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Home Office Essentials: The Ultimate Guide for Remote Workers

Now more than ever, a well-equipped home office is crucial for people working remotely. Read on for some expert tips on how to create a comfortable yet efficient home office.
Home Office Essentials: The Ultimate Guide for Remote Workers

Getting Started

Throughout the life-altering coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that started earlier this year, we've all drastically changed the way we do virtually everything in our lives. One way we've all had to make massive changes is in how and where we work. The outbreak has spurred a strong push towards remote work, with about 67 percent of employers allowing the option to work from home to employees who don't normally do so.
Even before the pandemic, remote work was on the rise. In the US, there has been a 91 percent rise in remote work over the past decade, with 4.7 million employees working remotely under normal circumstances. Stopping the spread of viral illnesses is just one of the reasons why remote work is so appealing to workers and employers. Fewer in-office workers means less office space, utilities and commute mileage. In addition to these financial benefits, working from home is better for the environment in that it drastically reduces vehicle emissions from daily commutes. On top of that, the ability to work from home is a top-ranked perk among workers. So it's key to landing and retaining good talent.
But working from home isn't a breeze for everyone, especially if you don't already have a proper workspace set up in your home. The fact is that the environment in which you work has a huge impact on the quality of your work as a whole. So putting time and effort into it is well worth your while in the long-run.
Person working at desk

What You Need to Work from Home

The components of the perfect home office will vary greatly based on your unique preferences and the type of work you do. For example, if you spend a lot of time on the phone each day and rely on a landline, you may want to invest in a hands-free headset that allows you to type as you talk. However, most workers will find that the following list of items is enough to get them started and help them be as productive as they can be when working from home.
  • A Separate, Designated Workspace — As our world changes, we're all trying to find smart ways to work at home while sharing space with our partners, kids and roommates. If you do not live alone, one of the first things you need to do is find a corner of your home that you can designate as your office space. If possible, make it a space where you can close the door and block out noise. In an ideal world, your space would be exclusively for work and nothing else, as this will help you get into the working state of mind even when you're at home. And, to put it bluntly: your bed doesn't count!
  • An Ergonomic Workspace — If you're used to working in an office, you've probably been taking advantage of an ergonomic workplace without even knowing it. Many large companies have professionals dedicated to optimizing the workplace environment, down to each worker's desk and chair setup. Chances are, you don't have that in your living-room-turned-office, but it's worth your consideration! Ergonomics refers to the way you position your workspace so that it doesn't cause long-term pain, discomfort or other issues associated with sedentary work.
Here are the basic principles to keep in mind if you want to set up an ergonomic home office that'll serve you for the long-run:
  • Make sure your chair supports your posture. You need to sit with a straight spine with the torso and neck vertically in line. Poor posture can lead to prolonged back pain and serious issues like ruptured or herniated disks. But with the right seating, these issues are fairly easy to prevent.
  • Consider a sit-to-stand desk. Having the ability to stand throughout the day can help lessen the burden on your spine while also providing some much-needed movement throughout the day. Check out our sit-stand computer desks for sale to find one that works for your office space.
  • Get the right chair. You need a comfortable home office chair that's adjustable to suit your height and provides proper lumbar support. Your thighs should be horizontal to the floor, legs should be vertical and your feet should be resting flat on the floor (if dangling, you need a shorter chair).
Setting Up an Ergonomic Home Office - Use a headset with a microphone. Invest in a large computer monitor. Sit close enough to your desk that you're not straining to reach anything. Make sure your chair supports your posture. Adjust your desk to the right height.
  • Adjust your desk to the right height. Ideally, you want your elbows to rest at a 90-degree angle when typing or using the mouse. Be sure that your wrists are doing most of the work rather than your shoulders.
  • Prevent straining. You want to be able to sit close enough to your desk that you're not straining to reach the mouse, keyboard or phone. At the same time, make sure you're not straining your neck or eyes when looking at the screen. Position your screen so that the top is at or slightly below eye level.
  • Use a headset with a microphone if you spend a lot of your time on the phone. This will prevent you from straining your neck, shoulders or wrists from holding the phone while trying to write or type.
  • A Spare Monitor — We cannot stress this enough: Invest in a large computer monitor (or a second monitor) if you're used to working on a bigger screen in the office. Having multiple screens or one large one can improve your productivity while helping you stay focused at work. Most importantly, it ensures that your ability to work efficiently isn't compromised when you go from office to home. Consider picking out a monitor with features that cater to your work, such as a built-in webcam for video conferencing or a higher resolution if you deal with graphics.
Not sure which computer monitor to buy for your home office? Check out our computer monitor buying guide where we go over the best monitors for a variety of applications.
  • Fresh Air and Plants — When you work from home, you may not go outside at all except to walk the dog or run an errand after work. As a result, you're not getting as much sunshine or fresh air as you normally might, and this could zap you of energy and joy. However, studies show that indoor plants and window views can help prevent workers from getting tired and can help them stay focused. In other words, placing your desk by the window and adding a few live plants to your workspace may be just what you need to maintain focus and prevent fatigue throughout the workday.
    Prevent Workday Fatigue - Studies show that indoor plants can help prevent workers from getting tired and can help them stay focused. Placing your desk by the window and filling your desk with live plants may be just what you need to keep the focus and prevent workday fatigue.
  • The Fastest, Most Reliable Internet You Can Get — Unfortunately, this one will depend largely on what's available in your area, but if you have reasonably fast options and it's within your budget, consider upgrading to faster internet. Right now, that is generally achieved with fiber internet. You may also want to consider allowing your phone to serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot (tethering) so that you can hop on the mobile network in a pinch if your internet goes down.

