Working remotely, once frowned upon as a fad by corporate employers, is here to stay. A 2016 Gallup study, “The State of the American Workplace,” found that at least 43% of employees now spend some portion of their time working remotely and employers report increased productivity as a result. However, now that the workforce is increasingly settling into home offices, it’s become clear that not all remote environments are created equal.
One of the real benefits of telecommuting is being able to enjoy the comfort of your own home and a flexible schedule, but this same cozy environment can also be a distraction. Intentionally crafting a space that encourages productivity doesn’t have to be a chore, but it does take some careful planning and intentional design.
Here are nine things to consider in a home office that make the most of your remote work opportunities with an efficient, organized, and comfortable setup.
1) Survey your space
Where you decide to locate the office within your home or apartment may be just as crucial as what’s in it. If possible, choose a space that’s away from the main traffic flow and noise of the household, preferably with a door that can be closed.
You may want to divide your work computer from your personal laptop to enforce clear boundaries. Being able to close the door of your office at the end of the day and walk away helps eliminate the temptation to squeeze additional work (and more stress) into your busy schedule.
If you have only a small amount of square footage in your apartment or condo, get creative with the space you have and invest in equipment that multitasks. Build up instead of out, leveraging walls rather than desk space for pictures or bookcases that do double duty as storage.
2) Check out the view
Situating your desk in a spot with natural lighting is vital, but the view from your chair is also essential. What will be directly in your field of vision as you work? A 2018 survey indicated 62% of US workers felt clutter negatively affected their productivity, so prioritize eliminating visual distractions. If you spend most of your day at a desk, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by a chaotic working environment.
Desk space is prime real estate you shouldn’t waste. Instead, employ storage methods to keep it clear for your office supplies. Most modern offices are packed with technology, which means you’ll have to contend with a rat’s nest of cords. Get a power strip and some ties to tame those tangled cords into submission and keep them out of sight.
3) Let the light in
It’s tempting to conserve space by tucking a big desk into a corner, but that means you’ll be cut off from the windows. Research shows natural light in your workspace helps your physical well-being and can even improve how long you sleep. So pull that desk into the light, perhaps parallel to the windows to preserve some privacy.
The benefits of good lighting don’t have to end when the sun goes down. Invest in high-quality artificial light powered by full-spectrum bulbs that mimic daylight. Even when the seasons bring on darkness to your workday, you’ll enjoy the advantages of the buoyant mood sunlight encourages.
4) Take a seat of take a stand
Let’s chat about ergonomics for a second. No matter whether you take a seat on a traditional swivel chair or perch at a standing desk, you’ll want a setup that maintains good posture to avoid back and neck strain.
Position your monitor or laptop slightly below eye level to relax your eyelids and reduce fatigue. Your keyboard height should allow your forearms to be parallel to the floor, so choose an adjustable chair that can accommodate.
In response to several studies citing the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, more office workers have embraced standing desks. There are a few inexpensive versions, but be careful to choose a desk with adjustment options so you don’t negate the benefits of standing with the persistent strain of misalignment.
5) Get connected
When setting up your home office, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of efficiency—a capable internet connection. The speed you need is a factor of the kind of work you do. Most remote workflows consist of internet researching, email, and occasional video streaming.
For those who frequently download large files, you may need to spring for a more robust 50 Mbps. Even if you live in rural parts of the US, you can still find satellite internet ranging from 12 to 100 Mbps.
Staying connected doesn’t stop there. You’ll want a network router that is up to the task of managing multiple devices and has enough range to reach your home office easily.
6) Set up your workstation
Have a seat and stretch out your arms. Can you reach everything you require for most daily tasks? Think of your office setup as a work triangle where your essentials should stay close to your computer.
Reduce the number of devices competing for space by choosing multitaskers like printers that also scan, or slim docking devices. If you design or program, clear your desk for the multiple monitors you need to be efficient and stock the staples elsewhere.
In addition to a comfy chair, there are two things in your home office that deserve a splurge: get a high-quality mouse and a keyboard to die for. They’re the workhorses of your home office and are worth the extra expense.
7) Gear up for meetings
Most remote work comes with at least a few virtual meetings. This situation is especially true when you’re hunting for a new job via a Skype interview, or if you work as a freelancer who meets with clients. You’ll get a ton of mileage out of a reliable webcam and a quality microphone as well as a small set of speakers.
Getting the right tools for your trade also doesn’t have to be expensive. Most laptops now come standard with webcams, and you should always check with your employer to see if the cost of additional equipment can be reimbursed.
8) Find your Comfort Zone
So far, we’ve focused on functionality, but let’s not ignore one of the perks of remote work. Your home office should create a sense of comfort, either with casual seating, cozy throws, or little conveniences like a hot pot on standby. You’ll spend most of your day in this workspace, so think about making it somewhere you’d want to relax.
Whether it’s surrounding yourself with your favorite books or adorable polka dot teacups, you do you.
9) Secure and store your data
Those hulking file cabinets are probably overkill, but your remote office needs some storage solution for essential papers. For vital documents and crucial records, opt for a fire safe sturdy enough to survive any disaster but small enough to be portable.
Most of the data you’ll need to secure will be of the virtual variety, so consider external hard drives or cloud storage to backup essential files. And don’t forget safety measures like surge protectors to guard against destructive power spikes that wreak havoc on electronics.
Once you’ve got your remote office up and running, remember to step out of it sometimes. Like any work routine, the same daily environment can stagnate creativity.
Find a coffee shop with great Wi-Fi and even better lattes where you can get back on track. You can also check out local hubs where remote employees rub elbows and network. While you’ve created a perfect oasis of productivity at home, there’s nothing like the power of connection to challenge and inspire.