The Ultimate Home Office Setup Guide: 18 Must-Have Items
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Wouldn't it be great if you could get all of your work done from the comfort of your own home?
Working from home is an ideal way to have the freedom to be your own boss.
That said, setting up a home office requires a significant change if you're used to working in a formal office setting. It takes a bit of planning and a bit of effort to make sure this space maximizes your efficiency and productivity.
In this article, I'll go over the perfect home office setup and 18 items that should be included in your work area.
What You Will Learn
- Home Office Setup (and the Danger of Distractions)
- What You Need to Understand Before Designing Your Home Office
- How to set up your home office.
- 1. Natural Lighting
- 2. High-Speed Internet Access
- 3. Network Router
- 4. Surge Protector
- 5. Printer/Scanner or Multipurpose Machine
- 6. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
- 7. Desk
- 8. Clear Work Space
- 9. Ergonomic Office Chair
- 10. Adequate Lighting
- 11. Telephone and/or VoIP
- 12. File Cabinet
- 13. File Folders and Hanging Folders
- 14. Storage
- 15. Greenery
- 16. Fire-Safe Box
- 17. Paper Shredder
- 18. Set Boundaries
- 10 Tips to Maximize Your Home Office Setup
Home Office Setup (and the Danger of Distractions)
Working from home is enticing because it gives you an opportunity to setup your office to be as comfortable and efficient as you desire. But it can be also a challenge due to the number of distractions that are unique to the home environment.
You should consider how to effectively set up a home office to avoid the temptation to start a quick load of laundry or catch up on that episode you missed last night. I know that sometimes, when I work from home without creating a proper environment, I'm not very productive.
It is just too easy to get distracted!
To help minimize distractions, and ensure peak efficiency, here is the ultimate home office setup guide for productivity.
What You Need to Understand Before Designing Your Home Office
Let's jump right in. There are several questions you need to ask yourself before planning your home office. Here are a few:
Do you want a fancy office?
If you want your home office to be fancy enough to be showcased in a magazine, it may be best to hire a professional to design it for you.
Obviously, this is going to cost money, between the fees of the professional and the decor they suggest.
This guide is for a more generic home office design, geared towards things you can do yourself. We are really just looking for an effective home office where you can be as productive as possible.
We want our office to be about getting things done, not about getting on the cover of “Home and Garden“.
Do you want bells and whistles?
This home office design guide covers the basics of home office decor. If you want to come up with some creative and personalized office ideas, keeping a board on Pinterest may give you some inspiration.
On Pinterest you may find all sorts of inspirations. Such as: ways to use corkboard. Ideas on organizing from dollar stores, and quite a bit more. If you want to find some cool organization ideas just check out some home & office organization boards on Pinterest.
This might help you add some fun and functionality to your home office, but in this post we are just concerned about covering the basics of home office setup, with an eye on increased productivity.
Does color matter?
According to Harrington College of Design, the colors surrounding you can impact your mood. The psychological impact that color has on you should be considered when you are choosing a palette. When chosen with purpose, the color of the walls in your home office can enhance productivity.
Freshome.com says that green is considered to be the most relaxing color for your eyes. While green encourages the unwinding of the mind, it is also warm enough to promote comfort.
Green also has a calming effect that is believed to relieve stress. This is a great option for a home office because having excess stress can put a strain on your work. A soothing atmosphere will help you concentrate. However, we will focus more on the functionality of your office than finding attractive attributes.
What if office space is severely limited?
Have you ever heard the saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place?” If you can carefully think through what kind of storage you need, you will be able to create the space that is necessary.
Chances are that you will likely spend the most time at your desk, so it is crucial to keep your desk organized to stay productive. The last thing you want is to be spending time searching for a missing piece of paper among the mass of disorganized piles on your desk.
Studies have actually shown that, on average, workers spend a week each year looking for misplaced papers or items. Your desk surface should support your computer and work-related items. Some solutions are simple, such as having a cup to keep all of your pens together, as well as a folder or tray for papers.
If you like to keep pictures or other display items on your desk, hang them on the wall instead. This will leave your desk space for only work-related items.
The challenge is to find the most efficient design with your flow of work. If you often need quick access to files, make your filing cabinets the legs of your desk.
Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own desk that has filing cabinets built in.