Tips for Making Your Home Office Work for You

Once you have the above components, you're in a great position to work from home full-time, if that's your goal. While those are the foundational items you need to succeed, there are some great things you can do to improve the situation so it's even more comfortable and practical.
  • Install Blinds or Curtains — Lighting has a big impact on productivity and, generally, more natural light is better for the situation. However, sometimes too much light streaming through your windows can be distracting or cause glare. Installing curtains or blinds provides the ability to completely customize how much light you let in. Doing so will provide your office with a bit more privacy and can help reduce your dependence on artificial light, minimizing your carbon footprint.
  • Control the Temperature — Researchers have found that there is an ideal temperature for office work. Women tend to perform better when the office air is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while men tend to perform better at a temperature below 70. Since you're now presumably working alone in your office, you get to be the ruler of the smart thermostat, so you can find a temperature that works for you. Using blankets, a fan or a window- or wall-mounted air conditioner can help. For the ultimate in room-by-room temperature control, you may even consider investing in a mini split air conditioning system (note that these typically require professional installation since they involve running ducts outside).
  • Find the Right Lighting — Did you know that staring at a computer screen in a dark room can actually worsen eye strain? And if your job involves working on your computer all day, you should try to do everything you can do to prevent the eyes from straining. You want your home office to be well-lit but not so bright that it worsens strain. If you do any kind of work with your hands, such as assembling parts or drawing, you will want to consider investing in some quality task lighting.
    Bright Home Office Space
  • Skip the TV and Personal Computer — If you're having a slow day at work, it can be tempting to flip on the TV or queue up Netflix on your personal laptop. Some people also feel that having a show or movie on in the background is just essential at home, so it can be a tough habit to break. But it's important that you keep any and all entertainment to non-working hours so you can focus on being productive and getting things done. This goes both ways, too. Don't spend time in your office or tending to work tasks outside of your working hours — reserve those for rest.
  • Don't Work from the Couch or Bed — unless you're feeling under the weather. If you're feeling ill, take time off to rest and recover in a stress-free environment and keep your laptops or work phones out of your lounge spaces. In fact, you really don't ever want to be too comfortable when working from home, as this can cause you to switch into lounge mode and not get as much done as you normally would. Try to eliminate as many distractions from the home office as you can.
  • Consider Color Psychology — Think of your home office as your sanctuary. It's a place where you should feel confident, relaxed and motivated. One great way to achieve these feelings while you work is to use color psychology. Depending on what feelings you want to evoke while you're working, you can think about painting the walls or hang up colorful wall art. Research shows that gray, beige and white offices can make workers feel sad or depressed, while yellow can translate to optimism and energy and green can make you feel calm.
  • Block Out Noise — A quiet space is another absolute essential for people who need to focus all day long or who make noise that they want to keep from the rest of the household. And if you work from home in an apartment building or have kids in the house, noise can be a big prohibitor of productivity. Consider investing in some soundproofing to help you get peace and quiet in your home office. Weatherstripping, carpeting, rugs, and vibration-dampening foam can help absorb sound in your office. For a low-effort approach, try using noise-canceling headphones or listening to relaxing, non-distracting music.
    A Quiet Workspace - A quiet space is an absolute essential for people who need to focus all day long. Consider investing in some soundproofing. For a low-effort approach, try using noise canceling headphones or listening to relaxing, non-distracting music.

Discover Whatever Works for You

Everyone has their own working style and preferences, and discovering what works for you is a process that can take a little time. Not everyone's home office should look or function in the same way! Regardless of how you like to work, do not discount the importance of creating a well-thought-out workspace. The gains will be immense as you enjoy higher levels of productivity and less stress while working from home.

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