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Whether you work from home full-time, for a little extra on the side, or just take your work home on occasion, you want your home office to be a place that inspires productivity and positivity.
For those wondering how to set up a home office for the first time, or maybe just wanting to spruce up what they have, here are some things to keep in mind and an overview of the equipment you’ll need to get your home office setup underway in no time.
Find Your Space
This can be tricky at times, but as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. If you have a spare room that can be dedicated to your home office, this is an easy solution, but if you have to fit it in elsewhere, you may have to get creative.
Try to stay in a well-lit part of your home (if this isn’t an option, take a look at our lighting section futher down), as darkness can be a quick factor in demotivating you or sending you off to sleep. At the same time, unless you live alone or can guarantee that others will respect your working time, try to stay away from areas where people congregate or will cause too much distraction – though in these cases you can always drown out the noise with a pair of headphones.
If you have your own room, think about whether you want to be facing out of the window or into the room. I personally prefer looking out of the window; it gives you a good view and something to look at during your work, and prevents issues with the sun shining in onto your computer monitor, causing glare or visibility issues.
Pick A Desk
Desks seem like an ultra-simple piece of furniture to pick out, but depending on your use-case they can be deceptively diverse.
There are a few things to look out for when choosing a desk:
- Think about the space you require – if you work with lots of paper and like to spread your things out, you’ll need a lot more room than if you’re just sitting your laptop on top.
- Make sure the desk gives you enough legroom. Some desks either have backs to them or other elements that can block your legs. If you like to stretch out this can be a problem.
- Make sure the desk is the right height. Depending on your own height, the desk should suit you so you won’t be leaning your arms up or down at awkward angles. These positions can lead to painful conditions such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
- Standing desks give you options. Some desks have manual springs or small electric motors that allow you to adjust the height of the desk up to the point where you’re standing. If you like to switch positions during the day after you get tired of sitting, this can be a nice feature to have.
- Folding desks are a great alternative if space is an issue. They are generally pretty bare-bones, but come in a lot of stylish designs and can be easily stored until needed, with some even being wall-mountable.
Choose A Chair
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good office chair. You’ll be sitting on it for several hours at a time, and choosing a cheap one can result in pain that isn’t worth the savings you’ll make. Unfortunately, back pain is becoming an increasingly problematic issue in recent years, spurred on by the huge time we collectively sit in less-than-ideal positions. Identifying a good chair can help keep this slightly in check.
You’ve probably heard a lot about ergonomic chairs, but remember that they aren’t all made equal. There are chairs such as the Embody or Aeron from Herman Miller, which are seen by many as the crème de la crème of the office chair world, but they also come at a much higher cost (upwards of $1000). At the same time, it’s hard to put a price on your health, and if you can afford it, it’s a worthwhile long-term investment.
There are some good options for all price ranges out there, however. We will soon have a guide live on the site to help you choose the best chair for your budget.
For the basics:
- Make sure your chair is adjustable, both height-wise as well as the backrest angle.
- Lumbar support is crucial to give your spine a little assistance and help you maintain good posture.
- Pay attention to the “breathability” of the material, especially if your office has a knack of getting hot. Getting your back sweaty or your legs stuck to the material isn’t pleasant.
- Armrests are something you take for granted until you don’t have them.
- Check the wheels of your chair are suitable for the type of flooring in your room.
While a good chair will help avoid many issues, it isn’t a complete solution.
Don’t stay glued into a single position all day, and most importantly, make sure you get up and move around every 30 minutes or so, as well as getting a longer active break throughout your day – a brisk walk around the neighbourhood should do it. This is not just for back pain reasons, but just general health.
Make Sure You Have Storage
This is pretty straightforward, but to keep things neat and tidy at your desk you’ll want some storage units.
- On-desk storage units keep things easily within reach and at a low budget, but are limited in their storage capacity.
- We’re fans of under-desk storage – you can fit a whole lot more in, while still being in close proximity to the units.
- There are also some DIY solutions you can employ to get started, such as using mason jars and tins or boxes you may have at home already. Personally, this only extends to holding my penny collection, but you can get pretty creative here!
Desk & Computer Accessories
Accessories somewhat depend on your personal requirements, however, here are some that range from “need” to “want”, with all having been quite useful to us at one time or another.
