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!”
Yet, by the end of 2020, over 36% of the American workforce had attempted at least some form of freelance work. And over 70% of workers had spent at least part of that year working from home.
It feels good to be a trendsetter.
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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 years of sage wisdom to all who seek it.
That’s why I’ve put together this simple work from home office setup checklist.
My home office journey
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.
As a graphic designer, my freelance career started as a work-from-home venture. But as my business grew I felt myself becoming increasingly annoyed by constant distractions at home.
And so, I began experimenting with collab-style workspaces.
That is, until 2020 hit, and I found myself right back where I started.
It felt strange at first. But after only a short while, I hit my stride.
So much so that I eventually decided to make the move back home permanent.
The difference-maker this time around? This time, I made a list, set some boundaries, and gave myself some guard rails.
And now I pass down what I learned to you, my padawan learning remote workers.
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. The perfect home office set up if you will – at least in my opinion.
Courtesy of the school of hard knocks.
1. Office supplies
Planning is key. 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.
Below, I’ve included a checklist of supplies to get your creative juices flowing with some of my favorite home office essentials. You can also access a printable version of this home office setup checklist here.
4 home office basics
Most people only need four things to get started.
- A reliable internet connection
- A computer (and software)
- A comfortable home office desk
- A comfortable 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.
The best home office chairs
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 aside from, perhaps, my bed.
And having a great chair makes a huge difference for those of you out there like me who tend to suffer from back pain. It’s one of the best ways to prevent issues before they start.
I’m currently using this genuine leather executive desk chair from Zuri.
My husband, the gamer, swears by this Ultra High-Back Markus office chair 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.
Or, if you have enough space and want to create the ultimate ergonomic home office, consider foregoing the chair altogether and get a standing desk.
30 other home office suggestions
Below you will find a few more suggestions for home office supplies. And don’t forget, you can access a printable version of this list here.
These are the items that I use on a near-daily basis in my own home office.
- Ergonomic Mouse
- Computer Monitor
- Headphones (or Ear Buds)
- External Hard Drive
- Printer (or all in one with Scanner)
- Power Strip (or Surge Protector)
- Mouse Pad
- Printer Paper
- Printer Ink
- Waste Basket
- Desk Lamp (or Floor Lamp)
- Cable Organizer
- Desk Organizer
- Portable Monitor
- Desk Pad/Mat
- Ember Mug
- Water Bottle
- Yeti Tumbler
- Desk Shelves
- Multi-Cable Phone Charger
- Podcast Mic
- Desk Ring Light
- Portable Light
- Blue Light Glasses (for eye strain)
2. A dedicated workspace
Now that you have your basic supplies in place, you’re going to need a proper workspace.
I can not emphasize the importance of this step enough.
By creating a dedicated space for yourself, you are creating a physical and mental separation between work life and your home life, which promotes a healthy work-life balance.
If you spend too much time working from the living room 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 or working from the kitchen table. 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 don’t know where the remote is – quit asking.
Not sure how or where to carve that small space out for yourself in a compact home or apartment? Check out some of these unique, ultra clever home office solutions:
- A fold-out wall-mounted work desk (works like a murphy bed)
- A travel laptop stand (folds up when not in use)
- A cloffice (do as I did and convert a closet into an office)
And if you’re struggling to find a quiet space in your own home, at the very least consider picking up a pair of headphones capable of muffling background noise.
3. A set of house rules
This one is a game-changer.
When I started working from home the second time around, I instituted some ground 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 important conference calls or deep work sessions are happening.
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 team members 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 sweatpants.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great proponent of lazy days and chilling out.
But when you’re working from the comfort of your own home it’s a good idea 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 webcam ready if I’m invited to last-minute video calls 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, it’s going to be a good idea 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 thy own self be true.
Are you currently thinking about creating a home office space? What are your best tips for remote working? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to connect with me on social.