How do I set up a home office for remote work?
You’ve just landed yourself your first remote work job.
You’re now part of the 62% of U.S. employees who, since the pandemic, work from home for at least some of their workday.
And like these 80 or so million other remote employees, your first task is to set up a comfortable home office environment to work from.
There’s a lot of equipment to get, or shall we say, there’s a lot of equipment that you could get.
But is all of it necessary?
In this guide, we’ll describe the five most essential items for setting up a home office for remote work, as well as five nice-to-haves that will make the work from home experience even more comfortable.
What is a home office?
A home office is a space designated in your house for official business duties.
This might be a dedicated room in your home, but it can also be an area of your bedroom or living room, as is common for many remote workers.
It’s often used as a primary place of work, though some employees only work part-time from their home office setup and spend the rest of their time at the company office or in a coworking space.
For example, some remote team members use their home setup for admin work and go to a coworking spot for conference calls and Zoom meetings.
Why it’s important to set up a comfortable home office environment
If you’re going to be spending 40 hours a week in your office, you want it to be comfortable.
But aside from simply having a nice work environment, there are a few technical reasons to set up a quality remote workspace:
A comfortable environment will make you more productive and less distracted
A well set up office space can reduce the likelihood of injuring your back, neck, and hands
A welcoming office environment can help reduce stress and make your work feel more manageable
A properly designed office will feel like a distinct space, which is helpful for avoiding cabin fever
An intentionally designed office space will look more professional, which can have a positive impact when holding video calls with clients or business leaders
5 must-have items for your home office for remote work
Let’s break down five items that you should definitely have in your home office.
For nearly all remote work jobs, the computer will be the centerpiece of the office and where the majority of your work gets done.
So, it's important when setting up a home office for remote work that you have a quality machine that is reliable and sufficiently powerful.
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy the latest and greatest Apple Mac or gaming laptop. These may be overkill for the standard remote job.
However, a six-year-old laptop with an aging battery and an outdated processor is likely to hold you back and reduce your efficiency (not to mention drive you nuts waiting for documents to load).
If possible, consider upgrading to a newer model, or if you’re employed by a company, see if they have a policy for remote work equipment contributions.
With most remote workers using laptops rather than desktops (in 2019, laptop sales more than doubled traditional desktop computers), it's tempting to think you might be able to get away without a proper desk.
After all, you can sit down at your dining room table with your laptop or even work from the couch, right?
While this is true, it’s not great for your back health.
Countless studies have demonstrated negative effects from working on a laptop (primarily neck pain), which largely comes from using laptops in less than ideal positions.
Investing in a quality desk can help reduce your chances of injury by changing the position and angle of your body and head relative to your computer screen.
If you want to take things a step further, you could invest in a standing desk.
Standing desks have been shown to provide several health benefits, including reduced risk of neck and back injury.
Many of these desks are adjustable, so you can use them interchangeably as either standing or sitting desks.
3. External monitor
External computer monitors hook up to your laptop and provide a few benefits.
First, you get a second screen, meaning you can work more efficiently. For example, you can have your daily planner or calendar open on one screen and your current work window on another.
Second, external monitors tend to be larger than the display on your laptop, meaning you have better visibility and can fit more windows on one screen.
Lastly, external monitors are more easily set up in an ergonomic (efficient and safe) position. By setting your monitor up at eye level, you reduce the strain on your neck and protect yourself from injury.
4. Keyboard and mouse
When you plug your laptop into an external monitor and then use it as a second screen, you generally lose access to the laptop’s keyboard and mouse, as the computer is positioned too far away.
That means you’ll also need to set your office up with an external keyboard and mouse.
There are a number of wireless and Bluetooth options available, which can help reduce clutter and improve mobility. You should also consider investing in ergonomic equipment, which has been shown to help prevent injuries to your hands and wrists.
5. A comfy office chair
Lastly, no home office is complete without a quality office desk chair.
Though you can get away with any old dining room chair, investing in a quality ergonomic chair with sufficient back and lumbar support will reduce your chance of back, hip, and leg strain.
6 nice-to-have items to spruce up your remote work office
If you’re looking to spruce things up a little, here are a few ideas for additional home office equipment.
2. Bluetooth speakers
A simple way to improve productivity and workplace happiness would be to add a Bluetooth speaker or two or even put on a set of noise-canceling headphones.
3. Yoga mat for stretching
It’s recommended that for every hour you spend working at your desk, you get up and spend five to ten minutes either walking around or stretching your body out.
Having a yoga mat in the office can encourage you to stretch more and reduce the impact on your neck and spine from sitting at a desk all day.
4. A whiteboard or corkboard
Need to do a bit of brainstorming?
Having a whiteboard or corkboard on the wall can be a great way to get out of the digital world and create a to-do list or get creative with your planning.
5. Soft light desk lamp
Setting up a soft light on your desk not only makes for a more calming environment but can also help you sleep better by reducing eye strain.
6. Additional tech supplies
Lastly, there are a few other bits of tech that you might like to grab to make your home office workflow more efficient, like:
A powerful router to improve Wi-Fi connectivity
An extra cell phone charger
A webcam for video conferencing
A filing cabinet for documents
A laptop stand
A hard drive to back up important work files
Additional tips for setting up a comfortable home office environment
Now you’ve got all the right gear to set your home office up, it’s time to put things in position. Here are a few tips for setting your environment up comfortably.
1. Proper monitor height
The best way to position your monitor to reduce neck strain is to line the top third of the screen with your eye level.
This means that when you’re looking at the center of the screen, your head is tilted slightly down, which is the ideal ergonomic position.
2. Controlling office temperature
If possible, introduce some form of temperature regulation to your home office.
A variety of studies demonstrate the effects of different office temperatures, with some claiming that 70–73 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal range, with others recommending pumping the thermostat up to 77.
You’ll need to do some experimenting to determine the ideal temperature for you, but the good news is that the thermostat dial is completely under your control!
3. Choosing paint colors
Most home office owners opt for a subtle tone like a light blue, green, or coral hue.
These paint colors set up a calm and relaxing environment ideal for reducing workplace stress. They work nicely with a few plants and a lot of natural light.
4. Stocking up on office supplies
The last thing you want to do is sit down for day one and realize you’re low on supplies.
Once you’ve got your environment set up, be sure to stock up on:
Pens and pencils
Whiteboard pens if you’re using a whiteboard, or thumbtacks if you’re using a corkboard
5. Download some apps
Before you get started working remotely, there are a few tools you’ll want to download.
Slack is a great one for workplace communication, and you might also want to sign up for common Microsoft products like Word and Excel.
Ready to go remote?
By following the tips, tricks, and recommendations in this guide, you’ll be able to set up an ideal home office environment that is the perfect balance between calming and productive.
Just getting started in the remote work world? Check out our guide on getting started with the WFH life: Want to work from home? Here’s how to get started.
I have a remote office set up at home. I’ve worked remote for the past year and ready to work.
Are you hiring WFH here in Philippines? I have my stable equipment needed for WFH.
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I have all the equipment and set up necessary