A Guide to Setting Up a Home Office for Remote Work
How’s your home office space for remote work? Is it neat and organized, or is it cluttered with piles of items you’ve unknowingly accumulated? Perhaps, your makeshift home office is your couch or bed.
The thing is, we were all caught up by the COVID-19 pandemic. What was one time a theoretical contraption turned into a reality overnight. According to a Statista survey, before the pandemic, 17% of U.S. employees worked from home at least five days a week. However, that rose to 44% when COVID-19 swept across the globe. Employers had to implement remote work policies to ensure business continuity. Soon after, businesses realized that transitioning from a physical office to a home office was not an easy thing to do.
Most people struggle to adjust to the fact that a place typically reserved for relaxation and unwinding is now a place of work. However, flexible work arrangements are here to stay and more and more companies are shifting to a fully remote work model.
What Is a Remote Office?
Let's start with the basics. Put simply, a remote office is a smaller workspace set in a location away from the company headquarters. Unlike a traditional office where employees worked in the same room or building, a remote office can be located anywhere.
Since remote work entails managing a distributed team, employees have the freedom and flexibility of setting up their workspace anywhere they want. Even as the effects of COVID-19 are receding, companies have realized that they don’t need large offices to get work done. In fact, remote workers proved to be more productive than office employees. This is partly due to flexible scheduling that provides them with a better work/life balance.
Virtual Vocations, a leading platform for remote work, saw a 53% increase in the number of remote positions in 2020. The trend is especially great for working parents with young children. If you're looking for a work-from-home role, it's important to consider why you’d prefer the flexible setup in the first place. Remote work offers many benefits to employees. However, you don’t want to provide the wrong answers, like you don’t like being closely managed.
So, how do you answer, “Why do you want to work remotely?” Well, for starters, you want to give the recruiter reasons that will make them see you as a valuable employee. You could touch on areas that show how working remotely will boost your productivity. This could be due to less commute time and thriving in a comfortable environment.
More importantly, emphasize other aspects of the position other than wanting the job because it’s a remote position.
If your interview is successful and you get the go-ahead to work from home, setting up a home office for remote work is key. When creating your workspace, you must ensure that it’s conducive to productivity and efficiency. More importantly, a home office should provide you with a comfortable and distraction-free environment.
Where Should I Put My Home Office?
Choosing a dedicated area to set up your home office can seem like a daunting task, especially if you live in a tiny home. Imagine sharing the same house with housemates, kids, or pets. Creating a home office in a shared and cramped environment isn’t going to be easy.
If you're lucky enough to have an extra bedroom that you can devote to a home office, good for you. Otherwise, you still don’t have to worry because you don’t need a big house or an extra bedroom to set up a home office. There are plenty of areas where you can fit a desk and chair. With your meticulous attention to detail and some clever space planning, you may even manage to save some space for storage.
If you feel like you don’t have enough space in your home, here are some ideas on where to place your home office.
We bet you didn’t think you can transform your closet into a tiny work-from-home office! A standard closet can easily fit a desk, plus you get plenty of shelves around you. You can even close the doors for complete privacy. If you don’t do well in tight spaces, you can remove the doors altogether.
Yes, we know working where food is can be quite tempting. However, if it’s the only place you can set up your home office, you have to make it work. Most kitchens have countertops made of either wood or marble, and this can be perfect for working. Some even come with a built-in desk or you can install one yourself.
Just be sure to pick a convenient spot for your workspace away from things that can damage your laptop.
Formal Living/Dining Room
Even if the living room area is where people in your home congregate, you can divide up space to give it multiple uses. If possible, find a little wall area in the living room and set up your office so that it's facing the rest of the room.
Keep in mind that the office furniture you choose may look out of place. To avoid that, try to match the theme and color of the room as much as possible. Alternatively, consider installing a sliding barn door, prop screens, or curtains over the entryway.
Most family rooms are spacious enough to squeeze in a tiny office. One of the common places to set up your home office is behind the sofa. However, you can put it along a wall instead of a console table or by the window.
How Do I Setup a Remote Office?
Lighting Is Essential
Now that you’ve identified a dedicated space to put your home office, you have to consider how well-lit the area is. Unless you have to set up the office in the basement where you have to use a lamp, natural lighting is highly recommended.
