12 Tips On How To Set Up Your Home Office

July 01, 2022

12 Tips On How To Set Up Your Home Office

With the changing nature of work, more and more people are setting up a home office.

If you are faced with setting up a home office you want to be sure that your home office aids your productivity and comfort.

apple screen on desk

It's important to treat your home office as a dedicated workspace – you are expected to work and you don't want to just come home and start typing on the lounge

A dedicated workspace will help put you in the mindset for work, keeping you focused, productive and in a positive state of mind. It also helps avoid physical issues like neck, shoulder and back pain.

Though it takes time, it's worth the effort to get set up. 

A long-term home office should ideally be a separate space in your home that is properly outfitted for work.

Here are 12 tips on how to set up a home office that maximizes your performance.

Find the Best Location

For some people, choosing a spot for their home office is easy.

They’ve got an empty room that they use as dedicated office space. It can be an actual “office,” but many people use an empty bedroom or garage.

However, not everyone has that kind of free space in their home. When space is tight, you have to think creatively about your “office space.”

You can always use part of the kitchen table as your office space—if you don’t mind packing up your office before every meal.

But resetting your office after every meal may not appeal to you.

In that case, you may have to think about using what space you do have creatively.

Check out unused corners in larger rooms, large (but empty) closets, or even under the stairs! There are plenty of spaces that can convert to an office with a little bit of creativity.

The best option is to dedicate one room in your home to work, away from common areas. That way you can:

  • close the door to reduce distractions
  • mentally associate that space with your job, as this makes it much easier to get work done
  • create a safer and more controlled environment.

Your bedroom is not an ideal location.

It's a place for rest and if you turn it into an office, your brain may associate it with work which could affect your sleeping patterns.

If you do need to use your bedroom, avoid flopping down on the bed during business hours.

People in small/share houses should dedicate a shared portion of the house to work, like an open office plan.

Put it in an area with low foot traffic and don't let children, family or housemates take over.

It's a workspace during your allocated office hours and needs to stay that way. If this sounds unlikely to work in your situation, consider some movable room dividers as a visual reminder that this space is for work.

Finally, work in a well-lit environment to reduce eye strain. Try to find a spot with limited glare on the screen, away from large windows that get a lot of direct sunlight.

Have Privacy

If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated room for your office, that room probably has walls that go all the way from the floor to the ceiling and solid doors that close.

That makes privacy—and quiet—easy to come by. But when your office is in, say, the corner of a room, you might find it hard to separate work from home.

Think about adding a privacy divider to your home office setup.

You can get traditional dividers that sit on the floor.

Or you could hang a curtain from the ceiling or on a rod. Curtains are a lightweight and generally inexpensive method of “closing the door” to your office.

With a curtain, you can choose something subtle that blends in with the rest of the decor. Or choose something wild and crazy to give your “door” some pizazz.

laptop on desk

Consider Who Else Uses the Space

As you’re setting up your home office, consider who else will use it and pick the space and furniture accordingly.

Will the kids also use the office for homework, and will your partner work from home, too?

Consider a partner desk setup where two people can work at the same desk at the same time.

Are clients dropping by? While you could meet with them in the living room, that may not always be the best choice. Make sure you add seating and table space for clients, too.

Invest in Yourself

Investing in a home office setup is, in many ways, an investment in yourself.

You want to create a professional environment where you will be productive and also comfortable.

But, like a lot of investments, you get what you pay for. And while it may be tempting to buy the “bargain” office furniture, don’t forget about what that bargain price gets you.

Prioritize Comfort

It can be tempting to just grab a chair from the dining area when you’re working from home.

But sitting at a desk for long hours without proper support for your back is a fast track to posture problems.

Ergonomic office chairs offer the correct support when you’re sitting for long hours. Just like the rest of your home office furniture, investing in a supportive chair is an investment in yourself.

Look for the following features in an ergonomic chair:

  • Height adjustable
  • 360-degree swivel base
  • Adjustable backrest and armrest
  • Adjustable seat depth
  • Built-in lumbar support

Your space needs a desk or table that is at work height.

The industry standard is 73cm (29 inches) from the floor to the top of the work surface.

Tall people do better with a higher height, and short people do better with a lower height. Many desks and tables have adjustable height, usually through their feet.

Add some green plants

A few green plants will not only add a dash of colour to your office space but also increase happiness and reduce stress. In fact, even a few plants can increase productivity by as much as 15%, according to one study.

Instead of choosing just any green plants, pick something that is easy to maintain and helps improve air quality. The spider plant, dracaena, ficus and Boston fern are particularly well known for their air filtering qualities.

lady working on laptop

Support Your Neck and Eyes

Don’t forget to help out your neck and eyes, too.

Make sure you’ve got your monitor in the “perfect” spot. That spot is different for every person, so you’ll have to experiment with placement.

Follow some of these tips to help you get it right:

  • Your spine should always stay in a neutral position.
  • The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level.
  • Place the monitor at least 51cm (20 inches) from your eyes, farther away if you’ve got a large monitor.

Your eyes should look slightly down when looking at the middle of the screen to help keep your neck in proper alignment.

Tilt the monitor back 10 to 20 degrees to ensure you’re looking down on the screen at an angle. If you wear bifocals, tip the screen back to between 30 and 45 degrees to ensure you’re not tilting your head back to focus.

Most monitors are adjustable. But, sometimes that’s not enough, so you may need to invest in a screen riser to get the right adjustment. Or, in a pinch, some books or an old box can also do the trick.

Home Office Ergonomics

Workplace safety specialists and medical professionals have long known the importance of ergonomics for your short and long-term health.

