a reflection of your own style, whether that means hanging a painting by Picasso or a Batman poster.
5. Establish Literal Boundaries
In a perfect world, every home office would be a secluded haven, replete with scenic views and plenty of open space. In reality, many home offices are confined to a small room or a sectioned-off area of a larger room.
That’s okay though—as long as you can set up some physical markers of where work space begins and home space ends, almost any space will do. Be sure that other residents in the house (canines and felines included) respect the boundary of your home office space, too.
Clarify that working hours are the same as they would be in an office. This may be difficult to communicate to spouses and children, but it should be done early on to establish a professional and focused work environment.
Depending on where you live, you will want to be extra clear that solicitors are not welcome, especially during work hours. Nothing is less professional than the ring of a doorbell during a video conference (or the loud barking dog that follows). Try to mitigate these kinds of distractions before they pop up.
No matter where you set up shop in your house, treat the space as a professional environment, complemented by your own personal style and preferences. And don’t be surprised if you never want to step foot in a corporate office again!