Since you spend a big portion of your week at work, you should learn how to set up a home office that ticks all of the boxes: It should be ergonomic to meet your health requirements, it should reduce external distractions, increase your productivity, and, of course, make you feel comfortable and inspire you.
That’s why in this blog post, I want to give you a summary of what type of equipment you need and how to set up a home office with only a few changes.
How to Set Up a Home Office Ideally
Alright, let’s jump right into it. This is how you set up a home office for productivity and health:
1. Get a Dedicated Workspace
Having a spare room in your apartment or house for a home office would be perfect! Here you could close the door and call it a day after work is done.
If you don’t have that much space, it can be a bit trickier but still doable. As a first step, you should try to separate your workspace from your private space – even if it’s just a little corner in the living room.
If you combine both, you may find it hard to shut your brain off after work. If you work at the kitchen table or from your bed, you will condition your brain that this is a workspace. This will make it much harder to enjoy your leisure time or go to sleep without constantly thinking about work.
That also means that if you want to take a break, you should move away from your desk. Don’t eat at your desk while working. If you want to relax for a few minutes to check social media, go to your couch or somewhere else for those 10 minutes but don’t use your home office for everything.
Create a dedicated space in your home that you use exclusively for work.
Extra Tip: If you work from home with kids around and don’t have a separate room for your home office, you could also draw a line around your workspace or use tape to mark it. Explain to your kids that this is your space, and they cannot cross the line (make it a game). This can prevent them from placing toys all over your desk or “stealing” your work utensils.
2. Clear the Clutter
This brings us to the next tip to set up a proper home office: Stay clear of clutter. Some people may thrive in chaotic environments but most get distracted sooner or later. Make it a habit to clean up your desk every day once you finish work.
Bring your coffee mug and water bottle back to the kitchen, move your pens aside and dispose of paperwork that you don’t need anymore.
3. Get the Right Lighting
This depends strongly on the space you have available in your home but let’s see how your home office set up should ideally look like in terms of lighting:
- You shouldn’t have a window behind you. The light and sunshine will glare on your monitor which makes it hard to see something.
- The window also shouldn’t be in front of your desk. The constant switch between the different light intensities can be exhausting for your eyes. Also, you can get distracted quite easily by watching people or traffic outside.
- It is best to have the window parallel to your desk. That will bring in enough light without being too distracting.
Again, you might not be able to implement that at your home. If not, make sure to get blinds and a decent daylight desk lamp. It doesn’t have to be a super fancy one. This desk lamp by HaFundy gives you 10 brightness levels and 3 color modes and it is very budget-friendly.
It sounds simple but after all, you need to feel comfortable working from home in the long run. This is highly personal but I recommend getting bright and friendly colors to keep your mood up and your thoughts open.
Add some inspirational quotes, a vision board, pictures of your loved ones, or whatever keeps you motivated. Having some green plants around can also contribute to a better mood and thus more motivation and productivity.
Go for whatever works best for you. If you are completely clueless, head over to Pinterest or Instagram and search for inspiration.
Extra Tip: If you are looking for more ideas to increase your productivity when working from home, check out the linked blog post.
4. Desk Ergonomics
One of the most important things you need to organize for your home office setup is a comfortable and ergonomic chair. You don’t want to sit on a stiff wooden chair for 8 hours a day! This is not only painful but can cause serious back and neck issues in the long run.
I’ll talk more about desk chairs later in this article.
In terms of setup, make sure your chair is high (or low enough) for your knees to be at a 90 degrees angle. The same goes for your elbows. When keeping your head straight, the top 1/3 of your monitor should be at eye level or slightly below.
For more advice on desk ergonomics, check out the following graphic by the University of Maryland, which visualizes perfectly what you need to take into consideration:
Necessary Home Office Equipment
Now let’s look into the type of home office equipment you need. One of the things people often worry about when it comes to remote work is technical requirements. Luckily, it is not as complicated as you might think. Here is what you need:
1. Reliable and Fast Internet
Of course, the most important thing when working from home is the internet.
