The Importance of a Great Home Office Setup
At this point in the Covid-era, a home office feels much more like a norm than a special case scenario due to the new work-from-home lives that so many of us now lead, whether for fully remote or hybrid jobs. And yet, some people still work in the same makeshift space they threw together at the beginning of the pandemic, not optimal, but enough to get by for the few weeks that turned into months and eventually into years. Other workers might need to optimize their space for other reasons, a recent move, a new career, or even a first job.
Whatever reasons you have for setting up or improving your home office, we want to help. To maximize your productivity and protect your physical and mental health, a great home office setup will go a long way in establishing a sustainable, long-term work environment. Of course, everyone’s needs will differ depending on the size of their home, their job requirements, and personal preferences, but a close look at factors like ergonomics, tech that increases efficiency, lighting, time management hacks, and design can impact your day-to-day work life for the better.
So, we asked the experts, from furniture purveyors to veteran work-from-home employees, what they learned from their past experiences in order to give you a head start on your home office makeover.
The Best Home Office Setup
Choosing a Dedicated Space
Pretty much everyone agrees that, first and foremost, a dedicated workspace, separate from your personal life, should take priority. If you are lucky enough to live in a large enough home, set up your office in its own room. For smaller spaces, establish a work-only section of your living space that you can designate both mentally and physically as your professional space, and do not let your personal spaces encroach on your work area.
As sustainable home goods expert, Erin Banta, explains it, “The separation of home and work is imperative for any effective home office setup.” When setting up your home office, you need to do everything in your power to keep it just your home office. Treat your home office like you would if it were in the middle of an office space with your coworkers and bosses in the offices surrounding yours. Keep your home office clear of any personal items that could cause distractions during your working hours. The more of a separation that exists between your home office and the rest of your house, the more productive your work will be” (Erin Banta, co-founder of Pepper, an e-commerce site for sustainable, custom-made decor).
Tips for Turning that Extra Room into an Office
Atlanta-based professional organizer, Laura Ray, points out that it’s best to “Pick a space in your home that you like being in, not just a spare bedroom or spare corner. You have to enjoy the feel of the space, or you will find every reason to not sit there and work.” And, when possible, avoid turning your home office into a multipurpose space. In other words, keep your hobbies, guests, and television somewhere else (Laura Ray Organizing).
However, keeping your home office entirely separate requires buying or renting a large enough home for that purpose. Professional organizer Naomi Cook, therefore, suggests that “If you live in a small home, your home office may not function fully as an office, but also as a guest room. I’ve taught clients how to efficiently ‘close the office’ and set the room up for guests. You might consider adding a small cabinet, or decorative boxes in the closet, to stow papers and other small desk items. Those pieces can serve as storage for extra guest items, like towels, bedsheets, and toiletries when the room is open for business again” (Open Doors Organizing).
What to Do If You Don’t Have a Separate Room
For small spaces, especially apartments, you can’t always put your office in a closed-off room. If you must keep your workstation in your living space – bedroom, living room, kitchen – it still makes sense “to separate your living space from your working space: set up your home office in a separate room from where you sleep, or at the very least face your desk away from your bed so that you don’t see it. Although it can be desirable to work in different locations and positions throughout the day, try to designate one working space and stick to it. Mentally, this helps you compartmentalize work from leisure” (Victoria Yu, work-from-home employee for Deep Blue Ventures).
For additional ways to build in greater separation, “The TikTok trend of painting different sections of a room with a striking color can be a good idea here. A simple room divider can also help establish this barrier and help maintain a stronger work-life balance” (Ciarán Hourican, Managing Director, H-Training).
How to Create the Right Environment for Productivity: Focus on the 5 Senses
After choosing the right space, you’ll naturally want to create the right environment to boost your creativity and productivity. What goes into this space will depend on the requirements of your job and your personal design preferences. However, some considerations apply across the board. In addition to many of the standard tips for a functional office space, we recommend satisfying all five of your senses to stimulate your brain – yes, even taste and smell. That cup of coffee you carry to your desk in the morning? It smells great, tastes great, and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Let There Be Light
Almost everyone we asked placed lighting at the top of their list of home office tips, including electrical expert Thomas Hawkins: “You want to have the right combination of natural and electric lighting. For example, I positioned my office desk & computer slightly off to one side of a window and at an angle in relation to my overhead light (which has an LED 150-watt equivalent bulb for maximum brightness). That location eliminates any reflection or glare from my computer monitor, which greatly reduces eye strain and squinting for a more comfortable, eye-safe environment” (CEO of Electrician Apprentice HQ).
