Everything You Need for the Perfect Home Office
Summer’s almost here, and many of us are still working remotely for the foreseeable future. If you’re new to the world of work from home (AKA WFH), you’ve probably read up on how to stay productive while working remotely. Once you’re in the right mindset, it’s time to address the physical side of things. That means preparing a dedicated workspace in the form of your very own home office.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be working from your bedroom or another private space for the next several months. For many, the kitchen counter or a large closet might be as good as it gets. Whatever your situation, we can help you make the most of it.
Why does your home office matter?
If you’re doing a 40-hour workweek, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your home office. That means it needs to be comfortable and inspiring—a haven in which you can work productively and efficiently.
In addition, you want to strike a healthy work-life balance during these crazy times. If you’re curled up on your bed with a laptop every day, there’s no line between going to the work and going to sleep. Having a quality work-from-home space impacts your productivity and your mental health.
What do you need in a home office space?
Since the days of open offices and dedicated meeting rooms are behind us for now, you need a great work-from-home space. Let’s look at both what an ideal home office looks like and how to hack it if you’re stuck in a less-than-perfect space.
Your home workspace should:
- Be quiet. If you’re working, you need a quiet space in which you can concentrate. The best option is to work in a designated room with a solid door that you can close. This is particularly important if you’re living with anyone else, be they parents, roommates, siblings, or pets. If a separate room is impossible, invest in some noise-canceling headphones or even a white noise machine.
- Give you privacy. Sure, it’s funny when your important phone call is interrupted by a screaming toddler or overly enthusiastic dog, but as an intern or entry-level hire, you want to project professionalism and poise. That means finding a private space for work if at all possible. Doors work best, but you can also consider hanging a curtain if needed. Let everyone in your household know your working hours and ask that they try to respect your privacy.
- Have lots of light. Natural light is a huge energizer, so try to work by a window. You’ll be more attentive, more productive, and happier—plus you’ll avoid straining your eyes. If you can’t work near natural light, consider purchasing a good desk lamp—or just take frequent breaks outside to get some Vitamin D.
- Be separate from your personal spaces. To strike that elusive work-life balance, it’s important to have a dedicated workspace. If you have a separate room, that’s great. Close the door at night to signal that the workday is over. If you just have a desk (or a corner of a table), simply walk away at the end of the day. Find another place for leisure-time computer use and other activities.
- Have a neutral background. Working remotely tends to mean lots of video meetings, so be aware of what others see on their screens. The safest option is to keep it fairly neutral—bookshelves or blank walls are easy on the eyes. If you’re entire workspace is covered in antique dolls or political posters, try a non-distracting virtual background.
What supplies do you need to work efficiently?
In addition to a great workspace, your home office needs certain supplies to run smoothly. While your individual needs will depend on the type of work you’re doing, there are some key items to keep in mind.
- A desk. A good office starts with a good desk. Big or small, standing or sitting, that’s all up to you. If you don’t have space for an actual desk, section off a part of your dining room table or counter. Then, make it yours by following the tips below. And if you’re an artist, architect, or designer, keep in mind that you might need an additional workspace.
- An ergonomic chair. While we encourage frequent breaks for stretching, it’s also important to have a comfortable, adjustable chair so that you don’t do long-lasting harm to your back. If you don’t have that, read some articles on proper working posture. Your shoulders and neck will thank you in 10 years!
- Space for documents and files. While most work is online nowadays, you’ll want room for your onboarding documents and other important papers. If you have a lot of them, do yourself a favor and organize them by category so that you can easily find what you need.
- A second monitor. Having a second monitor can really help your productivity, allowing you to compare multiple documents at once and balance different tasks.
- High-speed internet. If you’re working from home, you need to be well connected to the rest of the world. Check that you have a strong internet signal wherever you’re working. You may need to extend your signal with a WiFi extender or another router to use as a repeater.
- A docking station, headphones, and a mouse. These are all nice-to-haves, making it easier to plug in, work efficiently, and stay focused.
- Notebooks, pens, and post-its. Typing is great and all, but sometimes, you’re going to want to take notes by hand. Treat yourself to some nice notebooks and new pens. It’s also helpful to have the office basics on hand—think the same stuff you get when it’s time to head back to school: post-its, a stapler, paper clips, tape, and highlighters.
- Healthy snacks. A lot of offices provide snacks to keep employees happy and energized throughout the workday. Keep your energy up by stocking your home office with healthful snacks, such as trail mix, fruit, crackers, and granola bars. (But if you want to go the fruit snacks and potato chips route, we won’t judge.)
- Personal decorations, photos, and/or plants. Finally, you want to make your home office an enjoyable space. Don’t stare at a blank wall all day. Hang up some photos of your friends to make yourself smile or treat yourself to a fun succulent or poster by a local artist. This is your space, and you deserve somewhere pleasant.
How do you ask an employer for home-office support?
If you’re a student and this is your first time working from home full-time, you might be thinking, “Setting up a home office sounds pretty pricey!” It’s true that a home office can be an investment, but here’s the good news: You can get your work done with just a laptop and the internet—and most employers will provide you with a laptop for a full-time internship or job.
While employers are unlikely to buy you a standing desk and printer for the summer, some companies do provide stipends for necessary supplies—and many provide some basic items to get you started, such as headphones, a keyboard and mouse, and a docking station. If your employer provides a stipend, you can spend it as you see fit. Put it towards a standing desk or treat yourself to a wireless charger.
If there are supplies you really need to succeed and you can’t afford them, reach out to HR to check on the company’s policy for telecommuting reimbursements. If the company has policies in place, that’s the end of the discussion. If not, there’s some room for flexibility. Don’t ask for a new couch and color-coordinated wall art; instead, keep your request to things that are vital to your completing your job. Save all your receipts, and follow up with HR on how to get reimbursed.