If you’re short on space, having a bare wall is a valuable asset. Consider buying floating shelves, or even corner shelves that will not take up any floor space. Again, consider your flow of work and how often you would need to access your shelves to determine where they should be placed. In other words, position anything that you use the most within reach, while things that you rarely need can be stored away.
Additionally, make sure to build up rather than out. Use all of your wall space from the floor to the ceiling, even if that means you need a step-stool to occasionally grab something. Another very important thing is to make use of your corners. A corner bookshelf is a great space-saving storage idea.
Finally, keep a paper shredder under your desk. This way you won't have confidential papers piling up until you can dispose of them properly. Clean up as you go with a shredder that is within reach of your desk chair.
Should you personalize your office?
Due to the fact that you spend so many of your waking hours in your office, it is no surprise that you want to personalize the space. In order to do this, you can use things that mean something to you, such as family pictures, drawings, art, and keepsakes. This will help claim the space in the house just for you, so you feel a sense of ownership over your workspace.
So, while your childhood trophies may not be on my list of decorations, if they are important to you, display them. Allow your workspace to tell your story with little touches of what reminds you of inspiring and uplifting things in your life.
While your workspace creates the perfect opportunity to reflect your personality and creativity, extreme personalization can decrease your productivity. Primarily, these items will add clutter to your desk and its surroundings. According to Entrepreneur.com, keeping your work environment free from clutter helps you think more clearly, which will produce better results. Clutter quickly accumulates over time, so the fewer unnecessary items in your office, the better.
Personalized items may even become a distraction to your work by encouraging you to reminisce about a fun vacation or think about your summer plans for a while when you should be working. I think it is best to have a few personal items in your home office in order to make it comfortable for you, but don't overdo it.
How to set up your home office.
The trick to being an efficient worker at home is having a home office that is both comfortable and productive. That's why I recommend the following 18 items as part of your perfect home office setup.
1. Natural Lighting
Make sure that you have access to natural lighting in your office. One of the best ways to do this while also saving space is to put your desk in front of a window. Studies have shown that having exposure to natural light has a wide range of health benefits, including increased productivity.
For instance, natural light helps constrict your pupils, which benefits the function and reading ability of your eyes. The reality is that our eyes are not meant to function with artificial light, but rather under full-spectrum lighting. Having exposure to natural light will help boost your productivity and improve your vision.
But wait, there's more. Working in a naturally lit environment will trigger critical signals in your endocrine system to help manage sleep, your moods, and your immune system.
According to a study done by researchers at the interdepartmental neuroscience program at Northwestern University, there is a strong correlation between daylight exposure in the workplace and your quality of sleep, mental health, visual acuity, productivity, and physical health.
If your home office does not have a window or other access to natural lighting, consider investing in full-spectrum bulbs. While these bulbs are more expensive than a typical light bulb, they provide a crisp, bright white light that is ideal for reading and doing work that requires visual accuracy. These bulbs have the same balanced temperature of natural daylight, providing you with the most of the benefits of natural light.
Nothing is as healthy as having access to natural lighting, but these bulbs are about as close as you can come to “unnatural” natural lighting.
2. High-Speed Internet Access
We've all been there. You are trying to get work done and your brain is working faster than your computer is. This lag in time can not only slow you down, but it also offers you an opportunity to be distracted by other things. A recent poll done in Australia confirms that the primary cause of employee frustration is slow Internet.
Not only is a slow Internet connection frustrating, but it will also hinder your productivity. While you wait for attachments to download, files to transfer, or Web pages to load, you could be getting work done.
One study revealed that, on average, workers waste a full week each year waiting on their Internet connection to respond. One week wasted on looking for missing papers and a second week wasted waiting for your computer to load—that is an entire year's worth of vacation!
3. Network Router
Having a network router is necessary if you have more than one computer or laptop that you use around the house. According to PCMag, with today's connection of home products, including smart TVs, mobile devices, and laptops, it is critical to outfit your home office with a network router that is able to handle your demand for Wi-Fi connectivity.
When you are shopping for a network router, consider the size of the area where you need coverage and the kinds of devices that will be connected to the router. You may not necessarily need a network router that offers the highest performance, and you shouldn't pay for features that you won't use. However, if you have multiple family members using the bandwidth to stream videos or play games online, having a new router can help with your work productivity.