Even when you are traveling, don’t rely on limited mobile data volumes. It won’t be enough. Just think of all the video calls you might need to do. You need an unlimited internet plan that is fast enough for smooth calls.
It’s also nice to have a backup solution for the internet. Just in case your internet provider has technical issues, which happens from time to time, and you have an important task to do or a video call to make.
Here are some backup ideas:
- Get enough mobile data on your phone to be able to work for a few hours. Make sure you know how to activate the hotspot on your phone so you can use the internet on your computer.
- Alternatively, you could get a mobile hotspot with a spare SIM card and data on it.
- Maybe you have a nice neighbor who would allow you to use his or her WIFI for emergency cases.
- Also, check out your options for coworking spaces or cafes with good internet near you, so you could relocate when worse comes to worst.
Trust me, you don’t want to panic because your internet doesn’t work 20 minutes before an important business call. So make sure you have a plan B.
When you are traveling, a global hotspot that doesn’t require a new local SIM card in every country is a good option. A reliable example would be Skyroam Solis. Here you only pay for those days that you actually need WIFI.
I’ve been using this device for a few years now and share my experience and the features in this Skyroam Solis review, if you want to learn more about it.
Get a computer that fits your needs, not a brand that is popular right now. If you work as, for example, a graphic designer, you need a more powerful computer than a content writer. Don’t assume you will have to spend a fortune on an expensive brand.
If you want to travel while working online, popular travel laptops are, for instance, the Asus ZenBook, the Acer Swift, or the Apple MacBook Air. They are very lightweight and have great battery life.
3. Big Monitor or Laptop Stand
If you want to work from home in the long run, I definitely recommend getting a big monitor of at least 23.8-inch. You don’t necessarily need a desktop computer as well since you can easily connect your laptop to the monitor.
Having a proper monitor will have such a huge impact on your posture. It’s so much more comfortable to work on a big screen than to stare down on your small laptop screen, which can cause neck pain in the long run.
If you want to travel while working remotely I recommend you get a laptop stand. There are light and easy ones out there, e.g. the VIGLT laptop stand. This will bring your screen higher and prevent you from looking down all day.
On a side note, if you want to learn what mental and physical health impacts remote work has on us, check out the linked post.
4. Keyboard and Mouse
If you use an additional monitor or a laptop stand, you also need a mouse and an extra keyboard to work properly. You can get small and lightweight ones, even foldable keyboards, that are perfect for traveling, or just go for normal-sized ones that are ergonomic and that promote a more natural posture in your arms and hands, like the Logitech ergonomic mouse.
Some remote workers don’t need a phone at all for their work. Others rely heavily on it. This depends again on the type of your job and your personal preferences.
I only use it to check emails occasionally and to get Skype calls from my clients and freelancers. Apart from that, I do everything on my laptop.
Again the advice: You don’t need to get an expensive smartphone from a popular brand just because many other remote workers use it. Use a product that fits your needs.
6. Earphone & Microphone
You will probably have a few meetings and calls with your employer, clients, team members, freelancers, or other people you are working with. Decent earphones and a good microphone make a big difference here.
Also, keep in mind that you need a good microphone for your calls. In most cases, the built-in microphones of laptops are not the best quality.
Especially when you are traveling, you don’t want to carry too much around with you. Your best option would be to go for earphones that have a decent quality microphone attached.
Sometimes it makes it easier and more personal to use video calls instead of voice-only calls. You could simply use your phone to log into video calls and conferences.
Alternatively, you could use the built-in camera of your laptop or monitor. If there isn’t one or you are looking for better quality, check out external webcam options.
8. External Drive
You can also get an external drive if you don’t have enough storage space on your laptop to save all of your files. It also comes in handy as a security backup for your data.
