Tuesday, September 28, 2021
HomeBusinessThe Ultimate Guide to Set Up Your Home Office

The Ultimate Guide to Set Up Your Home Office

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In light of recent events, businesses have switched to a more remote-friendly setup, and many office workers experienced working from home for the first time.  To help, we compiled the ultimate guide to set up your home office.

Working from home comes with a slew of benefits – from saving time and money on your morning commute, eliminating food and coffee expenses, to enjoying a better work-life balance. But to reap these benefits, you need to be disciplined and prepared, so ditch the romantic notion of working on the couch – it’s bad for your health and productivity too! 

No matter whether you’re working from home as a freelancer, solopreneur, or if your company adopted a more flexible work schedule, you will need to think about your home office setup.

Sure, a computer, desk, and chair can be considered the only home office essentials you need, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Your home office will be your dedicated space to work undisturbed by all the hustle and bustle that happens in the rest of your home. It’s going to be a barrier between work and leisure, not just in the actual home, but in your mind as well. 

This guide aims to give you pointers on where to set up your home office, what to put in there, how to set up and secure your tech, and how to create a comfortable work environment that you’ll enjoy working in. From the experts who have been doing it for years! 

Here’s what we’ll be covering: (want something specific? just click the name of the section to be taken there)

  1. Choosing the perfect location for your home office
  2. How to pick the right desk for you
  3. NEW: The Best Desks For Small Home Offices
  4. Essential home office equipment you need
  5. NEW: The Best Chairs For Home Offices
  6. How to set up your home office network 
  7. How to protect your home office 
  8.  The other side of home offices (work/life balance and ergonomics)
  9. Mental health and home offices

1. Choosing the Right Location

The first decision to make when you set up your home office isn’t about what’s in the office. It’s about where the office is.

What part of your home is the best choice for your home office?

set up your home office

There is so much that affects how productive you will be in your home office, and how much work you’ll get done. Some things to consider are:

#1 Lighting

It’s true that every single room has at least one lightbulb, but that one bulb isn’t enough for a productive workspace. Aim for a location with natural light – because having a window in your office is not just about the view.

Studies link having natural light in the office to higher wellbeing and productivity. And it’s not just one paper that found this connection either – multiple studies link quality of light to better productivity, with colour temperature playing the biggest role in how productive you’ll be.

In fact, seasonal affective disorder that derails your productivity during the colder season is greatly reduced if you have a source of natural light.

To keep windows from interfering with your monitor(s), make sure they are always in front of you, so you won’t have to deal with glare, and you’ll have a nice view.

But what about artificial light sources?

Artificial lighting can often interfere with our circadian rhythm due to blue light emitted from our devices, as well as light bulbs with specific colour temperatures. They suppress our melatonin levels – a hormone in charge of our sleep cycle.

The best thing you can do is to go for smart lights with adjustable colour temperature – so you always have the best light, no matter the time of day and weather conditions.

#2 Traffic and distractions

Remember how much traffic you had to endure each day when travelling to work affected you? The traffic happening in your home does the same thing, so you also have to consider this when you set up your home office.

set up your home office

The more traffic there is in an area of your home, the more potential distractions that can disturb your focus.

Pick a nook where you can isolate yourself. Ideally, you will have a whole room to yourself where you can close off, but if that’s not the case, you can still get your focus with some noise-isolating headphones

#3 What’s behind you?

You will probably have to do a video call or two while you’re working from home, and there’s nothing worse than having a conference call in the middle of your living room where everyone can take a peek right into your home and see everything.

When you set up your home office, you want to choose a spot where there’s not much behind you – only a wall, a bookcase, or a closet (that’s closed and tidy!).

Alternatively, if you just can’t find such a spot, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a green screen or standard Black/White and choose a fancy (or funny) background so your home remains private.

#4 Temperature

The orientation of your apartment/house is an important point to consider. How will the temperature in your office change through the seasons? The spot you pick should be comfortable year-round. Ask yourself the following:

  • Will you be close to a window, a radiator, or an AC unit?
  • If you have an AC unit, will it reach you without being in the direct path?
  • Do you tend to get cold when you sit for long?
  • Will the sun hit the room directly at some point during the day?
  • Will you be in direct draft?

If you’ll be near a window, make sure you have the means to block out sunlight when needed – blinds and shades are a must, so you’re comfortable throughout the day.

If you’ll be working near a radiator, make sure none of your tech is too close to it, so it doesn’t overheat and break.