If you have a router, but your signal strength is weak inn your home office, this router is the one you want. It will boost your signal strength and make your home office as connected as it would be if your router were right in the room.
In contrast, if you are looking for an inexpensive option that is well suited for more conservative use, this router provides a great bang for your buck.
This mid-range router helps to improve the Wi-Fi range for a medium home while providing good Internet speed to several devices at once.
4. Surge Protector
Believe it or not, The National Institute of Standards and Technology reports that regardless of where you live, your house will experience power surges. While power surges are brief, they are considered to be the most destructive kind of electrical power disturbance. A brief spike in voltage can harm the electronic circuit board and other electrical components of your appliances at home.
Even small, repeated power surges can slowly damage your equipment. Although a few small surges may go unnoticed, the integrity of your computer and its components will be compromised and eventually stop working. To protect yourself from this, a surge protector will help keep your computer equipment safe from voltage spikes.
This 12-outlet surge protector has eight rotating outlets, so it is ideal if you have devices located in various places around the room. It helps provide both convenience and flexibility to your home office
However, this smaller surge protector can be mounted on the wall if space is an issue for your home office. It is best for entry-level devices.
If you have heavy-duty devices, this surge protector is reliable and built to last.
5. Printer/Scanner or Multipurpose Machine
Despite the fact that we live in a predominantly paperless world, having the option to print and scan at home is a large part of being productive. I know that, before I got my printer, there was always that “one thing” I needed to run out to print at the library or scan into an email.
While the cost of buying a machine seemed high when I could get around these hurdles for free, it would end up costing me so much time not having access to these machines at home.
If you need the option to fax, the Canon Office and Business MX922 might be right for you. This printer is wireless, so it allows you to print from wherever you are and from any application that you're using. It also lets you share your printer with anyone that you choose.
Two other wireless machines, HP OfficeJet 4650 and HP Envy 4520, are cost-friendly options that might be better for your needs. While they still have multiple functions, they do not have the option to fax, which is something you may not need anyway.
If you really want to save desk space, look into getting a CamScanner. This will allow you to use your smartphone as a scanner. While it does result in lower quality images than a desktop model, the quality is sufficient enough to read anything you scan.
CamScanner is budget friendly because it has a few options to suit your needs. Its free plan comes with 200MB of cloud space, and it also offers an inexpensive monthly plan if you need more storage.
6. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
A few years ago, I was hours into working on a project when we lost power. Because I had not saved my work, it was all deleted. Don't let this happen to you.
To keep your work safe in case your electricity unexpectedly goes out, having a UPS will give you backup power for a limited time. This will give you a chance to save your work and safely shut down your computer. Trust me, it will all be worth it.
Odds are that your desk will be your primary work area. There are a few options for types of desks that you can buy, and it really just comes down to your preference or your line of work. You can opt to get an adjustable desk if you don’t want to sit all day, or you can get a traditional work desk. Here are some great choices for traditional work desks:
This desk can fit well into a corner if you need more space to lay out your work. It also has two open bookshelves, so it will help cut down on the extra storage space that you need in your office.
This smaller desk is simpler and less expensive. It is a good option if your space is limited, but it still has storage for your CPU or a printer.
If you want a more modern look, this might be the right desk for you. It has a glass top, so it is easy to clean and looks chic. It also has a sliding keyboard tray to help save space.
Standing Desk Extenders: A healthier desktop option
For a healthier option, consider an adjustable laptop desk. The problem with sitting at a desk doing work all day is that it contributes to the sedentary lifestyle that is negatively impacting the health in our country.
Did you know that adding exercise to your day does not undo the eight or more hours that you spend sitting? The human body was not designed to sit, and the long-term consequences include upper back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, bad posture, and even spine or back injuries. According to the World Health Organization, a sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for developing non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
The good news is that having a standing desk keeps you on your feet all day, which, according to Authority Nutrition, is an effective way to burn calories. In fact, standing during your afternoon of work has been shown to burn 170 more calories than sitting for an equal amount of time. Over the course of a year, this difference can greatly impact your health and weight. (To learn more, read this article about the about the 9 health benefits of standing.)
Here are some standing desk options that might be right for you:
This highly functional standing desk actually has built-in fans to keep your computer cool. It is highly adjustable and can even be set to be used in bed.