Thus, place your desk near a window for natural light because, as remote worker Lauren Windsor Hoar notes, “Natural light is huge for concentration and mood-boosting, but you also look best on camera with natural light. If you don’t have access to a window, install at least two light sources and consider a face-lighting camera if you spend a lot of time on video calls” (Editor-in-Chief at coffeehex.com). Plus, keep in mind that “heavy curtains or blinds can block natural light, so opt for lighter window treatments that allow light to filter through” (Taylor Watson, founder of Assistant Advice).
Reduce Noise Distractions
Many of our expert sources suggest noise-canceling headphones or white noise machines to block out unwanted sounds, but you don’t need to stop there. If you want to boost your sound reduction, or don’t feel comfortable wearing headphones all day, every day, then try adding some soundproofing features, including blinds and lights (yes, lights!).
Soundproofing your space doesn’t just mean adding foam panels to your wall the way sound engineers, radio and podcast hosts, or musicians do, although you certainly can take that route. You could also choose your furnishings carefully: “A lot of noise generated in a home office comes from sounds bouncing off hard surfaces like your desk, but you can break those noises up with soft furnishings like roman blinds, rugs, or even cushions” (Yvonne Keal, Senior Product Manager at Hillarys).
Returning to the lighting specialists, the folks at Lumens actually sell acoustic lighting so that your fixtures can multitask: “If noise levels are a concern, look to acoustic lighting to help dampen some of the sounds bouncing around your office. Overhead lighting in noise-canceling felt and other fabrics do dual duty as a source of illumination and a source of peace” (Lumens Design Experts). However, if you rent, this option might go against your lease, so check with your landlord first.
Eliminate Visual Forms of White Noise As Well
Distractions come in many forms, and noise can be understood as visual rather than just auditory. Visual noise can pop up in multiple ways, from clutter to flashy symbols, so take heed of how each item in your space affects your attention.
Burnout Prevention Coach Kari Zee, PE explains how easily visual distractions encroach on our physical spaces and mental focus: “Labels, insignias, and logos exist on almost every product we own. Consumerism, capitalism, and the need to achieve more surround you everywhere you go. From the hand soap in the bathroom, to the embossings on your computer monitor, we are constantly bombarded by the outside world. Take some time to identify what visual forms of white noise might be in your space that could be adding to your stress and distracting from your creativity” (Kari Zee Coaching).
You might also incorporate this philosophy into the design of your office, as furniture designer Justin Hossle states, “As a mid-century modern furniture and decor designer, I’d recommend using a minimalist approach when setting up an office or workspace. Minimalism in a workspace can increase productivity by reducing clutter and distractions, which allows for better concentration on work tasks. Creating a calming and organized environment will reduce stress and encourage more intentional decision-making” (Owner, Designer, Craftsman at Hossle Woodworks).
Don’t Forget Your Sense of Smell
Sight and sound may seem like the most obvious senses to attend to when creating the best home office setup for your needs, but smell matters too. Candles, for instance, “provide natural light, ambiance, and a fragrance that makes you feel calm and ready to work, especially all-natural candles with essential oils that promote relaxation, stress relief, or energizing benefits” (Lindsay Stroud of Stroud’s Simply Southern Co.).
In addition to essential oils, fresh, clean air and good ventilation will drastically improve your workspace. That window you positioned your desk near – open it. If you have allergies, an air purifier will help clear the air.
Unsurprisingly, organization pros recommend keeping your office space tidy. The good news is that you can score some great organizing supplies at your local Target, on Amazon, or even at The Container Store, if you have one nearby.
But, what should you prioritize during your organizing spree? First, your desk drawer, as Spiritual Organizer Christina Giaquinto points out, “When you open your desk drawer you want to feel inspired to work. That means your essentials like paper clips, a stapler, tape, and pens should be neatly categorized and organized when you open your drawer. The simple and easy solution for this task is to add some readily available drawer dividers.” Then, stash any bulky items in attractive baskets and, if your home office includes a closet, try a customizable modular closet system for “your computer paper, hard drives, extra supplies, cameras, notebooks and folders,” and any other items you use (Brand Ambassador for Modular Closets).