I talk about this in more detail in this blog post on the best cybersecurity tips to protect your data when working from home.
9. Desk Lamp
As mentioned before, very simple, yet important. Make sure you have a good source of light close to your home office set up. Also, go for something not too bright as this is usually most uncomfortable for your eyes. A daylight desk lamp with adjustable brightness levels would be perfect.
Obviously, you will need a desk. If you have space and want to spend the money, a standing desk is amazing to avoid sitting all day.
First, sitting for too long is unhealthy. Some studies report that sitting can be just as dangerous for your body as smoking! This is one major negative effect on your health when it comes to remote work.
And second, it’s a lot more comfortable to be able to switch your position, especially during those long working days.
If you don’t want to invest the money in a standing desk, as they can be quite expensive, you can also look for desktop riser options. These are stands you can place on your normal desk that move your screen and keyboard to a higher position.
Or, as a budget-friendly DIY alternative, use two shelves (one for your monitor, one for your keyboard and mouse) that are mounted securely to a wall at the right height for you to comfortably work while standing.
You will not be able to adjust the height once the shelves are mounted. But if you are the only person working on it, there is no need to. It’s also best to use a wireless keyboard and mouse and your fully charged laptop so you don’t have to move all the wires between the shelves and your normal desk when switching back to sitting.
A comfortable and ergonomic chair is absolutely essential. There is nothing worse than sitting on an uncomfortable stiff chair all day, trying to focus on your work.
Don’t go for one of those fancy minimalistic chairs. Yes, they look nicer. But in the long run, they are going to hurt your back. Do yourself a favor and invest in a proper office chair. Your entire body will thank you for it.
I personally prefer the ones with a headrest, armrests, and breathable mesh (so much better than leather, especially in summer!). This Oline ErgoPro chair is very similar to the one that I currently have and love.
A printer can also be very handy. But again, this depends on the kind of work you want to do and if you are the type of person who prefers seeing something printed out rather than on a monitor.
There are also smaller, portable printers you can take with you while traveling. I haven’t tested them so I can’t tell if they are worth the money or not. Speaking from experience, you are probably better up using copy shops when needed instead of carrying a travel printer with you.
13. Walking Pad or Bike
Yes, they are a thing. As said before, sitting is the new smoking. But even switching between sitting and standing won’t be enough if you work 8+ hours a day. That’s why there are now options that give you even more movement while working.
For one, there are walking pads. These are similar to treadmills you can find in your gym but much smaller and they are not made for running but simply to get a few steps in while working.
Another option would be under-desk bikes. This is like a normal exercise bike but instead of the handlebar, you have a tiny desk to place your laptop on. That means you can bike and work at the same time.
Both are great ideas if you feel like you need to get in more movement during your workday.
14. File Cabinets
Again, this one strongly depends on your needs. I don’t have a single piece of paper for my work. Everything is digital on my laptop.
But depending on your job and preferences, you may have lots of paperwork and therefore need storage for that. In that case, make sure you get enough folders, file cabinets, or drawers to keep your home office organized.
Also very important and a big part of every home office: plants.
A study conducted at Exeter University concludes that people are 15% (!) more productive when their workplaces are filled with houseplants.
Well, if that’s the case, then you most definitely need to get a bit of greenery on your desk or nearby. There probably is no easier trick to improve your productivity when working from home.
Extra Tip: In some countries, work equipment is tax-deductible. Check for your situation and keep all the receipts and bills of your business expenses.
The Right Home Office Setup Makes the Difference
As you can see, most of the things mentioned are fairly easy to implement and don’t need to cost a fortune. However, they can have a huge impact on your performance when working from home.
If you know how to set up a home office correctly, you can improve your productivity when working from home significantly. On top of that, a good home office setup can have a positive effect on your health, especially on your back and neck.
So make sure you implement as many of the mentioned tips as possible to be able to enjoy your remote work experience in the long run.