I left my corporate career behind in 2017 before it was the popular thing to do.
Back then, my friends and family thought I was crazy.
“I could never work for myself,” they said. “And I could certainly never work from home!”
It feels good to be a trendsetter.
And now that the rest of America is waking up to the benefits that remote work has to offer, I’ve begun to fancy myself as a bit of an “elder” in the movement.
A Yoda, if you will. Ready to offer guidance and my (5) years of sage wisdom to all who seek it.
That’s why I’ve put together this simple work from home office setup checklist.
But before we begin, it’s important to confess that my relationship with home offices has been rather love-hate over the years.
This, in my opinion, makes my advice even more valuable – because it was hard-earned through trial and error.
While my freelance career started as a work-from-home venture, I spent the majority of 2018-2021 in various collab workspaces and private offices.
But a few months ago, I found myself craving something different, once again.
I wanted more flexibility, and a little peace and quiet. The private office space that I once loved in busy downtown Miami began to feel more like an anchor than a vessel for freedom.
And so, I made plans to take my business back home.
It felt strange at first. But after only a short while, I felt more confident about my decision. I am now less stressed and excited about what the future holds.
The difference-maker this time around? Preparation.
This time, I stuck to the checklist.
And now I pass down this checklist down to you, my padawan learner.
Without further ado, below are five things that I believe every work-from-home professional needs to create an environment that’s happy, healthy and productive.
Courtesy of the school of hard knocks.
1. Office supplies
Planning is key. From day one, you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessities in place.
And I’d like to emphasize the word necessities. I highly caution against overspending on a bunch of junk you’ll never use on day one.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I’ve included a checklist of supplies below to get your creative juices flowing with some of my favorite home office suggestions. You can also download a printable version of this home office setup checklist here.
Most people only need four things to get started
- A reliable internet connection
- A computer (and required software)
- A comfortable desk
- A great office chair
After a few days at home, just purchase additional supplies when/if the need arises. I promise it’s far less expensive in the long run if you only buy what you absolutely need.
If you want to splurge, splurge on the important stuff.
For instance, I swear by having a great chair because I know I spend more time using this piece of furniture than any other furniture I own next to, perhaps, my bed.
I’m currently using this genuine leather executive chair from Zuri. But I realize the Zuri line isn’t going to work for every budget.
For mid-range priced options, IKEA carries a great line of quality office chairs.
Before I upgraded to my Zuri, I used this IKEA Swivel chair, which I’d still be using today if I hadn’t leased out of my office as a furnished unit. And my husband, the gamer, swears by this Ultra High-Back Markus office chair, also from IKEA.
If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to consider this Basic Classic Mid-Back chair. It’s the #1 best-selling home office chair on Amazon with over 14,000 (mostly 5-star) reviews for under $100.
Other home office suggestions include
- Computer Mouse
- Computer Monitor
- Web Cam
- External Hard Drive
- Power Strip
- Phone Charger
- Microsoft Word
- Mouse Pad
- Printer Paper
- Printer Ink
- Waste Basket
- Desk Lamp
- Cable Organizer
Office Upgrades & Extras (also great gift ideas for other work from homers)
- Desk Organizer
- Portable Monitor
- Desk Pad/Mat
- Ember Mug
- Water Jug
- Yeti Tumbler
- Foot Hammock
- Cord Organizer
Zoom Upgrades & Extras
And don’t forget, you can download a printable version of this list here.
2. A dedicated workspace
Now that you have your basic supplies in place, you’re going to need a dedicated workspace.
I can not emphasize the importance of this step enough.
By creating a dedicated space for yourself, you are creating a healthy physical and mental separation between work life and your personal life.
If you spend too much time working from the couch or bed, those barriers begin to blur.
You’ll never really feel like you’re “off” work.
Creating that physical boundary will also minimize excessive distractions from family and/or roommates.
My husband, for instance, will interrupt me at least 20 times in a single work session when I’m sitting on the couch. The same phenomenon does not take place, at least nearly as often, when I’m at my dedicated workspace.
And for the record, no, I did not hide the remote. Quit asking.
Not sure how or where to carve that space out for yourself in a small home or apartment? Check out some of these unique, ultra clever home office solutions:
- A fold-out wall-mounted desk (works like a murphy bed)
- A travel tripod desk (folds up when not in use)
- A cloffice (a converted closet office)
If you’ve never searched for the term “cloffice” on Pinterest, you’re missing out. Thank me later.
3. A set of house rules
This one is a game-changer.
When I started working from home the second time around, I instituted a set of house rules.
House rules are ultra-important if your spouse also works from home, as mine does, or you share your space with other family members or roommates.
Our biggest rule is our “closed-door” policy.
Our apartment is fairly small – about 1,300 square feet – but we are fortunate enough to have two bedrooms. And we keep a workspace in each.
When the door is closed, we know the other person is in “do not disturb” mode. We strive to pretend like the other person isn’t even home. A closed-door means there’s an important phone call, or deep work taking place.
We also use Slack to communicate with each other throughout the day.
It may sound silly to Slack someone while sitting in the next room. But I find Slack to be far less disruptive than barging in on each other’s spaces every few minutes just to chat.
After all, we normalize Slacking each other while sitting a few cubicles away at the office. Why not normalize it for inter-house communication?
House rules can also apply to kids and other family members.
An article in The Muse suggests using visual cues like homemade stop signs to indicate to kids that you are not to be disturbed during certain hours of the day. Unless of course, it’s an emergency.
4. A daily routine
If you’re like 99% of the general population, there’s a good chance you spent at least part of 2020 in sweat pants.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great proponent of lazy days and chilling out.
But when you’re working from home it’s crucially important to maintain a daily routine that involves basic self-care. Self-care items include putting on real clothes, doing your hair (and/or makeup) and at least 20-30 minutes of exercise.
Research shows that there’s a direct correlation between daily self-care routine and mood.
You see, it isn’t really about how you look, it’s about how you feel.
When you look like a slouch, you feel like a slouch.
That’s why, today, I get up and go through the exact motions of getting ready that I would normally do if I were commuting to a real office.
I can’t tell you what this little routine has done for my mental health.
Plus – I’m always ready to go if I’m invited to a last-minute Zoom call during the day.
And including exercise in that routine is also of the utmost importance.
If you hate working out like I do, consider picking an activity that doesn’t feel like exercise. Like a walk around your neighborhood.
5. Healthy snacks
And finally, you’ll want to decrease the amount of easy-to-grab unhealthy treats lying around in the kitchen and increase the amount of munchable low-prep healthy snacks.
Listen, I’m no health nut. I wish I was.
I’m addicted to sweet tea, I love chocolate and have a major soft spot in my heart for Krispy Kreme.
I also know, that when these items are in the house, I will eat them all.
I have no self-control.
In an attempt to prevent a heart attack before the age of 40, when I know I’m going to be spending more time at home, I alter my grocery shopping habits.
I ditch the easy-to-grab donuts and replace my would-be afternoon snack with a can of V8. Or a simple garden salad.
Don’t get me wrong. I still have sweets in the house. I just limit how much I buy, and try to make them far less accessible than the healthy stuff.
I’m not suggesting that you deprive yourself of the good things in life. But I’m strongly suggesting that you limit the constant temptation.
As the saying goes, to thine own self be true.
What are your best tips for working from home? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to connect with me on social.