Human bodies didn't evolve to sit at a computer desk for hours on end, day after day.

Minimize the damage sitting for long hours causes to your body by following ergonomic rules.

Place your equipment on a solid surface with ample room, at a height that lets your wrists sit flat and elbows rest against your body at 90 degrees to the desk surface. Your chair must provide ample back support and encourage good posture.

Sit upright and keep your feet flat on the floor or a footrest. Don't use a chair that forces you to hunch over the keyboard, like a barstool, and don't work in bed, on the couch or on the floor.

If you ignore your body's ergonomic needs, you risk damaging your neck, back and shoulders.

Keep regularly used items such as your phone, documents and coffee mug in reach. That way you won't be stretching across your desk all day long.

Good lighting

It’s very easy to underestimate the effects of your work environment on your ability to work. Lighting is often an area people don’t think about.

Ideally, you have sufficient indirect light to illuminate your workspace, so you can easily read papers and see physical objects. Overhead lighting is usually best, such as from a ceiling lamp.

Indirect lighting means lights, not in your direct field of view or reflecting off your monitor.

For example, an outside window behind or to the side of your desk can create glare on your monitor screen when the sun is shining. Natural light is quite pleasant, but diffuse it with shades or curtains so it doesn’t create glare.

Don’t place a lamp right next to a monitor, where you end up with competing light sources and possible glare.

You may need lamps for additional lighting, but if possible, place them in a way that they don’t create glare on the monitor screen and are not in your direct field of vision when you’re working on the computer.

Make sure your monitor’s brightness is not too dim or too bright, both of which can cause eyestrain.

“Too dim” and “too bright” are subjective, of course, but a good rule of thumb is that the monitor’s lighting intensity should be just a little brighter than your ambient lighting and that ambient lighting should be sufficient to read paper documents without additional light.

Consider home office lighting

  • No planning of home office setups should neglect thought about the room's lighting. 
  • Adjustable task lighting to provide focused light as the natural illumination changes.
  • Consider a desk-mounted lamp for localized light
  • Ceiling recessed downlights can be a good option above the desk.
  • For reading when seated in an armchair or sofa, table lamps or adjustable floor standing lamps 
  • As in other rooms, the light should be layered in a home office.
  • It's also important to consider the materials in the room as the light reacts differently with different choices. ‘If you have chosen a high gloss finish for the desk or bookcases, for example, try to avoid any direct light onto these surfaces to avoid glare'

desk lamp

A Good Chair

There are a lot of bad chairs out there that can injure you over prolonged computer use.

Dining chairs and deck chairs, for example, rarely are at the right height, and they don’t always encourage the needed upright posture.

If you can afford it, get an adjustable professional office chair where you can set a precise fit for your body and workspace.

They typically go for $600 and up; there are also much cheaper office chairs — figure between $150 and $250 — that will do the job. You’ll need to test them out in person if at all possible since you can’t tell fit from a picture on a website.

Be sure to get one with adjustable height, that can roll, provides lumbar support for the lower back, and ideally has adjustable seat pan tilt, arm height, and lateral arm position.

An armrest is preferable, but only if you use it correctly: That means your forearm should rest very lightly on the arm rest; there should be no pressure from your arm onto the arm rest.

The arm rest basically should remind your arm to stay in the right position, not support its weight like a seat does your butt.

Desk Space

You will know best how much desk space you require, and how much of the day you are likely to spend seated or standing.

If you want more desk space and greater flexibility of movement though, consider building a monitor arm into your set-up.

For multiple monitor setups, dual monitor arms are available allowing you to position your monitors in near-infinite arrangements, and free up twice the desk space!

Theming your desk space around hobbies or interests is a great way to make it a comfortable area where you can relax in.

Good Internet Service

Most urban and suburban areas have at least one high-speed provider for internet service; 50Mbps is the minimum speed to shoot for, and the more people using the internet at the same time, the more you want to get a higher-speed service.

The bandwidth within your home matters too. The best connections are wired Ethernet ones, so if possible, connect your computer to your router via an Ethernet cable; that’s especially important if you do video or other bandwidth-intensive work.

Wi-Fi is fine for basic office work, so if you can’t wire your computer to your router, use Wi-Fi.

In both cases, be sure to have modern equipment supporting at least 100Mbps for wired connections

Decide on Home Office Decor

A home office in a multi-functional space should reflect decor choices in the rest of the room when it comes to both colors and finishes, so the interior is cohesive.

In a separate room, the options are wider. Either way, though, avoid all hints of corporate style in both the hues you choose and the materials.

As in other areas of the home, pale colours can have a space-stretching effect in small rooms, but take care to layer neutral shades to create interest.

North-facing room? Avoid colours with a cool base.

But whether yours is a large or small home office setup, do also consider using hues that will add to the room's energy in either paint or wallpaper: vibrant greens taken straight from nature or pops of sunny orange, for instance.

Or try darks that can make you feel cocooned within your space for optimum concentration on your tasks.

person checking phone at desk

Have a Way to Keep Time

Research has found that you'll be more productive if you get up and move around a bit throughout the day.

These brief mental rest periods break up the workday and can improve your focus, but it's easy to forget about time when you're working from home.

Before you know it, you've worked 14 hours for the third day in a row.

Workers in a home office are more likely to overwork than those in a traditional workspace.

Have some way in place to track time in your office, whether it's a clock on the wall or the alarm on your phone.

Tracking time will encourage you to break up your workday effectively, and it will help you maintain regular work hours and a healthy work-life balance 

These tips will give you a good guide for setting up your home office or reviewing your current setup. Make sure that you make your time at work as productive as you possibly can.

Good luck with your new office. 

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