Maybe you’re tired of schlepping into the office every day. Or maybe, just maybe, you don’t love your micromanaging boss. In an effort to score some more work-life balance, you’ve decided to ditch your office job in favor of flexible work and freedom. But before you can be a productive home-based worker, you’ll need to set up a home office.
Whether you live in a luxurious condo or a cramped two-bedroom apartment, you can make any space work as a home office. Here’s how to create a home office space with both form and function in mind.
Yes, you can work from any location, but that doesn’t mean that you should. In order to work from home successfully, you’ll need to have a dedicated base from which to operate. An extra bedroom makes for an ideal office space, but if you don’t have a spare room, you’ll need to get creative with your surroundings. You can use a converted garage or attic if you want to have a completely separate space from the rest of your household.
In a tiny studio apartment? Clear out a closet and use that as your office hub, or section off a corner of your room with dividers to create an office nook. You can really use any space that you have to make a home office, but it should be an area that you dedicate only to work (your bed and your dining room table are not good options).
Once you’ve settled on a space, it’s time to get it ready for your remote job. Buy the best computer equipment your budget will allow for; after all, if you use older gear, there’s a good chance that it could break before you even get started. You’ll also need the fastest Internet connection possible in order to work more productively. This is so important that some employers require you to have a specific download speed, for example, 5 mbps, before they’ll let you work remotely.
There are a number of products to consider to maximize your offices functionality: wireless mouse and keyboard, dual monitors and even rechargeable batteries for those wireless devices.
If there’s something that can be automated in your home office, take advantage of it. Save yourself a few seconds and some brain clutter every morning by choosing multiple tabs to open automatically when you start your favorite Internet browser in the morning. Whether you use Chrome, Firefox, Safari or something else, check out the tools or settings, and set your browser to automatically open tabs to the sites you use first thing every day. Most people choose things like email and calendars.
Also, task your computer with reminding you to get up and move around. Home offices are notorious for encouraging you to sit down most of the day, but apps like Time Out for Mac and Workrave for PC give reminders to move, stretch and take breaks to help you avoid overwork.
When it comes to furnishing your office, you want it to be stylish, not sterile. So pick products that can do double-duty and allow your home office to match the rest of your home. Pretty vases can hold pens and pencils, and woven baskets can hold file folders. And if your home office is low on square footage, look to your walls for a solution by adding shelving to create more storage.
Be sure to orient your desk in a direction that maximizes your daily enjoyment while keeping you productive. If your home office happens to look out onto picturesque scenery, facing the window may be your best bet. But if you’ll be distracted by a busy street or your neighbor’s apartment window, face your desk so you’re looking into your own office. You have much more control over what you’re staring at — and potentially distracted by — when you’re facing in rather than out.
If you simply must know what’s happening outside your home, consider using the free Nextdoor app to stay in touch with your neighbors without being distracted by them all day long.
For many at-home workers, the lure of an ever-present, well-stocked kitchen just down the hall is too much to resist. If you think you’ll be popping out of the office to find snacks too often, consider stocking a drawer in your desk with quick-fix food items. The less time you spend outside of your office, the more you’ll get done.
Another rule for many remote workers is to keep your office door shut — if you do have an office door, that is. Creating a physical barrier between you and the rest of your distracting home means you’ll have to think twice every time you want to leave your office space. As it turns out, that laundry, vacuuming, cookie baking and TV show marathon can wait.
Your home office exists so you can make money, not spend it. All sorts of little things can break or stop functioning the way they once did, but spending more money on your home office isn’t always the best approach. If you must buy something, check out second-hand shops and reuse stores before buying new.
Working from home can make you a happier, more productive professional — provided you set yourself up for success with a functional home office. Take time to set the stage for yourself and you’ll cross more things off your to-do list and find better work-life balance.