This option is a little more intricate, as it has the ability to work with two monitors. Its two-tier design provides you with many options to customize it to your personal needs.
This cost-effective option is light and fully adjustable. It may be ideal for you if you don't need extra space around your computer for folders or other work-related tools.
8. Clear Work Space
You need to make sure that your desk has a large empty area for you to work, or you need to dedicate some space elsewhere. According to a study published in Forbes, about 57% of people think that one's work directly correlates with the tidiness of their office. This means that if your office is messy, your work is likely to be messy as well.
Beyond that, a survey conducted by OfficeMax reports that the clutter in your office can undermine both your productivity and your motivation. if your workspace is too crowded, you need to either consider buying a larger desk or start looking into a more efficient system for organizing your things.
Here is a great tutorial on how one person was able to maximize their space and de-clutter their working area.
Having a cluttered workspace can not only slow you down, but it can also cause undue stress and make you feel overwhelmed. You have to maintain order in your office so you can think clearly, finish tasks on time, and have a work environment that promotes productivity.
9. Ergonomic Office Chair
If you choose to use a traditional desk, it is important to have an ergonomic office chair. Sitting adds stress to the structures of your spine, so in order to avoid developing back problems, it is critical to have a chair that supports your body shape and evokes proper posture.
Even though sitting doesn't require as much physical effort as standing, it still puts undue stress on your lower back. Combine the effects of a sedentary lifestyle with sitting all day and it can lead to various health problems. A well-designed chair will let you sit in a balanced position. Selecting the right chair for your body is an important step in preventing some physical ailments. Here are a few chairs that might be right for you:
This mid-back chair uses ventilated material in the back to help keep you cool throughout the day. This simple chair is also great for smaller spaces.
This larger chair can hold more body weight and gives full support of your back. This chair might be right for you if you rarely get a chance to take a break and get up to move around.
With a 360-degree swivel, this chair allows you to move easily around your office if you need to quickly access files or something that is located behind you.
To learn more, check out our review of the 5 best ergonomic computer chairs.
10. Adequate Lighting
While having natural lighting is best, having enough lighting in your home office setup can be important. Good lighting can help you to see your work and sets the mood and atmosphere of your office. If you do not get enough natural lighting in your office, you can use floor or desk lamps to supplement. Check out some of these options:
This floor lamp is a slim design, so it may be good for you if your workspace is small. It also has a rotating head so you can pivot it to where you need the most light.
This dimmable lamp is designed to last over 20 years without the need to replace a light bulb because the LED lamp does not produce any heat.
Here is an inexpensive option if you are looking for an even distribution of light. However, this lamp will not provide the bright light that the others will.
This TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp has a flexible gooseneck design that lets you adjust and move the light around as needed.
11. Telephone and/or VoIP
As I'm sure you know, it is very important to have reliable communication while you are conducting business. You may do the bulk of your business through email or on a server, but having a consistent phone service is crucial if you want clients to be able to reach you.
This product uses an app to give you free local and long distance calling. It might be the right choice for you if you are on a tight budget.
This superior option can interact with your “smart” products to create a safe and convenient environment to work.
However, this mid-range product comes with support and premium features at no extra cost.
The product you choose really depends on what type of business you are in. Consider your needs and match them with the features of the products and the price to find which suits you best.
In addition to having a reliable phone service, make sure to have a Skype account in case you need to have a virtual face-to-face conversation. This is a free service that allows you to contact other people who also have Skype accounts to have a clear form of communication.
12. File Cabinet
Good home office setup requires you to keep your workspace and papers organized. One of the best ways to do this is with a file cabinet. If you want a file cabinet that can be used as the legs of your desk, check out this Lorell File Cabinet. Alternatively, if you want something that is small and portable, yet still secure, try the Master Lock Security Steel Box filing system. Finally, this United Solutions file box may be your best bet if you want an easy storage solution.
13. File Folders and Hanging Folders
You will also need file folders to keep your papers organized. If space is an issue, this these file folders cascade down your wall, so they don't require any drawer space.
You will need somewhere to store your supplies, such as pens, paper, sticky notes, ink, and business cards. If you want a simple storage cart with wheels so you can maneuver it around your office, some great options are here and here.
Studies have shown that employees are 15% more productive when their workplaces have a few houseplants. People who engage with their surroundings (such as watering plants) are better workers. Plants can get you psychologically engaged and promote happiness, which will result in better work.