Purchasing Proper Furniture & Equipment: Emphasize Ergonomics
Proper furniture probably comes to mind first when setting up your home office, and most people rightly think about ergonomics as an important consideration, even if they don’t know exactly how to achieve it. Posture, movement, and behavior all factor into a healthy work environment, so when choosing furniture keep these tips in mind:
Incorporate Movement into Your Day with a Standing Desk
Fitness and wellness expert David Williams believes in the importance of moving and changing your position throughout the day: “When working from home, it’s tough to incorporate movement into your day, and sitting all day long is not good for your physical health. I always suggest investing in a desk that can double as a seated and standing desk. An adjustable standing desk allows you to alternate between sitting and standing, which helps to prevent a lot of physical issues later down the road. It also helps you to feel less sluggish and more alert throughout the day instead of unmotivated and unproductive. To ensure that you incorporate standing into your work day, set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to stand for a while” (David Williams, Founder of A Lean Life).
Another option that enables movement comes from remote worker Stefano Covolan, founder of Korporatio, “If you can, get a portable treadmill. I got the foldable one from Kingsmith, and it’s one of the best purchases I ever made. As you work from home, you will start spending a lot of time at home, so maintaining physical activities will become more of a challenge. I placed my treadmill in one corner of my office, and every time I get a call, I jump on it and just walk.”
Every Desk Needs a Chair
To go with your sit-stand desk, you need, of course, a chair. Professional organizer Lisa Dooley says, “The right chair matters. A lot. If you’re going to spend money somewhere, spend it on your chair. A good, quality chair costs about $300 or more and is money well spent” (Your Organized Life). To prevent mobility problems in the future, you’ll want to emphasize ergonomics, and mobility expert Dayna Cooley prioritizes adjustability: “Look for chairs, that offer adjustable seat height, lumbar support, and armrests. Ensure that the chair contains high-quality materials and has a sturdy base” (Lo’Aids).
Once you sort out your desk and chair, you might take your setup to the next level with an ergonomic footrest. “If you have an adjustable table and chair, an ergonomic footrest might seem redundant. But, an ergonomic footrest can do more than elevate your feet. Some designs help you keep your leg muscles active. I found a footstool on Amazon that comes with ‘bumps’ meant to stimulate pressure points on your feet. With it, you not only prevent aches and pains, but you also end up actively treating them as well,” reports Hanery Jane, an Interior Designer at Ledask.
If you’re lucky enough to have the space, additional casual seating can add another level of comfort to your day, according to Chris Matthias, Interior Designer and Founder of HouseAdorable, “Consider adding a comfortable accent chair or small sofa for reading, brainstorming, or taking breaks. Sometimes stepping out of the ‘work chair’ helps get the creative juices flowing and allows your mind to relax.”
Consider the Size of Your Space
As you shop for furniture, remember that good organization can benefit from thoughtful design. In order for the space to function properly, your items, from furniture to desk accessories, need to fit the space. “Drawing up a layout helps you visually imagine the space, and when you measure carefully, you can see what size furniture can actually fit and improve your efficiency based on how you use your office,” says Courtney Finley of Organized Designs.
Managing Your Home Office Tech
Keep Your Tech Tidy
In addition to acquiring the right tech for performing your job alongside a high-speed internet service that can handle all of your video call and software usage, you’ll want to keep your devices and gadgets as organized and reliable as the rest of your office. Tech expert Samuel Park suggests investing in wireless gadgets when possible and untangling cables, noting that “Cable organizers and a charging station helped me keep my home office neat and ready for action” (TechMaestro.co).
Invest in Smart Home Security Features
To avoid unnecessary distractions, consumer tech writer Kathryn Casna relies on smart home technology: “Smart home security systems, like a doorbell camera and smart locks, can be the difference between a seconds-long distraction that you can handle right from your phone, or interruptions that stop you from working altogether” (Switchful.com).
Budget for Ongoing Expenses
Once you feel happy with your office setup, don’t stop there. Prepare for the long-term with a budget: “You’ll need to factor in ongoing expenses, such as internet service, phone bills, and office supplies. Include these expenses in your budget so that you can plan for them accordingly. You may also want to look for ways to save money on ongoing expenses, such as bundling your internet and phone services or buying office supplies in bulk,” says Brian Meiggs, founder of Gigs Done Right.
Find an Apartment with Home Office with AptAmigo
Setting up a well-thought-out home office can motivate you to become more productive and efficient throughout the workday. But first, you need a space that works for you in an apartment that fits your needs. With AptAmigo’s top-tier service, you can locate and sign for a new apartment with a stellar home office space that checks all your boxes. Reach out today!
Karrie Fuller earned her PhD in English from the University of Notre Dame. After a decade of teaching college-level writing and English courses, she brings a wealth of expertise about writing, editing, and content management to AptAmigo's marketing team.