When it comes to remote work and working from home, where you work is crucial to how well and at what pace you get work done. Home offices are a good way to split up your house between work and play, but having to fit that office into a limited space makes it all the more difficult.
Sure, sitting on your couch with your back hunched over the laptop and sitting precariously on your knees is okay for a couple of hours a week. However, if you’re going to be working from home permanently or consistently a few days each week, you’re going to want to give yourself the best setup possible.
No matter where you have lived during the last couple of years and especially for fellow Aussies, lockdowns have been a common feature of current and post Covid-19 Pandemic life. Now that the shock and hysteria have died down, we are left in a sort of limbo. Businesses are questioning whether the rent on their office is worth the price when their workers can do the same job in their underwear at home. Employees are wondering why they should ever deal with long, and now unnecessary commutes every day.
If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to work remotely, it is of utmost importance that you make your workspace – your desk, dining table or sitting on the floor with the most sturdy cushion under you – as professional as possible.
The best work from home setup
It’s simple. The best home office set-up for you to work from home is the one that makes you feel like going to work.
While working from home sounds like the fantasyland at the end of a yellow brick road, the glee you feel from being able to make coffee whenever you want, work in comfort and not have to go anywhere, is quickly overtaken by the fact that you have to work from home.
With family, cuddly pets, television and a swarm of other distractions and homely comforts within view and arms reach, it can be difficult to stay productive and motivate yourself when working from home.
An improper work set-up, missing things as simple as a small room with a closeable door, a monitor and a keyboard and mouse can be the difference between a productive workday and an unproductive one. Further down the track of working with an improper workspace and back pain, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome are all in near your future.
Below is a curated list of the five things every home office worth its weight in salt will have and five things you should make a priority to include.
1. Ergonomic Desk Chair
There is a no more important element of a home office or work from home workspace than a proper desk chair.
Nothing shows you the importance of a proper office chair more than sitting on a wooden dining chair after the sombre demise of your desk chair. In terms of comfort when working, keeping you on task and, most importantly, taking care of your back while sitting for long hours, an ergonomic is a ‘buy at all costs’ element of a home office.
Sitting in an improper chair can leave you with poor posture, neck pain, back pain and poor circulation. An ergonomic chair can not only stop the negatives of sitting poorly but improve your posture as you sit and allow you to sit in various positions to relieve back pain.
Whether you can spend thousands of dollars on your ergonomic chair or are looking to get the best bang for your buck, finding the chair that is right for you is the most important thing.
Depending on the way you sit and the positions that you like to sit in, some chairs will be better than others. Do your research and find the one that is right for you.
Whatever the case, if you’re going to be working from home, the first cent you spend should be on an ergonomic chair.
2. Workstation Desk
You need something to sit in front of with your new fancy ergonomic chair and sorry, your dining table just won’t do.
Even if the table you eat dinner at is the perfect size and height, the desk you work on should be the desk you work on – nothing else.
The ability to split up your house between work and home life is crucial to a healthy work/life balance. Eating breakfast, working, taking lunch and then finishing the work day and eating dinner all in the same space is a recipe for disaster and a quick meltdown.
You should enter your dedicated workspace and mentally note that it’s work time. There’s no confusion. When you’re in there, you’re working. When you’re not working, you don’t go in there. Every dedicated workspace when working from home requires a desk to work at.
There are a few reasons desks are so important to your workspace.
- Improved productivity
- Space for all your office utilities and needs
- Made to hold monitors, your computer or laptop as well as a keyboard and mouse
- Sits at the perfect height when seated
Some desks sit at each end of the price range, meaning there is one out there for everyone. However, if investing in a home office, where you will be doing the majority or a large portion of your work, it is worth putting your money into a good desk.
Standing desks are all the rage at the moment, and for good reason. They lower risks of weight gain and obesity from sitting for prolonged periods, help to increase blood flow and decrease the risk of back injury and pain.
Sitting at your desk, hunched over your keyboard for upwards of eight hours a day is about the worst thing for your body possible. However, the thought of standing and typing at a desk makes your back ache just thinking about it. This is where height adjustable desks start to shine.
It’s exactly what it sounds like – a desk that provides you with the ability to both sit and stand at customisable heights. The capability to sit and get through work for the first few hours of your work day and then stand for the next couple to give your legs a stretch and ease the tension in your back is crucial to staying productive and healthy throughout the day.
While they sit on the more expensive end of the desk price range, there is no doubting their worth.
Whatever the case and whatever suits your situation, a true working desk is one of the most important pieces of your work from home workspace.
3. Office with Natural Light
While you want your work-from-home workspace to be clearly defined separately from the parts of the house you enjoy (and where you like to relax), you don’t want to dread working in it.
While a nice chair and desk will help to make your new office workable, natural light is a key feature of an inviting and comfortable workspace. There is a reason any office building worth its foundation is filled with windows, much like there’s a reason that the worst punishment in prison is lack of time outside or windows in your room. Sunlight rules!
Whether the sun is blazing through your window or you’re looking out onto the overcast street, natural light is key to creating a welcoming and bright atmosphere, which in itself is key to you staying productive and getting work done. We’ve all had times in the past studying for that test or working to that deadline where the room is blacked out, your headphones are on and your nose is to the grindstone. That isn’t a recipe for prolonged success during the workweek.
More than improvements in mood, productivity and general satisfaction, the use of nature has been proven to reduce eye strain, lessen the chance of headaches, withhold sleepiness and decrease mistakes.
If a home office with a window isn’t an option and you don’t feel like calling in a demolition team and builder to fit your office with a skylight, artificial lighting can still be positive. The light bulb above your head doesn’t need to be the brightest white light possible, keeping you up for all hours of the night. ‘Daylight bulbs’ differ from regular LeD light bulbs in through their colour temperature, closer simulating the bright light that the sun emits.