#5 Power sources

It’s amazing how easy it is to forget about the location of power outlets when considering a perfect home office spot.

Pick an area with plenty of power outlets that can host enough extension cords for all your office devices.

2. Desk Essentials: Picking Your Desk

You can’t set up a professional home office without a desk. The desk takes the central stage – it’s where all the work is being done, so you’ll need to make sure to pick a good one. 

set up your home office

Your desk should have enough space for your laptop/computer and all peripherals: monitor(s), keyboard, headphones, speakers, your planner and notes, and all the other things you’ll need. 

Standard table sizes are usually in the 60W x 30D x 30H inches (approximately 152W x 76D x 76H cm) range, but we suggest going for more depth, since monitors are getting bigger and you tend to have more than one (which we will address a bit later), so a desk with more depth will be more comfortable. 

If you don’t have enough room to put such a big desk, you can still get that space by going for corner desks, which have more depth by default. 

If you have enough space to go all out with your desk – try looking for adjustable height desks so you can sit or stand on them, depending on what’s more comfortable for you. 

Many desks have built-in drawers that are great at keeping clutter at bay, but you can also go for standalone office drawer cabinets since you can place them wherever you feel is best – under or near the desk. 

Look for different add-on options, such as office shelves that you can place on the desk or on the wall, or a tambour unit to keep all your office binders nearby, but neat and tidy. 

As for your chair, go for one with adjustable armrests, not just because of ergonomics, but so you can tuck it under the desk and keep things neat in smaller spaces. 

3. Best Desks For Small Home Offices

There are plenty of space saving options if you have a small home or space to work with! Yes you can still have a desk (yay!) 

Here’s some of our favourite ideas: 

Moveable desks

This small moveable desk will literally fit anywhere. Its adjustable height allows you to work both sitting or standing up, and it’s suitable for either desktop computers or laptops.

If your home office consists of a desktop computer, printer, and a lot of paperwork, you could probably use more space than this desk provides. Extra shelves for a printer and paperwork will do wonders here, and it also has more desktop area. 

Corner desks

Corner desks such as this one gives you more flexibility while also having ample space for all your work needs. This one won’t break the bank either.

For a more permanent solution, a table such as this one will look nicer, and it will also give you plenty of space.

Corner desks need not be large and clunky. This wonderful yet compact corner desk gives you just enough room to get things done while also taking up as little space as possible – a great choice for any home.

Foldable desks

A foldable desk gives you more flexibility as you get more desktop area to work on when you need it, while also giving you the option of folding it and making it nice and compact. This model is also moveable. 

If a desk is all you really need for your small home office and you want to save as much space as possible, this type of desk should suit you perfectly.

Wall-mounted tables are a bit less flexible but offer more storage, which makes them a better choice in the long run.

Compact storage

Having ample storage space is always a plus. This compact table has plenty of shelves and spacious drawers, which will make lack of storage a thing of the past.

Being compact while also having several drawers is the main appeal of this table. It will take up very little space but also provide more than enough storage for your home office needs.

Standing desk

Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular. This advanced model has a motorised lift and programmable height, and also allows you to conveniently charge your devices with its USB hub. 

Compact standing desks are an excellent choice if you want to have a bit of everything – the convenience of an adjustable height while taking up as little space as possible.

Another approach to standing desks is to convert your regular desk to a standing one by using an adjustable standing desk converter. Nice, quick, and easy.

Desk over bed or sofa

Another great space-saving feature is using a desk over your bed. Having your laptop on a movable desk that you can adjust by height will bring your working-from-bed game to a whole new level.

If you like the desk-over-bed approach but want more workspace, there are models that span the entire width of the bed. Such desks can also be used anywhere else, such as your sofa, giving you more flexibility.

4. Home Office Equipment for Beginners

What makes an office feel like an office? All the office equipment! But how do you know which home office equipment to buy?

set up your home office

Aside from your computer, there’s quite a lot of stuff that you’ll need to set up a home office, even when you’re just starting out.

#1 A dock or port extender

All the peripherals you’re using will need their own port, and most laptops nowadays just don’t have enough and are limited to two ports only.

Desktop computers have more, but it’s difficult to get access when you need additional ports that are located at the back. A docking station or a simpler port extender solve this issue.

For example, if you have standard USB or you have USB C ( the newer smaller one) and are looking at getting multiple screens you’ll need a USB dock. if you just need a few more USB ports for devices e.g. a webcam or an external hard drive try something smaller try something like this.

