Workplace Culture

6 Simple Suggestions for How to Set Up a Home Office

January 7, 2021

It may be a challenge to know just how to set up a home office. Here are six suggestions to help you get your office environment just right.

How to Set Up a Home Office Cover Image 1

Working from home has been a pretty big adjustment for me.  I’ve worked in every office setting from banks to classrooms, and then in my car as an outside sales rep, which is basically an office flipped inside-out.  While you’d think I’d be flexible, considering all the environments I’ve worked in, I feel the opposite.  In fact, as I transitioned into my new home office, I almost felt paralyzed in a way.

So, if you are anything like me, learning how to set up a home office wasn’t a one-and-done type situation.  Perhaps you haven’t even mastered your new abode after all these months!  If you feel stuck in a rut, and still a little uncomfortable, then this post is for you.  Here are a few suggestions to show you how to set up a home office.  Before long, you will be feeling as comfortable in your work environment as you did before Mother Nature unleased the COVID beast.

How to Set Up a Home Office

First of all, let’s discuss some of the must-have basics for setting up your home office. 

  • separate space (not your bedroom)
  • door
  • natural light (not to be confused with the beer, but hey, who’s checking?)
  • hard, flat surface to serve as a desk
  • chair
  • electrical outlets
  • strong WIFI signal

Of course, having all these basics won’t be possible all the time.  In fact, sometimes the only thing you’ll have is a WIFI signal, and it might not even be a strong one.  So, in those moments, just push on through, and remind yourself this is temporary.  Hopefully, anyway.

Home Office Tips

Now that you have acquired some basics, let’s discuss putting these items to use.  In reality, setting up your home office is more about managing expectations.  For example, just because you have a door doesn’t mean it is possible to keep it shut all the time.  Unfortunately, you will encounter distractions, so this how you can go about addressing them, rather than eliminating them altogether.

Photo of a door inside a home office.

1: No “No Kids Allowed” Signs!

One of the hardest things for me is trying to balance working and meeting my family’s needs.  My kids don’t seem to understand that I have a job.  My husband is on the struggle bus with me, because he is also working from home.  So, when we tell the kids we need space and they aren’t allowed in the home office, it often backfires.

Therefore, I’ve toyed with a solution in the form of reverse psychology.  I’ve invited the kids into my workspace!  Instead of posting a “No Kids Allowed” sign, I’ve posted a “Visit Me” sign.  I tell the kids I’m setting a timer, and whenever the timer goes off, they must come tell me what they’ve been doing or what they’ve learned in their virtual class.  Believe it or not, the interruptions have drastically reduced, because they look forward to rushing in with an update each time they hear the ding.

Related:  Leadership, Management, and How to Lead Your Managers

2: Keep Office Hours

Speaking of setting a timer for your children, you’ll want it to coincide with breaks you set during your office hours.  Remember, you shouldn’t be spending every hour of every day in your home office.  You need to emerge and live your life at some point.  So, establish a hard in, and a hard out for each day.  Of course, there will be times you need to be flexible.  Still, make that the exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

Since you established office hours with your kids, also show your availability on your Outlook calendar.  If your coworkers know your schedule, ideally they will respect your boundaries and only invade your home office when they are invited.

3: Allot Snacks in Your Home Office

Isn’t there some phenomenon called “the COVID quarter?”  Meaning, you gained a quarter of your body weight in 2020?  Ok, maybe I’m the only one who gained weight and I’m just projecting.  Anyway, a big struggle for me during this time is access to endless snacks.  Unfortunately, my home office is just too near to the kitchen.

Photo of the inside of a refrigerator with two Silk products, a Mott's applesauce, and some berries on one shelf, with a variety of vegetables below it.

So, how do we combat this, since we can’t redesign the layout of our house?  Well, try a snack allotment each day!  This is simple:  pick out the snacks you plan to enjoy, then put a small portion into separate containers.  If they are cold items, put them all on the same shelf in a row in the refrigerator.  Once the snacks are gone, they are gone.  It will take a little bit of willpower to resist refilling, but once you form the habit, you’ll look forward to your snack, and you’ll eliminate your binge eating problem in your home office.

4: Stand Up and Stretch

Ok, I’m not going to tell you to all-out strike a yoga pose. Figuring out how to set up your home office doesn’t even need to involve finding space for a yoga mat.  However, it would do wonders for your body to reach for the sky, then reach down to touch your toes each time you have to get up to go to the restroom.  So, if at all possible, have a little wiggle room in your home office that allows you space to practice your warrior, or maybe even a downward dog.  If you don’t have space, just step into the hallway to get your savasana on.

5: Get a Plant or Two in Your Home Office

Did you know carbon dioxide is released with each breath you exhale?  Also, did you know that soil is a great sponge for carbon?  So, if you want to freshen your air naturally, without having to spend hundreds of dollars on an air purifier from Lowes, consider buying a plant!  Or two! 

Photo of a potted plant in front of a tile backdrop.

Believe it or not, plants are actually considered to improve more than just air quality.  In fact, research shows plants can also decrease anxiety, and improve focus and memory!  So, you might as well start a greenhouse in your home office, because you need all the stress reduction you can get. 

Related:  Time Out: Rethinking Time Management

6: Light is Where It’s At

Now, this one is a fun one.  Have you been on a Zoom call and your face showed up as a dark silhouette?  Well, it was probably because you had a window behind you!  So, even though being in a room with plenty of natural light helps boost your mood, be mindful of the placement of the source of the light.  For example, if at all possible, face the window, instead of having the window behind you.  Facing the window will make your face show up brighter in the meeting, which can also make you look more attentive.  And possibly younger.  (Ok, I made that one up, but I’m going to roll with it.)

Go Big or Go Home in Your Home Office

At the end of the day, most of us spent more time in our home last year than we have in any year of our life.  If that’s the trend we can expect for 2021, and the coming years, then we might as well embrace it.  In other words, go big and figure out how to set up your home office so that it fits your needs.  If you think this is a long term gig, it’s worth investing some coin into the things that will make you a little more comfortable.  Like a Keurig.  Or an ergonomically correct chair.  Setting up your home office should be something that brings you joy, and not anxiety.  It should be a place you feel capable and confident.  Keep that in mind as you decide what you want to bring into your home work environment.

Photo of a man sitting at a desk, working in his home office.

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