Home Office Setup Ideas

If you find yourself working from home regularly, there are a few things that you can do to make your home more WFH-friendly.

U.S. News & World Report

Home Office Setup Ideas

Man using computer in home office

Set up a space in your home where the lighting is good, internet connection is strong and distractions are minimal to keep you productive throughout the workday.(Getty Images)

Working from home, or WFH, isn't just common in the workforce today – it's increasingly the norm. Companies and employees are realizing that a lot of work can be accomplished without actually coming into an office. Video chat platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and Hangouts have enabled people to attend meetings from anywhere in the world, not only prompting companies to rethink the importance (or even relevance) of office attendance, but also causing people to rethink how their homes double as offices.

While the commute to work has long been considered a key factor for homebuyers, it seems to come up less and less for real estate agents working with their clients, perhaps because of the proliferation of working from home.

If working from home is becoming the norm, here are a few things that you can do to make your home more WFH-friendly:

  • Perfect your video chat background.
  • Designate a place for work.
  • Get good lighting.
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks.
  • Upgrade your technology.

Perfect Your Video Chat Background

At the start of a workday, most people groom and dress based on the meetings they have on their calendar for the day. Depending on the day, you might put on a suit and dress shoes, or jeans and sneakers. Even if someone is working from home in pajamas, they might put on a nice shirt before logging into a meeting via Zoom or Hangouts.

But what’s going on behind you? When you're in a pitch or strategy meeting trying to be taken seriously, will your clients and colleagues see an unmade bed behind you? You’re inviting the people you work with into your home, or at least into a small section of it.

Consider picking a plain wall. Pick out a spot in your home for videoconferencing and think about the background behind you. Having a plain wall behind you might be ideal, with solid paint, brick or even contemporary wallpaper, to convey a neutral message.

Declutter the space behind you. If you have shelving behind your desk, then declutter and organize those shelves. Remove beat-up, soft-cover books, dead plants or cheap collectibles, and replace them with elegant coffee table books, fresh flowers or a tidy plant, and simple but attractive objects. If the shelves are sagging, can you tighten them? You don’t want your colleagues to worry that the shelves will collapse in the middle of the call.

Keep cushions neat. If you’re beaming in from a bedroom or living room, make sure the cushions and blankets are straight and look plush.

Try out the background. Take a screenshot and apply a critical eye to edit out anything distracting or off-putting, or run a test video call with a friend whose opinion you trust, and who will tell you that the edgy contemporary art behind you looks like a crime scene.

Stage your background with video chats in mind. If you have video chats with clients who are tightening their belts, keep the background simple and not ostentatious. If your clients are entrusting you with fresh ideas, the visual message you’re sending about your own home needs to convey your modern taste. Ultimately, if your home in the background looks messy and disorganized, it may convey that you don’t have a handle on the work you are being paid to do.

Designate a Place for Work

Corporate strategist Marc Schechter and his husband recently applied to rent a house in Connecticut, leaving a one-bedroom apartment in New York City that was walking distance from work. “We are both telecommuting now, and our comfort in working from home has become the top priority," Schechter says. "As working from home became more the norm, our apartment just seemed to shrink. This house has separate home offices for both of us, unlike a few houses that we passed on."

Find a private spot. Having an office setup separate from the rest of the house also makes it easier not to be sucked in by the many at-home distractions that we all have. “Working in the house is tough with our kids also at home,” says Amanda Hirsh, who works in artist and trade relations for Simply Framed, a custom art-framing company. She lives in Aspen, Colorado, with her husband and two young sons, and adds that, fortunately, “our office is off our bedroom – the boys can still find us, but it’s harder with one more door separating us from them when we are working.”

Pick a corner that will keep you motivated. Of course, having a dedicated home office is ideal as we transfer more and more to a WFH workforce, but if you don’t have enough space or separate rooms, pick a corner or nook to set up your desk.

Reena Patton is an entertainment professional in Los Angeles and has been working from home more often. “When I work from home, I sit at a sunny table-and-chair setup by the window in my kitchen. It’s a nice change of pace from the office.” She admits that she plans to buy a more ergonomic chair since her current desk setup isn’t great for hours at the computer, but she isn’t sure how productive she’d be if she worked from a bed or sofa. By setting aside a spot where you do your work, it helps to mentally turn “work mode” on and off.

Get Good Lighting

Whenever a home goes on the market, one of the first things many agents discuss is whether to add light to a home, often with floor lamps that shoot light up to the ceiling and then reflect back down again.

Sit by a window. Many people looking for a new home prioritize natural light, and in the northern hemisphere, southern exposure is the brightest. When setting up your home for WFH success, make sure your workspace is well-lit. “I love how bright and light our home office is,” Hirsh says. She adds that the right lighting “makes it really motivating and easy to work from home.”

Tommy Wiles, a marketing executive at Google in San Francisco, feels similarly: “I choose to work near the largest windows in our house, and even occasionally take a video-conference call from our patio. I find that natural light keeps me energized and elevates my mood. And when my team sees me on videoconference in such a sunny workspace, I think they all raise their game a little as well; it telegraphs that we aren’t slacking off, sitting in a dark room watching TV all day when we should be working.”

Avoid dim lighting and shadows. Not only is good lighting important to keep you motivated, but it’s helpful for videoconferencing as well. Your workspace should appear conducive to getting work done, not telling ghost stories by the campfire.

Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy Snacks

On any typical day at work, many employees are accustomed to taking breaks and grabbing coffee or a snack in the kitchenette.

Treat your kitchen like your break room. While special treats in the office kitchen may include birthday cake or junk food, a peckish scavenger during the workday will find that snacks like nuts, fruit or chocolate help re-motivate to get back to work without wasting time. If this is you, invest in a coffee maker and stock your kitchen with healthy snacks that don’t require much preparation.

Upgrade Your Technology

As we all become more reliant on technology to get our work done, make sure your internet connection can sustain the needs of long videoconferences, and that requires colleagues and clients to see and hear you clearly. It might also be time to invest in a printer and scanner, even if you’ve avoided these in the past.

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