#2 A second screen

A second screen is one of those things you don’t know you need until you get it, and then you can’t imagine ever working with a single screen. 

set up your home office

You might argue that you don’t need one, but everyone needs a second screen – trust us – you’ll quickly find what to put on it, and you’ll work faster and have a better overview of all tasks.

#3 A home office printer

Whether you print a lot or a little, a home office printer is a must to create invoices and print documents that you’ll need. Printers haven’t changed much in terms of functionality, but have taken strides in efficiency – they print faster and cost less.

The choices are the same:

  • inkjet vs. laser printer
  • black ink only vs. colour printers

Which one you choose depends on what you need it for – if you don’t need colour, go for black ink only options. If you print a lot, then a laser printer will be your go-to option, since they are much faster and their laser cartridges last longer.

Pro tip: If you find you need to scan certain documents or deal with clients who require you fax them, go for a multifunctional machine option, where you’ll get a printer/scanner/fax combo. It will save you space and electricity!

#4 A keyboard and mouse

Of course, you’ll need a keyboard and mouse when using a desktop PC, but it’s a sound decision to invest into both even if you’re using a laptop with a second screen. It’s more comfortable and allows you to put your laptop onto a laptop stand and use it as a screen only.

The price range for keyboards and mouse is vast, from those costing only a few pounds to several hundred. Our advice: go for the mid-range option. Choose what you prefer most – ergonomics is the most important option if you do a lot of typing, so go for a keyboard with a good palm rest.

For the mouse, see whether you’d like a wired or wireless version – we suggest a wireless or Bluetooth option since these are the most versatile and you can take them with you when you’re working on the go.

#5 Speakers and headphones

A good quality pair of headphones is a must-have for your conference calls and times when you need to focus and you’re working in a noisy environment. Pick those with a noise-cancelling feature, and see whether you prefer active or passive noise cancellation.

Passive noise cancellation does the job fairly well, while active cancellation is better at blocking out droning noises – from computer, background chatter and similar, by sending an inverse signal that blocks them out. Be aware though, that some people feel dizzy or sick with active noise cancellation, although there is no consensus on how they cause this.

To avoid wearing headphones all the time – have standalone speakers or speaker bar as they provide higher quality sound, and it makes music more enjoyable.

#6 Webcam

While most laptops come with integrated webcams, if you need to be on video calls a lot, think about investing in a standalone webcam, since they will give a higher quality video, come with integrated microphones, and even noise cancellation options.

If you’ll be streaming or creating videos where you need to film the whole room, you will definitely need a high-quality camera.

Some things to keep in mind when choosing your webcam are:

  • The field of view – For conference calls, you can get away with 65°, but you want to go for 78° at least. For video creation, especially if you need to record the whole room, go for 120°to 180° so you catch everything you need.
  • Low light correction options – You want people to see you and your face, not the background.
  • Lighting options – Some cameras come with light rings, which is very popular with the streaming community, so your face is well lit from all angles.
  • Privacy options – If you don’t want to reveal what’s behind you, go for a camera that has a privacy blur option, where the background will be fully blurred out. Some apps, like Skype, have that option as well.

#7 Extension lead

You need electricity for all your devices, which means having an extension lead so you can plug them all in. Don’t go for cheap options here – you don’t want a power surge to take out all of your devices at once, especially since warranty usually doesn’t cover such damage.

Invest in an extension lead with power surge protection, with regular sockets and USB plugs to take some pressure off your port extender.

#8 A notice board

While not being part of home office essentials, having at least a small notice board helps keep things in perspective and have reminders where you need them the most: in front of your face.

A corkboard is the super-budget version, or you can go for the more expensive felt options or a combo option.

#9 Paperwork and pen tidy

All the bits and bobs lying around the desk can quickly make it look cluttered, but putting them all into a drawer is not an option because you use them a lot.

A paperwork and pen tidy take care of this problem – everything is within reach but doesn’t clutter up the desk!

#10 Headphone and phone holder

The smartphone can get displaced easily on an office desk without a dedicated place, so why not solve two storage issues and keep your headset and phone in one place?

5. The Best Chairs For Home Offices

Working from a home office can be a curse and a blessing. While it’s great that you don’t have to waste precious time on everyday commute, a lot of people working from home find it difficult to manage time spent working. This usually results in putting in more work hours than you normally would. 

A lot of that time is spent sitting at the desk, working on your computer. While you should avoid spending too much time sitting down, you can make that time more comfortable by choosing the right chair for your home office. 

