5 Tips for Setting Up the Perfect Home Office

Minimal office, computer, desk
Source: iStock

About 25 million Americans telecommute at least one day a month, according to estimates from Global Workplace Analytics, and about 3.3 million people work from home exclusively (not including those who are self-employed). With the frequency of telecommuting up 80% since 2005, more people are turning a corner of their home or spare bedroom into an office.

Whether you are a full-time or occasional telecommuter, you’re likely to work more efficiently if you’re strategic about setting up your workspace. While it can be tempting to flop down on the couch with your laptop or simply spread out at the kitchen table, neither environment is particularly conducive to getting stuff done.

“It’s easier to get distracted because there’s not a mental separation between working and just being at home relaxing,” Brian Dear, the CEO and cofounder of the online-therapy startup iCouch, told Entrepreneur. “It’s important that your home workplace is just as serious as an office.”

Smart home office setup can make a huge difference in how successful your work-from-home days are. Here are five tips for setting up a home office.

1. Have a dedicated space

A spare bedroom with a door you can close is ideal for a home office, but not everyone has the luxury of that much extra space. Even if you don’t have room to repurpose as an office, you’ll want a designated workspace, such as a nook in your living room where you place your desk and keep all your work materials at the very least. This will help you stay organized and create boundaries between your work and your personal life.

Have a designated space is also important if you plan to take the home office deduction come tax time. The IRS allows you to deduct certain home office expenses, but only if you regularly and exclusively use a part of your home as your principal place of business. If you float from room to room and have no set work space, claiming the home office deduction is a no-go.

2. Choose the right tools

Remote workers have no shortage of productivity-enhancing gadgets and apps to choose from when setting up their home office. Yet even tools designed to boost efficiency can be a distraction if you don’t select the right ones for your situation.

“Start with a minimalist approach for tools,” Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, told The Cheat Sheet. “It’s easy to add tools as you go, but if you start off with every gadget and app available, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed and under-productive. Build up your remote work tool belt as you go so you can evaluate each tool, choosing the ones that make you the most productive and happy as a remote worker.”

3. Make it comfortable

slouching, business, woman, office, work, back pain, stress
Source: Thinkstock

Choosing the right office furniture means both a more comfortable work day and a reduced chance of injuries. Invest in a high-quality office chair, and make sure that it’s positioned at the appropriate height so that you’re not straining your neck or causing yourself lower back pain. This graphic from Occupational Health and Safety Administration shows the best way to set up your workspace to avoid injury.

OSHA desk set up
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

“It may sound trivial but it’s not — also buy yourself a comfortable business chair,” Frank Niles, co-founder and partner of Scholar Executive Group, told Inc. magazine. “You’ll be more inclined to stay working … As a result, you’ll be more productive.”

If your job requires long hours in front of a computer, a standing desk might help reduce the risk of obesity and other health problems. Dual monitors, a wireless mouse and keyboard, and a headset can also help make your office more functional, according to Sutton Fell.

4. Don’t neglect design

One of the perks of working from home is that you’ll never have to endure the sight of gray cubicle walls or suffer under the glare of fluorescent lighting. As a telecommuter, you have the freedom to design a space that aligns with your style and makes you feel happy and productive. Choose lighting, storage solutions, decorative elements, and furniture that are both functional and visually pleasing, so that you actually enjoy being in your office.

“Creating workspaces that are inviting, comfortable, and uplifting depends upon a skillful combination of materials, textures, patterns, and colors,” noted design company Teknion in a recent research paper. Not only is a well-designed office aesthetically pleasing, they noted, but it can also increase your energy and make you more engaged with your work.

5. Choose the right color

Painting room
Source: iStock

Research has shown that the color of your office can affect your mood and productivity. Red may result in better performance if you have to do highly detailed work, Fast Company reported, while blue is good if you’re in a creative field and green walls might spark innovation. Gray, yellow, and white seem to have less positive effects on worker performance.

“White doesn’t help us be productive, and most work environments are white, off-white, or gray,” said Nancy Kwallek, a professor of interior design at the University of Texas, Austin, who has studied the relationship between color and work spaces. “There have been studies that asked worker preference about environment and color, and the majority felt they liked to work in a blue or blue-green environment.”

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