16. Fire-Safe Box
Can you imagine losing your most important documents in a fire? Would you know where to find duplicates? In order to be prepared for this type of disaster, invest in a fire-safe box for your own security.
This SentrySafe chest a simple box uses a lock and key so it is easily accessed, as long as you keep the key in a safe place. If you want a little more security, or if you want multiple people to be able to access the box, there's the SentrySafe X055 Security Safe and the AmazonBasics Security Safe.
17. Paper Shredder
To prevent yourself from worrying about the privacy and security of your business, make sure you have a good paper shredder to get rid of confidential materials.
This AmazonBasics Shredder is a budget-friendly yet effective option. If you want something a bit larger and more durable, this Bonsaii DocShred shredder or this Fellowes PowerShred shredder may be better options for you.
18. Set Boundaries
Do you know what is ultimately the most effective thing to have in a home office? Boundaries. Home offices are great because they provide you with the freedom to not only work at your own pace, but to also be close to your family. However, this can be an easy distraction that can take away from your productivity.
Here's the bad news:
On average, it takes over 23 minutes to get back on track after being interrupted.
So it is critical to set boundaries with your family, and to set aside clear working hours for yourself. Avoiding distractions will help you work fluently throughout the day so you can be as productive at home as you would be if you were in a regular office. And that's why I recommend these tips that can help you maximize your home office setup…
10 Tips to Maximize Your Home Office Setup
There is more to creating your home office than the products you need to buy. Here is some additional information to help get you started.
1. Stock all of the supplies that you may need in your office and keep track of when you are running low on something.
You want to have anything available at your fingertips when you need it without having to run out to a store to buy something or wait for supplies to be delivered to your house.
2. To eliminate a chaotic look that may lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, hide any cords or other eyesores so you don't have to look at them.
Here is a good tutorial for hiding your computer cords. Also, consider putting your printer out of the way and hiding your UPS and surge protector.
3. While studies have shown that personalizing your office can give you a sense of control and satisfaction, make sure to do it carefully.
Avoid cluttering your space with too much decor.
4. If you have room, set aside some extra space for comfort.
Get a small couch or a comfortable chair to put in your office for when you need to take a short breather. This will help you mentally separate your breaks from your productivity. If you choose to take your breaks at your desk, you are more likely to lose track of time and spend much longer than needed scrolling through the Internet. Make your work area strictly for work.
5. Keep your space decluttered.
What I have found to be one of the most useful of these tips is taking everything out of an area so you have to go item by item and determine what you need and what is trash. To learn more, check out one or two of the 15 books on decluttering that we profile here.
6. Create a work “triangle” where everything you need will be within arms' reach.
Here are several home office work triangle design ideas to help inspire you.
7. Be strict about your office hours.
Don't think that, just because you are not in a traditional office, you can come and go as you please. Stick to office hours just as you would at a job. Arrive on time, take appropriate breaks, and quit working at a reasonable time. Sticking to a schedule will increase your productivity.
8. Learn to manage your time.
There are a number of tools that can help you better manage your time. To get started, we recommend reviewing these articles:
- 26 Smart Hacks to Maximize Your Work Productivity
- The Eisenhower Matrix: How to Use 4 Quadrants to Make Important vs. Urgent Decisions in Your Life
- The 80/20 Rule: How to Apply This Principle to All Areas of Your Life
- 13 To-Do List to Get Things Done
- What is Your Why? A Step-by-Step Process on How to Find Your Life Purpose
9. Separate your work computer from your home computer.
Don't give yourself the temptation to log onto social media or play a quick computer game while you are in the middle of doing your job. Make sure that the computer you use in your home office is strictly for work.
10. Check your email only three times each day.
Email is a huge time-suck in business. It's simple: To help minimize this distraction, close your email program. Work through the day with your email closed and only check it soon after you have started working for the day, after lunch, and before you finish up for the day.
Now you're ready to start planning your home office. I truly hope that these tips will help you create a personalized yet productive home office that works for you.
We have covered the basic products that you will need to buy to be productive, as well as some tips and tricks to keep you motivated throughout the day.
Do you have any other home office setup tips you would like to share? Please comment in the area below with any additional ideas for things that are needed for an effective home office design.
I look forward to hearing your great ideas!