There are a lot of different chairs available and using a good chair does make a difference, as it can reduce back, shoulder, and neck pain, while at the same time be more comfortable to sit on.

As it’s usually the case, more money will get you a better chair, with better ergonomics and more features. Luckily, there are great budget options available as well, so let’s get started on our recommendations for 7 best chairs for your home office.

Packed with features at premium price

Those willing to spend extra can’t really go wrong with this excellent chair from Herman Miller. These chairs are well-known for their ergonomic design that offers excellent comfort, great support, and a lot of adjustable options. Once you adjust this chair to your preferences, it will probably feel like the best chair you’ve ever sat on (and it’ll definitely impact your wallet!)

There are less expensive Herman Miller chairs such as this one that will offer about the same level of comfort and adjustability as the more expensive version. It’s designed to keep your body cool and comfortable for long periods of time, allowing you to focus on work and not being distracted by discomfort.

A good balance

If a lot of adjustable options are your thing and you are willing to spend a little extra, then you’ll really like this ergonomic office chair. You can adjust back, head, arms, seat depth, height and tilt – basically every option you should need. The mesh material allows you to stay cool, and the aluminium construction will ensure longevity. 

Maximum comfort and a nice wide seat are just some of the advantages of this high-back office chair. While comfort levels are what make this chair truly shine, it also has adjustable and padded arm rests, as well as a height-adjustable headrest. That, along with lumbar support and the usual height and tilt adjustments, make it an excellent choice for people searching for high-back chairs at a great price.

This ergonomic chair is another great and affordable entry that offers a lot of comfort while not sacrificing too many features. It has a nice cushioned seat and lumbar support with adjustable seat height and tilt. It’s a bit lacking in the armrest department, but all its other features greatly make up for it.

Simple but effective

Sometimes, a simple and stylish solution is all you really need, and this leisure office chair has exactly that. It doesn’t have a head or an armrest, but it is comfortable and easy to maintain.

Budget options usually don’t come with many features, but this office chair still has some aces up its sleeve. Breathable mesh, comfortable seat, and raising arm bars are nice additions, especially at this price point. Overall, it’s a good, comfortable, and affordable home office chair. 

6. How to Set Up Your Home Office Network

A professional home office setup needs a professional take on your home office network. To be sure your network will work well and all devices are secure, take time to set up your:

  • Internet connection – Choose a provider with good speeds, but most importantly good customer support, so that in case something goes wrong, you can be sure that they will resolve the issue promptly. Use cabled internet connection as it’s more stable and gives you better speeds. If you can’t, make sure your Wi-Fi signal is strong enough. If you’re in a spot where Wi-Fi is spotty, use a Wi-Fi extender or booster to get a good signal.
  • Router – While you will get a router from your ISP in most cases, you’ll still need to change a few things: from the admin login to Wi-Fi encryption type and password. Never leave them on default settings since they are easy to crack!
  • Firewall – Handling lots of business information on the same network where your private devices are is risky, so be sure to invest in a firewall. There are hardware and software versions, so choose one that is best for you.
  • VPN – A VPN establishes a secure point-to-point connection with remote devices, like a server in your workplace, keeping all devices safe from intrusion. Choosing a good VPN and setting it up on your own can be tricky, but there are home office setup service options available.
  • Computer – Your computer is your bread and butter, where you do all the work, so keep it in good health and make sure you only use legitimate software and genuine products.

7. Protecting Your Home Office

When you set up your home office, you also have to think about security. Keeping client and your personal data safe is on top of your priority list and part of your basic home office setup, since even your home office is subjected to GDPR compliance.
set up your home office
So how can you make sure you never disclose sensitive data?

  • Have a shredder – Shred all the paper documents you don’t need, so you’re sure nobody can go through confidential information once you put the papers into the recycling bin.
  • Wired printing is more secure than Wi-Fi – Printing over a Wi-Fi network is convenient, but not as secure as using a standard wired option. You can have your lead near the printer and just plug into your laptop when you want to print.
  • Keep passwords safe – Knowing all passwords is next to impossible, with an average person having to remember between 54 and 97 work passwords. Reusing passwords is a problem because once they are cracked, they can be used to access multiple accounts. While they shouldn’t be personal, they need to be safe. Therefore, make sure you go for upper- and lowercase and special symbols and make the password long enough. And never write down your passwords and keep them in plain sight. Not even onto your desktop!
  • Have cabinet locks – While you have cabinet options that come with prebuilt locks, you can buy standalone smart locks for your cabinets and keep sensitive documents safe from prying eyes.
  • Separate work and personal devices – As convenient as a home office is, mixing personal and work devices is not advisable since our personal devices usually have more lax security. So if you check business emails from a personal device, you run a higher risk of a security breach.
  • Invest in a home security camera system – Digital safety is usually well taken care of, but how about physical? Today, home security systems are much more affordable, so make sure you have a motion-activated smart camera to alert you of any movements when you’re not at home.

