The pandemic has brought the "future of work" into the present. Remote work and hybrid work-from-home setups have become ubiquitous. As a result, many people have been forced to design a home office from scratch. If that’s you, you may be wondering, "What is the best home office setup?"
We've been helping individuals and companies create spaces that improve their work for decades. Today, we're rounding up essential tips and tricks to design a home office setup to support your remote work.
1. Be Flexible
Creating a dedicated office space at home will require you to be flexible. Your home may not have enough extra square footage for you to use a dedicated room as an office. That's OK. You can create a home office that promotes productivity and helps you concentrate, whether carving out a corner of the living room, setting up shop in the kitchen, or creating a work-from-home station in a studio apartment.
2. Create a Dedicated Work Area
Dedicated office space is vital to creating a healthy remote work environment. Even if you're just setting aside a small corner of a room, you want to make an area of your home just for work to minimize distractions and promote focus. A dedicated work area tells your brain (and the people you live with), "I am at work now." So, while it may be tempting to bring your MacBook Air to the kitchen table and call it a day, we highly recommend resisting that urge.
3. Embrace Compact, Multipurpose Seating
Consider choosing multipurpose seating if you're setting up a home office in a multipurpose room. While we wouldn't recommend just any stool for all-day remote work, a wobble ottoman can offer an active seating solution while giving you extra storage. Choosing a comfortable chair is essential for long-term comfort and support. If you spend entire days working from a seated position, you'll want to invest in an ergonomic desk chair, even if it doesn't match the vibe of the rest of the room where your desk setup lives.
4. Find the Right Desk
Your desk is perhaps the most essential element of an ideal home office setup. While we all want to find the "best home office desk," the truth is that there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, we suggest starting your desk hunt by considering the result you want to achieve.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Home Office Desk
How much space do I have for my work? (Pull out a tape measure and write down specific dimensions. It will make shopping for a desk so much easier.)
How much workspace do I need?
Do I want a desk that allows me to work in a seated position, standing, or both?
Do I need space on the desk for a laptop stand or docking station?
Do I need space under the desk for a computer tower?
How much storage do I need or want?
Should that storage be built into the desk or separate?
What's my budget?
Standing Desks for Active Work or Small Spaces
Standing desks offer the opportunity for active work. Remote work doesn't have to mean settling for sedentary work. Various adjustable height desk options—from electric to manual—allow you to control your desk height and workspace. You can also find desks that are fixed at a standing height if you’re sure you want your desk to remain in a permanently raised position. Many of the fixed-height standing desks are compact, making them ideal if you're working within the constraints of a small space.
L-Shaped Desks for Expanded Workspace
Some of us need more space to spread out and work. If that sounds like you, you want to consider an L-shaped desk. L-shaped desks can be beneficial if you have dual monitors that would take up one entire side of the desk. In that instance, you can use the desk return for non-computer-based work.
L-shaped desks also offer flexibility in where they’re located. They can be situated in the middle of the room, if space allows, or tucked into a corner as a corner desk. This option will maximize your desk area in a compact space.
Pedestal Desks for When Built-In Storage is Nonnegotiable
Pedestal desks have cabinets or drawers as the desk base. Most pedestal desks offer some combination of file storage or office supply storage. If you need to keep files close at hand, you want a pedestal desk. If you don't have anywhere else to store office supplies, you want a pedestal desk. If your home office setup doubles as a craft station or creative space, you guessed it—think about a pedestal desk.
Small Desks for When Every Square Foot Matters
In some spaces, only a small desk will do. Start by measuring your office space to see how much room you have for a desk. Then, start shopping. There is tremendous variety when it comes to compact desks. Whether you want a modern or traditional desk, you'll likely be able to find just what you're looking for.
Executive Desks for When You Want to Make a Statement
If you have a dedicated room for a home office, you might want to spring for an executive desk. Executive desks are finished on all sides, so they can sit in the center of a room. They offer a stately presence and can give your workday an air of gravitas that feels oh so satisfying.
5. Use Vertical Space to Maximize Office Storage
Increase your work and storage space without increasing the footprint of your home office by maximizing vertical space. Utilize the wall space above or behind your desk by adding bookshelves or floating shelves. You can use these shelving options to display decorative items, awards, and personal photos. You can also use them to organize office supplies, documents, binders, and other home items that need to be stored in your office.
Mobile file pedestals offer a dynamic alternative to filing cabinets. They provide storage for supplies and files and can be easily wheeled under your desk when not in use. Some mobile pedestals are also topped with cushions, allowing them to double as additional seating.
6. Set Your Monitor at Eye Level
Treat your neck right and ensure you set your monitor to the correct height. A monitor arm can help you customize the height of an external monitor, and many of them are adjustable. That can come in handy if you want to use a desk riser to turn a traditional desk into a sit-stand desk. If you have dual monitors—either with 2 external monitors or a combination of a laptop and a monitor— you want to make sure you can see both screens without straining your neck.
7. Make Sure Your Keyboard and Mouse Are Ergonomic
It's just as essential to make sure that your keyboard and mouse are at the right height (you want your elbows to bend at about a right angle) to promote an ergonomic position while you work. Some desks come with a keyboard tray that optimizes the height of your keyboard (note that if you have a laptop, you'll need to acquire an external keyboard or wireless keyboard to use the laptop tray).
8. Light Your Space
Adequately lighting your space will protect you from eyestrain. Make sure that your home office space is properly lit. Task lighting is a fantastic addition to any desk space, and you can find desk lights in a variety of sizes, styles, colors, and price points.
9. Make Purchases Slowly
Office furniture can be expensive, and you may find that furnishing an entire office at once is cost-prohibitive. Instead of settling for cheap furniture that will fall apart in 6 months to a year, follow this maxim: buy well and buy often. Invest in quality furniture pieces. You may splurge on the best office chair (the one with every ergonomic bell and whistle) but hold off on buying an office desk for a few months. It's better to go slowly and purchase with care.
As remote work has become more pervasive, more and more companies are offering stipends to reimburse employees for home office setups. Be sure to check with your HR department since these programs can reduce the impact of office updates on your wallet.
10. Add a Personal Touch
You want your home office to feel like you. Now is the time to add personal touches like photos, a favorite candle, or the snacks you love. Headphones are another essential element for many remote workers, as they can help block out background noise while you work (or protect your cohabitators from hearing "Can we circle back?" 500 times a day while you sit on Zoom calls).
Ask yourself, "What would make me feel comfortable and supported while I work?" Then add that thing. The best part about a home office is that it doesn't have to work for everyone. It has to work for you.