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Over the last two years, employees have become used to the idea of working from anywhere. At the beginning it was a necessity – now, it’s more of a choice that can empower workers to balance both their professional and personal lives. 

As more employees join companies that are fully remote, they have the time and space to craft a perfect home office setup for remote work. For those that continue to work from home only, home offices are more important than ever before. 

Why set up a home office?

Gone are the days of makeshift desks at kitchen tables, using dining room chairs for eight hours a day, or propping your laptop up on a pillow in your living room for a full day of work. 

It’s easy to get distracted while working in front of the TV or in a high-traffic area like the kitchen. Having a separate office area can help prioritize work and optimize your productivity while working from home. 

For those that don’t have the extra real estate to have an office so to speak, there are other ways to separate your work from your home life. Even just having a dedicated space only for work can put you in the mindset to focus and to minimize any distractions that may crop up at home. Try dedicating a desk set in a quiet corner of the house with work tools such as laptop and notebooks nearby to help boost productivity and avoid spending time tracking down work supplies.

Your home office reflects who you are at work 

While boosting productivity is a great reason to set up your home office, you may want it for practical reasons as well. Your background is what your coworkers and employees see all day. You may want a separate space so your coworkers don’t see the mess you left behind in the kitchen as you scrambled to make lunch. 

Jennifer Ernst, CEO of Tivic Health, sees working spaces and backgrounds as an opportunity to build a strong remote culture and enhance connection. 

“One day, I had our team members log in all on mobile and just show us a little bit of their space – tilt up, tilt down, look sideways. Show us what’s outside that door we always see in your video,” Jennifer says. “It was amazing how much extra context and connectivity that gave everybody, putting them in a three dimensional space.”

There are other ways to show who you are when working remotely besides just showing off your physical space. Teams use the tool Airspeed to share more about their interests and discover what they have in common.  

While your home office will serve as the team’s window into your home life, it ultimately is for you and should be designed to fit your needs. So, how can you personalize your space and make it yours?

3 steps to setting up home office for remote work 

You may recognize it’s time for a change in your home office but it’s been so long that you don’t know where to start. Before going online and shopping blindly for miscellaneous office items, take the time to reflect on what you need out of your workspace, and other ways you can maximize this update. 

  1. First determine your home office priorities 

You can have different priorities for your home office. Before designing and thinking through your office, it’s best to align yourself with what you need in your role. Does your job require a lot of productivity? Can you only focus when it’s quiet? Do you work in a creative role that needs inspiration? 

Based on this, perhaps there is a different location in your house that works better for your needs. Natural light encourages alertness, decreases stress, and increases productivity – and a window is a natural break from the blue light of a computer screen. You may also consider having a more flexible working arrangement if your job requires different types of work throughout the day (for example, needing to take notes or free sketch versus being on video calls all day). Being able to rearrange your space to match your needs of the day can help emulate the benefits of a physical office. 

You may also reconsider how you decorate based on your goals. One thing to note: workers that decorated with plants and pictures were 32% more productive than those that didn’t. Make your space your own with unique touches – just because it’s for work doesn’t mean there can’t be elements of play and your personality! 

  1. Then, review what your home office already has, and what it still needs

When first deciding to upgrade your home office, take stock of what you have and the resources you have available to you. What office items do you already have? For any items you do get, are your home office supplies tax deductible? 

Some offices might offer a remote work stipend. Based on budget, get the necessities first. 

Some necessities include:

  • A supportive chair
  • Webcam (if your laptop doesn’t have one)
  • Microphone (if your laptop doesn’t have one)
  • Mouse 
  • Keyboard
  • Monitor

Then it’s time to think through fun nice-to-haves. This can include good lighting, plants, decor, standing desks (which can help combat negative effects of sitting and improve productivity), air purifier, and mini fridge to stow any drinks or other snacks you need throughout the day. You may also choose to invest in a bookshelf, filing cabinet, or comfortable sitting chair to make your home office space complete and comfortable. Ultimately, it’s important to think back to your home office priorities when thinking of your nice-to-haves for your home office. 

  1. Finally, plan around your entire environment 

Having an optimal home office goes beyond the furniture and tools you put in it. You need to think through the entire environment – like fuel for the day, temperature, and ambiance. You can have the perfect office set up but if you’re cold from poor insulation or the place where you work has too much street noise, you’re setting yourself up for distractions and low productivity. 

It takes about 25 minutes to return to your original task after you have been interrupted. If you have to get up every 20 minutes because you don’t have access to what you need, that’s a lot of concentration time being lost. Keep your most used items on your desk – like pens, sticky notes, and chargers. Make sure you have water or any other drinks you may need. For any other items, keep them close by but not cluttering your desk. 

You may also want to create space for breaks. Having a yoga mat in the office, or a puzzle and notebook on hand can be useful for taking a quick mental break before your next meeting.

Your home office is worth the investment

As you go forward in setting up your home office, remember that it’s your space. It’s worth the time and money to ensure that you feel comfortable and productive.

If something isn’t working, adjust or change it so it suits your needs. While it may take some time to get it all together, it is an investment in yourself and your work life that will pay off. After all, jobs may change – but your home office will remain your home base! 

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