8. The Other Side of Home Offices That They Don’t Tell You About

As awesome as working from home is, it has its downsides too. If you’re aware of the pitfalls from the very start, you’ll have an easier time spotting them and avoiding them altogether.

For the ultimate professional home office setup, it’s better to invest more in the beginning and save yourself from problems that could appear down the road.

Invest in Ergonomics

Whether you are choosing a desk, chair, second monitor, headphones or mouse, ergonomics is what determines how comfortable you will be with using them – it’s the answer on how to set up a home office that’s comfortable.

set up your home office

For peripherals, go for ergonomic production lines. Even if they cost more, they are more expensive for a reason – they will save you from eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tired arms and wrists, which when you combine sick leave with health costs, will be much more expensive than investing into ergonomic solutions right away.

Your monitor screen should always be raised so you’re not looking down at it. Invest in a monitor stand that also helps you keep your desk tidy. Your chair should have adjustable armrests, lumbar support, backrest, and head support. The more adjustable the chair, the more it will cost – but can you put a price tag on your spine health?

While standing desks are all the rage right now, and we do endorse getting a sit/stand desk, standing all the time isn’t a magical solution either and comes with its own set of health issues. Alternating between sitting and standing is the best option here.

Keep Work in the Workspace

One thing that many people learned during the COVID-19 lockdowns is that working from home has a rather long list of negative consequences to mental health that many were not aware of.

For someone who worked in the office their whole career, working from home seems like being on vacation all the time. But working from home is actually more demanding than office work since you need a lot of self-discipline to get things done without direct supervision.

set up your home office

Data source: State of Remote Work 2020 Report by Buffer & AngelList

Keeping work and personal life separate when you have a home office seems impossible. Many fall into the trap of working late, doing just one more task, and finishing up just this one email.

Therefore, it’s better to have actual working hours – be it from 7 to 3, or from 9 to 5 – and once you’re done for the day, unplug and don’t check anything until the next day.

9. Health and Home Working

Aside from the fact that keeping work and personal life separate is hard, you must keep yourself healthy. It’s easy to work long hours and forget to take regular breaks.
set up your home office
While working from home, you must:

  • Take regular breaks – Even if you have only 20 more minutes of work left, if you feel you need a break, take it. Your body will be grateful, and you’ll get the required mental clarity to finish the job on time.
  • Stop guilt-tripping – It’s much harder to take a break at home, and many home office workers feel guilty while doing so. You need a break just like everyone else. You can have more breaks since you have a more flexible schedule, so don’t be afraid to use it.
  • Check for signs of burnout – Stress at work happens, but being stressed all the time leads to burnout and feeling like there are no good days at work, being exhausted and nervous, or having headaches and muscle aches. You may even start doubting yourself and your abilities, feeling detached from work, and avoid doing tasks. If this happens, it’s time to re-evaluate priorities, learn to unplug, socialise, and get enough sleep.
  • Get out of the home office – Having a home office doesn’t mean you have to work there all the time. Switch things up and go to a coworking space or a nearby cafe and work from there on occasion. Coworking spaces are generally a great way to meet new contacts and expand your professional network.
  • Work out – If you were taking a bike to work or you walked, you had some exercise each day, which isn’t true when you have a home office setup. Once you finish work, go out and take a walk. Go to the store if you need a few things, or simply take at least a 30-minute walk around the neighbourhood.

Think Long-Term

A home office is a long-term investment. While many guides out there focus on saving you money on everything, when looking at the long-term, going for cheap solutions everywhere will ultimately cost more, as you’ll have to get new equipment sooner or take sick days due to a painful back. 

Therefore, invest early, invest wisely, and make your home office a productive, comfortable, and secure spot.

To sum it up..

The world is changing and home offices are going to become the norm (it should have happened years ago if you ask us!). 

So, this is the ultimate guide to setting up your home office so that you’re healthy, productive, and protected! 

Team SmileyGeek
Content created by the Smiley Geeks Team hot off the presses!

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