Whether you’ll be opening your blinds or flicking on the light switch, having a naturally well-lit space is a critical feature of a home workspace setup.
4. Productivity Tools, Project Management and Communication
No question working from home is hard.
That’s not to say that it isn’t a great opportunity or that you wouldn’t be wishing you were at home after an hour at the office. Just like anything else, there are good days and there are bad ones.
A bad day could be one where you feel like calling in sick, watching a movie instead of going back to work after lunch, taking a long breakfast or ditching your chicken salad you made the night before for Mcdonald’s on UberEats. When it’s just one of those days, these tools can keep you on track and help you to get through your work day.
Whatever you struggle with during your workday; motivating in the morning, constantly writing emails, managing multiple projects or visualizing your work, there is a tool to help you.
In terms of generally staying productive, the best ‘tool’ is learning from the experience of others, their success and failures and the advice they have on being and staying productive. While writing a to-do list and a personal journal daily can help you stay on top of things mentally, there are dozens of productivity blogs out there worth your time.
Whether you’re looking to read for hours a week or five minutes every morning, there is something out there for you.
Here are a few of the best productivity blogs on the market:
In terms of actual tools and applications, there are plenty out there to help you get the best out of yourself and your workspace.
Trello Slack power-up
If you’re struggling to stay productive during your workday at home or just want a little bit of help, the tools above are incredibly helpful no matter the work you’re doing. If you need a bit more of a mental nudge rather than a physical one, take a look at the aforementioned blogs.
5. A (good) computer system
No matter if you’re a freelance writer looking to make a living with the written word from the comfort of your desk or a former office-dweller who has found a home at home after the pandemic, you’re going to want to invest in a solid computer system to get work done.
If the company you work for has moved from working in-office to a remote system, chances are that they have provided a PC or laptop, keyboard and mouse and monitor for you to work on. If your employer isn’t so charitable and you need to purchase those items yourself (don’t forget to claim it as a deduction) or want an upgrade over the average laptop they’ve provided, be certain to invest in the products you use.
You will be sitting at your desk for most of the day almost every day of the week. If you believe a dual monitor system will suit you and make you more productive, buy two monitors and check our guide to arranging your desk. If you think a laptop suits your needs more than a PC, grab one. If you have wrist problems or carpal tunnel syndrome or want to lessen your chances of ever having them, invest in an ergonomic mouse and keyboard.
The saying ‘you pay for what you get isn’t always the case. Expensive doesn’t always equal the best. It’s understandable to be standoffish about spending money on work. “I’ll just use whatever is cheapest. I want to make money at work, not spend it on work”. While that notion is understandable, a worker with better systems is a faster and more efficient worker.
Don’t force yourself to do sublime work with a below-average computer system and related products. Investing in your workstation is investing in yourself and your workflow.
Now that we have gotten through the five must-haves when making yourself an at-home workspace, we can delve into how you can fit a desk, computer and desk chair into your home when you have no space.
The key to working in a small space is not bringing things to your office that are unnecessary. Do you need that lamp, or does the window provide enough light? Do you need that box of tissues on your desk? The answer is no, you don’t.
If all you need to work during the day is a keyboard, mouse and monitor, that’s all you should have on your desk.
While the thought of adding a monitor stand to your limited office and desk space might seem to fly in the face of saving space, it can be the difference between a productive day and one you spend on the couch.
Making sure to buy a monitor stand that allows for storage underneath it saves you from taking up more room on your desk with stationary and knickknacks you use irregularly. In the space that would usually be taken up by your monitor, you can now hold a notebook, pens, stapler, tissues and your mug of coffee if you so chose.
If you don’t want to take up more desk space with a monitor stand, or your desk space is extremely limited and you have little more than space just for a keyboard and mouse, the monitor arm is your new best friend.
Connecting to the back (or side) of your desk, this arm holds your monitor aloft in the air. Extendable and adjustable to any angle, this allows for full customisation into the angle that your monitor sits and what direction it faces. More than that, it means that your big monitor that took up the majority of your desk space, now takes up zero room, leaving plenty of room for anything you need to get you through the day working productively.
As much as it would be nice to need nothing on your desk but your PC, monitor and mouse and keyboard, unfortunately, that isn’t going to be a workable reality for most of us. The fact is, the only thing worse than having a cluttered desk is getting up from your seat and ruining your workflow to go and find a pair of scissors, that document you need or a stapler.
This is where the beauty of mounting things on a wall starts to shine. The idea is simple. Hang a pot, box or storage container onto the wall in front of or next to your desk (within arms reach!) and put anything that would usually be the cause of a cluttered workspace, into it.
Viola. You now have everything you need within reach and your desk remains clutter-free.
It is easy to just see what’s in front of us and ignore everything else. However, getting down on your hands and knees or standing on the tip of your toes can open up a world of possibilities that you couldn’t otherwise envision. When it comes to using up the available space in your home office, vertical storage is key to making the most out of the space you are in.
Whether it means storage boxes on the ground near your feet, a set of drawers underneath your desk, storage pots on your wall or putting on a shelf above your head, there is so much more room for storing items than what your desk can hold. Think outside the box and ask your friend to take a look with a fresh set of eyes.
Whatever you think the maximum capacity of your home office space is, a new perspective can open up new possibilities.
Whether your office looks like Don Draper’s in ‘Mad Men’ or Harry Potter’s bedroom under the stairs, it is possible to get the most out of yourself and your home office. With the tools, tips and tricks above, you will be able to best set up your home office, even with limited space.