- USB sticks. These little beauties are never not useful. I have one to transfer files between my desktop and laptop, one for booting Linux, and another few I’ve collected over the years. Having at least one is recommended.
- A good mouse. Considering how much time we spend with a mouse in our hand, it’s important to use a comfortable one – and if you’re a laptop user, using a mouse can be a great productivity and comfort boost! I use a Logitech G305, a wireless mouse which is a steal for its price and accuracy.
- Surge protector. Whatever you plug into the mains is potentially vulnerable to electrical surges or events such as nearby lightning strikes. They aren’t too common, but spending the tiny bit extra to have surge protection built into the power strip you use is worth the added peace of mind.
- Powerline adapter. A powerline adapter gives you good internet even in the “dead zones” of your home, by having one plug connect to your router, and a second plug into almost any plug in your home. By some black magic they then send your data through the electrical cabling in your house. Some versions are ethernet-only, while some support WiFi or a mix of both.
- Headphones with a microphone. If you work with any clients from a distance, then Skype calls are likely, and having a good microphone helps you to come across professionally rather than sounding like you’re in a tin can.
- Headphone stand. On the heels of the last point, a headphone stand is a non-essential, but practical and aesthetic touch to any desk.
- Dedicated microphone. A dedicated microphone will always sound better than a headphone-connected one. You can use it for crystal-clear client communication, and other stuff like podcasting or content creation. I use a Samson Q2U – a great budget mic with phenomenal sound for the price.
- First aid kit. This is something that might not come to mind at first, but in many countries having a first aid kit is actually a legal requirement to have in your office – in some this can even extend to people working from home. Ignoring legal pressures, a first aid kit is a useful piece of equipment to have around just in case.
- Fan or air conditioner. Easily one of the biggest downsides of not working in an office, at least in the summer, is the lack of air conditioning. If an air conditioner is too big an investment, a decent fan that keeps the air circulating can help keep things cooler.
- HEPA air purifier. I suffer from bouts of hayfever when the weather warms up, and a HEPA purifier is instrumental in allowing me to work on some days when pollen levels are high. They suck in the air in your room and pass it through a tiny filter, removing the allergens and other irritants from the air with each pass. If you have a pet, dust, or any other allergy triggered by airborne pollutants, an air purifier can make a world of difference.
With many of us working into the evening and night, having a pleasant lighting setup can be crucial to setting a good mood for working instead of passing out. A couple of things to watch out for:
- Make sure that the artificial lighting you use isn’t directly behind you or shining at your laptop or computer monitor – the glare will make it uncomfortable on your eyes.
- Instead opt for a generally diffused light source – this will give you a nice ambience and enough light to comfortably work with.
- In addition to this general room light, you can add in a focused desk light, for when you need to work through some documents or put the spotlight on your keyboard.
- Add some of your own touches by using some more unique lighting.
- I like to have my lighting set up so that I can either be sitting in full brightness when I need to wake up or focus, but also have the ability to either reduce the intensity or change to dimmer light sources, for later in the day and especially before I go to sleep.
Plant Life & Design Extras
Plants are known to have a marked positive impact on mood and productivity in workplaces, as well as just in general. Any combination of desk plants, window sill plants, or standing plants make for a nice aesthetic and create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Truth is, while just one or two plants are a great addition, the sky’s the limit when it comes to squeezing in greenery! DenGarden have some tips on easy-to-care-for plants if you’re not particularly green-fingered.
Similarly to lighting, you should also be sure to add some of your own overall design elements, such as pieces of art. Posters, snaps of friends and family, or paintings you love can help boost your mood on a rainy day.
Prepare For Visitors
If you won’t have any visitors to your home office, this isn’t necessary, but if you plan to invite clients at times, make sure you have a second comfortable chair available, and think about how your setup looks from the perspective of a client.
There you have it, home office setup ideas to get you up and running as soon as possible.
Of course, you can start with the very basics, and work your way up to a kitted-out corner of your home to get your mojo working to full effect.
Once you have your home office set up, take a look at how to be productive working from home – there’s no point getting everything in place and then slacking!
Let us know if we missed anything and what your favourite home office bits and pieces are in the comments below.