Most people don’t consider this, but adequate lighting is crucial to a productive and comfortable workspace. Apart from alertness, daylight has been shown to reduce eyestrain, drowsiness, and headaches. Even if you work overtime, natural light will keep you energized throughout the day. Plus, glancing out the window once in a while provides a much-needed break.
If you use lamps, there are a few things to keep in mind. Dim lights will make you squint and probably the reason for the endless headaches. Bright lights, on the other hand, may illuminate your workspace but create glare on your monitor screen. Also, note that placing a lamp next to the monitor may cause some glare.
Overhead lighting might be the best option in this case. You should also consider placing the lamp(s) a good distance away so that they are not in your direct field of vision. If your office is by the window, position your desk so that the light is in front, not behind you. Otherwise, when the sun is shining bright, it will create glare on your screen, reducing your ability to read.
You may be enjoying your current lifestyle of staying in pajamas and working from your bed or couch all day. However, spending long hours without proper support for your back and neck will lead to back problems, stiff neck, and achy joints.
When working from home, you’ll be sitting for the better part of your workday. So, a good, comfortable chair is a must-have. It's always advisable to get a chair that lets you sit in an upright posture.
When buying a professional office chair, consider things like:
- Adjustability – a good chair must have adjustable parts, including height, armrest, headrest, and back tilt.
- Seat size – an ergonomic chair should support you comfortably. Additionally, the seat should have sufficient padding to provide all-day comfort.
- Lumbar support – an ergonomic chair should provide lower back support. The lumbar spine curves inward and sitting for a prolonged time without proper support will lead to slouching.
To get the right chair for you, make sure you test them out. Remember to take regular short breaks and change positions throughout the day. Likewise, try changing between sitting and standing positions while working from home. This will prevent developing conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
If your work entails working with a lot of office equipment, like printers, PCs, and monitors, the room must have enough ventilation. This is particularly problematic for small spaces such as the closet. If it gets too hot it can become impossible to work in.
That’s why you should carefully choose a spot for your home office. If you can't get access to a window, consider cooling options, such as a small air-conditioning unit or a fan.
Use a Dedicated Phone
If you communicate with clients a lot, setting up a dedicated phone is ideal. Using the family phone with a shared voicemail may sound unprofessional or even confuse clients. Plus, you don’t want your four-year answering the phone.
Find the Best Home Office Monitor
Connecting to multiple monitors improves your work efficiency and productivity. Invest in one or two large high-quality monitors with high resolution. Remember to pay attention to the display connector. Opt for newer monitors that support HDMI, USB-C, or DisplayPort connectors. This will give you better resolution than monitors that use VGA connectors.
When positioning the monitor on your work desk, adjust it so that the screen is at – or slightly below – the eye level. This way, your eyes will look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen. This will prevent eye strain, neck pain, and posture issues. You may need to invest in a monitor stand or riser to help you set the screen to the correct viewing position.
The best position for your monitor is directly in front so that you don’t turn or twist your body to view the full screen. Additionally, position the monitor at least 50 cm from your eyes – that’s about an arm’s length distance.
Invest in the Right Work from Home Equipment
There are essential home office equipment, tools, and accessories that you’ll need to facilitate your work. This will vary depending on your profession. However, generally, you’ll likely need:
- A fast and reliable internet service
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Stationery, like a pen and notebook
- Storage space and organizers
- An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to provide backup power during a blackout
- Quality speakers to listen to productive music
- Indoor plants, artwork, vision board, among other items that inspire and motivate you
- Software. Again, depending on your industry, you’ll need software like Word, Adobe, Photoshop, etc. For teams, collaborative work management platforms like Basecamp, Asana, and Trello are some must-haves.
Have a Way to Track Your Time
Research shows that workers in a home office are more likely to overwork compared to those in a traditional office. When working remotely, it's easy to lose track of time because of all the distractions around you. What's more, you can have a hard time ending your workday.
Tracking your time will encourage you to take coffee breaks, a short walk, or a power nap. With a time tracking tool like Traqq, you can monitor how you invest your time, and determine areas that need improvement. The tool also lets you break your workday effectively to allow time for relaxing and reenergizing. This will help improve your focus, work performance, and even creativity.
Traqq can also help you gain visibility into what you’re working on, track the progress of your projects, and monitor deadlines. Generally, you’ll be able to stay on top of things and maintain regular work hours. When you are monitoring computer activities and managing your time properly, you're able to maintain a healthy work-life balance when working from home.