Home Office Set-Up Ideas: Creating The Perfect Office At Home
Bandwidth-hogging husbands and wives. Barfing children. Cat attacks! There are myriad obstacles between you and remote work bliss. The good news: if you invest some time into crafting the perfect office at home, you can shield yourself from the brunt of it. So get your pen and paper (or CTRL-V fingers for those using nifty digital notes apps) because you're embarking on a journey of discovery to learn how to plan and build the perfect office at home.
Why is carefully setting up your home office important?
Why should your dental surgeon wear gloves and masks? You know why. Being a professional means acting like one. If you enjoy working remotely and want to keep doing so, you're going to need to surpass people's expectations. Neil Gaiman once said something like this in a commencement speech: 'You can deliver great work, you can deliver on time, and you can be a joy to talk to. Get two out of three, and you're gold as a professional.' The bar for remote work is higher, though. In a world where leadership is still unsure about the value of letting employees work from home, you need to over-deliver.
Having the perfect office at home is part of that. It will keep you focused and productive; it will help you project an air of professionalism; it will keep you sane; it will prevent you from having work from home burnout.
How to create the perfect office at home?
Find a place to work where there's a door to shut. The background is a secondary concern - nowadays, you can cover up the fact that you're working from your murder-shack with some nifty Zoom backgrounds. The key is to get someplace where you won't get unexpected visitors.
A friend of mine - a software engineer - went one step further and put in a LED panel above, outside the room. He uses it to signal his family if he's available to be interrupted - a red light means there's a meeting going on, yellow means focus time, and green means it's okay to come in. You might feel such a solution is overkill, but the point is; get creative with it.
Ideally, what you need is a space that's dedicated to working. Does this mean you need a bigger place? Are you doomed to not having a good remote working office until you can afford a better realtor? Not in the least.
As Stephen King illustrated in his memoir 'On Writing' a dedicated workspace can be something as simple as a desk under the stairwell and a pair of headphones blaring music so loud that they effectively shut you out from the world around you. That's the theory - in practice, let's try to figure out something that avoids permanent hearing damage.
I work from my living room, but I've arranged my desk behind the couch; the couch works as a sort of frontier between the working area and the leisure area. A green-screen behind me plays well for Zoom backgrounds and double as a makeshift, movable wall.
A pair of noise-cancelling headphones let me work while people are enjoying some TV time, and a good directional microphone ensures my teammates don’t know what my family is watching during Zoom calls.
With some ingenuity and creativity, you can make almost any setup work for you in the pursuit of the perfect office at home. Just remember the core tenet: use whatever means available to create a little bubble around you, a bubble that doesn’t let work out and doesn’t let life in.
Home Office Set Up Ideas
Just as the humble Margherita serves as the starting point for many pizzas, so too should your perfect home office begin with the fundamentals. To recap: a good webcam plus proper lighting (don’t look like you’re in a witness protection program); noise-cancelling headphones; directional microphone; blazingly fast wi-fi; cute cat.
The cat is non-negotiable.
From this baseline, you can build your perfect office at home according to your preferences and lifestyle. Here are my three favourite themes to give you some inspiration:
This setup is all about being the star. You’ll get the green-screen just as I described before, so your Zoom backgrounds look great. But you’ll also want to get a tripod-mounted camera. I like the Logitech Pro C920, but they’re not paying me for advertising, so feel free to shop around. Add a strong white LED light in front of you, roughly level with your face — that will ensure your skin always looks FABULOUS, and your eyes have that Hollywood shine to them. Finally, get a nice reclining chair — top-tier gaming chairs are comfortable and look astonishing for a reasonable price — and you’ll be giving Al Pacino a run for his money.
The Fitness Aficionado
Of course, step one is getting a standing desk to improve posture and blood flow. You don’t even need a new desk — there are plenty of laptop and monitor stands that let you adapt your regular desk. But why stop there?
I have a friend who has a treadmill desk! And it’s not as hard as you may think. You can even get a treadmill with the controls mounted on the side, and voilà — you have a walking desk, not just a standing one. You’ll be the envy of the Zoom party when you show up strolling during calls.
Add a Yoga ball for sitting when walking is absolutely out of the question — it can look a bit uncomfortable when interacting with clients — plus a wearable to keep track of your activity while working, and you’re done!
This setup is all about business and optimizing your time. The centre-piece is the second screen. My biggest game-changer in remote work was when — at the insistence of my mentor — I got a second screen. Before, I didn’t see the point. After all, I could have unlimited virtual desktops on my laptop, an alt-tab away. And when push came to shove, I could tile two windows side-by-side. What difference would a second monitor make?
A lot. The extra screen real estate saves you a lot of mental fatigue from constantly switching, and it lets you take in more work and information at a glance. Don’t be a fool like I was — give it a try as soon as you can.
Then, get all your gadgets squared up. Add a USB hub with plenty of ports so that you can keep all your peripherals — mouse, cell-phone, keyboard, headset et al. — fully charged. You’ll want all of them to be wireless, of course. As a great Scottish man once said: “FREEEEEEDOM!”
Top it off with a beautiful cable organizer box. With a lid, naturally. So the cat won’t mess with it.
Enjoy Building Your Perfect Office At Home
The whole point of remote working is to get rid of the tyranny of fitting into a box. Now, you get to design your personal box, and it doesn’t have to be a box. It can be an oasis of calm that puts you in the right mindset to do your best work. So, if you haven’t guessed by now, my guidelines for building a perfect office at home are just that — guidelines. They are there to direct and inspire you, but perfect for me will never be perfect for you. Be liberal in stealing from this article, but I’m also curious about what you will develop that fits your style. Do let us know in the comments. And have fun!
Luis Magalhães is Director of Marketing and editor-in-chief at Think Remote. He writes about how to build and manage remote teams, and the benefits of hiring remote workers. He's been managing editorial teams remotely for the past 15 years, and training teammates to do so for nearly as long.