Setting Up a Home Office for Remote Work

A look at the remote work tools, software, and equipment you need to create the ideal work from home office.

While one of the perks of working remotely is that you can drag your laptop to any room and pluck away at the day’s to-dos, working from your bed or couch is not the most effective way to get into a flow state.

Even if you work from a studio apartment, creating a specific space for work-only tasks makes starting work and signing off for the day much easier. And this separation between work and life will help you avoid the toxic remote work burnout scenarios employers are now furiously trying to mend.

Setting Up a Home Office for Remote Work: Dedicated Office

You lucky duck! A whole room to yourself to outfit with whatever you need to work well and maintain that all-important work-life balance. Your commute may only be a few steps down the hall, but there are things you can do to make your home office feel like its own unique space. Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

1. Choose the Focus

Think back over your career. Where were you when you did your best, most focused work? Don’t just think of the spaces where you did the most work. Really think about where you got your best ideas and created your most significant contributions.

Have a place in mind? Now think about what made it unique.

The aim here is to be intentional about the focus of your home office. If your most productive work happened in a sparse, minimalist setting, bring that vibe to your home office. Do your killer ideas always come in coffee shops? Consider changing the lights and decor to better match your favorite java spot.

You know your job. You know how you best operate. Focus on designing your office around your needs…it is your space, after all.

2. Paint Your Remote Work Office…or Not

There are designers out there who say a red room will help you feel powerful, while a green room helps you relax. If you subscribe to this color theory ideology, then choose a color that will put you in the right frame to do your best work.

Here are some tips if you do decide to paint your home office:

  • Don’t paint a small room with dark colors (it’ll look even smaller and cave-like…unless that’s what you’re going for)
  • Try an accent wall of one color for a bright pop that’s not overwhelming
  • Try painting all the trim for a unique look
  • Patch test a few shades in the color you want before buying gallons (colors can often look different at a larger scale and with your office lighting)

3. Pick the Right Kind of Desk

You’ll see a lot of people recommending stand-up desks. They’re trendy right now, and not without reason…being sedentary all day isn’t great for you. But that doesn’t mean a stand-up desk is the only solution (especially since it’s an expensive one).

There are many styles of desks at all different price points that can do the job in a home office, including L-shaped desks, square and round tables used as a desk, and the classic rectangle desk with drawers. And if you keep a lean tech setup, you can even repurpose your desk for other uses outside of work.

Dual purpose remote work office using a round table instead of a traditional desk.
Dual purpose remote work office using a round table instead of a traditional desk.

Try Craigslist for free or heavily discounted desks before you buy new.

4. Position Your Computer

First and foremost, resist the urge to get too many monitors. More monitors does not mean you’re more productive. Oftentimes more screens just means more distractions…you feel obliged to fill those screens with open tabs packed with notifications you don’t need.

Most remote work can be done just fine on a 13” laptop screen. Having a larger monitor can definitely help, but it’s not always necessary.

That said, where you put your screen is important. Here’s the best way to position your screen:

  • Sit (or stand) comfortably with your shoulders back
  • Drop your hands to the surface of your desk or table - this is where your keyboard will go (it should be close to your body…you want to avoid stretching your arms out to reach it)
  • Look straight ahead without any curving in your neck or shoulders
  • Take a measuring tape or have someone else pinpoint and mark the straight line a few feet away from your face
  • Place your computer here (you’ll likely have to find a stand to raise it up)

This creates a healthy posture that prevents rounded shoulders and a cranked neck.

5. Tweak Over Time

You probably won’t get it right immediately. It can take some time to find what works and what doesn’t. Don’t rush major changes or purchases if you don’t have to…spend some time in your space first to figure out what’s right for you.

Setting Up a Home Office for Remote Work: Multi-Use Space

If you don’t have a dedicated home office (or you have a hybrid work schedule and only need space a few days a week), there are still plenty of ways to create a remote work setup to do your best work. Here are some ideas for setting up a home office that doesn’t require much room, but still provides that separation between work and play:

1. Carve Out a Few Feet

While it’s tempting to just work from the couch or bed in a smaller space, it really helps to carve out at least a few square feet dedicated to work.

Look at this as an opportunity. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to downsize and reorganize for some time now, and creating a workspace is the perfect excuse to get started. Begin by assessing every piece of furniture in your place. Does it actually get used? If not, consider selling or donating it and putting a small table or desk in its place.

If all your furniture gets used, perhaps it can be swapped for a smaller size. Do you really need a full entertainment center? Consider selling or swapping it for a compact TV stand instead, freeing up space to put a desk against the wall.
Your small workspace may not fit with the ideal design you had in mind, but it’ll pay dividends when it comes to doing your best work.

2. Face the Wall or Window

While it may feel sad to face the wall all day, homes are full of distractions. And these distractions become even more intense when they’re always in eyesight. Why not just lay on the bed for a few minutes? You can totally focus on work while watching reruns of Survivor on TV. I’ll work better when those dishes are done.

By turning your workspace to face a window or a wall, it’ll be easier to tune out distractions and find your flow state.

3. Search Creatively

Are even the smallest desks still too big for your remote office? Try getting creative with how you search for home office furniture.

If all you need is a simple laptop and a place to put your coffee cup, consider searching for a nice TV tray or entryway table. These items tend to run much smaller than compact desks, but can still provide the necessary function you need: a place to work.

Use an entryway table instead of a traditional desk when you have limited home office space for remote work.
Use an entryway table instead of a traditional desk when you have limited home office space for remote work.

4. Have Your Own Light Source

Traditional home lighting can often feel dark when trying to get into work mode, which can leave you feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day. Thankfully, there are plenty of good lamps that take up minimal space, and will provide the light you need to get into the zone. You might even consider investing in a sun lamp, which recreates the benefits of direct sunlight, indoors.

5. Invest in Noise Canceling Headphones

Since you can’t just close the door when you need to focus, you’ll have to find a way to shut out the rest of your home. Noise canceling headphones are a great tool for this. Find ones that fully cover your ears, as these do the best job of creating a sense of isolation.

Looking for more ways to improve your work from home lifestyle? Considering the all-new Basecamp. An all-in-one system for working remotely, Basecamp has everything you need to do your best work. Best of all, you can get started for free in just 30 seconds. What have you got to lose?

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