25 Tips & ideas for a great home office
If you're working from home, having your own home office is your opportunity to fashion things exactly how you’d like them to be, stamp your own influence on your working environment and, in turn, give yourself the most productive workspace possible.
Here’s 25 top tips and ideas for how to create the ideal home office setup...
1) Try to avoid the kitchen table
If you’re going to be at your most productive, you’ll need to create the right environment. The kitchen table might seem like a quick-to-convert work surface, but as well as the risk of having to scrape last night’s pasta sauce from the bottom of your laptop, there are all manner of potential distractions which will hamper your efforts.
If you’re limited for space and can’t allocate a particular room as your office, at least try to ensure that you can quickly and easily ‘transform’ one of your rooms from office to living space, and vice versa, so that it has a multi-purpose function. For example, your bedroom could feature a desk, which can then quickly be ‘converted’, to start your working day.
If space within your home allows, try to devote a room that becomes ‘your office’. A designated work room invariably provides you with the most suitable environment to do your best work in. It also means that, at the end of the working day, you can shut the door and ‘leave’ work in every respect.
If you can designate a room as your home office, it’ll usually be one of the smallest rooms in house and often referred to as ‘the spare room’. For this reason, there is a tendency for clutter to have accumulated. However, before making it your office, have a thorough clear out, so that things are as clean as possible before you start working.
3) Choose the best room for the job
If you have more than one possible room that could function as your office while you work from home, try each of the rooms for a week or two before deciding. Naturally the set-up will be temporary while it’s on a trial basis, but it’ll give you a good feel for which room is going to be most suitable for you. The quietest room is usually best, resulting in less distractions for you and consequently more productivity.
4) Make the room versatile
If you’re lucky enough to have a room that you can designate as your home office it doesn’t mean that it needs to exclusively serve this purpose. Therefore, as you’re planning your new office, think about other members of the household and how they might also be able to use the space when it’s free.
For example, your partner could use the room for their work occasionally, or for a hobby. Equally, your children could use it as a quiet place to do homework and study. The office could even double up as a family or play room at weekends.
5) Consider building a new home office
Your office doesn’t necessarily need to be an existing room. If there’s space in your house and budget allows, consider a garden room, or alternatively a loft or garage conversion. Conversions in particular will increase the value of your property, and so it won’t be just a new office that you’re gaining.
6) Think about what’s worked well for you previously
Most of us have spent time in a variety of working environments – some good, some bad and some indifferent. Think about what qualities the good offices had which you could emulate in some way in your house or flat. Taking advice from colleagues, family or friends that work at home can also be invaluable.
7) Plan an office that will make you happy
Probably the most important piece of advice of them all if you plan to work from home. Your office should make – and keep – you happy.
Personalise the room with pictures of your family, friends and pets, plus perhaps an inspirational photograph or painting. Your home office space should motivate and inspire you and so surround yourself with things that will help that.
8) Don’t strive for immediate perfection
It’s not the best of ideas to go on a spending spree in an attempt to make everything perfect from day one. Start with just the essentials, work in the room for a few weeks, and you’ll get a much better feel for what you do and don’t need in there. At that stage you can then make a list of items such as stationery, furniture etc that you feel you need to add, in order to create the ideal setup for you.
9) Tidy office, tidy mind
Being well organised always helps:
- Try to keep your office clear of clutter at all times. Stackable paper trays, desk tidies and document storage boxes will all help
- Use cable tidies or cord tamers to keep everything neat, tidy and safe
- A bookshelf offers a versatile storage option or, if space is at a premium, floating shelves can also be useful
- A filing cabinet and/or cupboard will provide the optimum options for storage
- Empty the bin and spend two minutes tidying at the end of each day. That way, you’ve reset the room and you’ll come in to a clean and fresh working environment in the morning.
10) Let the sunshine in
Try to pick a room that has as much natural light as possible. You can even enhance this by strategically placing a mirror or two in the room. Natural light is proven to help enhance mood, which in turn makes for a better working environment.
There’s also a financial benefit to be enjoyed from better natural light, by saving on electricity. The cost of lighting over months and years of you working from home is not insubstantial and it’s not always practical to claim all of this back via tax relief.
If you don’t feel the room is illuminated enough by nature, you can fit ‘full spectrum’ light bulbs. 6500k daylight stimulation lamps do exactly what they say on the tin. And, as well as reducing fatigue and eye strain, they’re also proven to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Notwithstanding the above, whilst natural light is highly desirable you may need to consider a window shade or blinds if the light is too strong. Equally, you’ll want to avoid glare on the screen from overhead lights and, for this reason, you may need to invest in a ceiling-facing lampshade.
11) Maximise other environmental factors
As well as maximising light, also ensure that there is good ventilation in the room. Windows should be opened regularly, as there’s nothing like fresh air. The room should also be kept at an even temperature.
The style / décor doesn’t need to conform to the rest of the house if you don’t want it to – depending on your preferences it can be more conservative and office like, or perhaps more adventurous.
Pintrest can often provide inspiration, and indeed it features a superb, eclectic collection of home office ideas. However, do bear in mind that what might look funky and fab might not actually be practical and productive for you.
In terms of wall colours, there’s no right and wrong choice - it’s all about personal preference. Dark colours aren’t particularly stimulating and might not help enhance mood for some, but equally bright colours can be distracting. If in doubt, consider staying relatively neutral and using things such as a rug or cushions as accent colours, to tip things in the favour of warm, bright and positive.
Light-reflecting paint is also worth considering, as this enhances light and can create the illusion of space.
13) Get set for telephone and video calls
If you’ll be having regular phone conversations, or participating in conference calls, it’s essential that your office is quiet and has the right acoustics. If the room is too noisy or there are echoes, there are solutions such as acoustic panels or sound proofing, and these can be relatively inexpensive.
If you’re likely to participate in video conferencing, ensure the backdrop is uncluttered and appears professional. Lighting will also be important and will take some trial and error to get right.
Creating a professional environment will help you to think and act professionally. ‘Branding’ your home office by featuring company photos, posters or literature in prominent positions can help you feel more like you’re at work, in a positive sense.
Displaying any professional achievements, such as company awards, will also help engender a sense of positivity.
15) Add some green to the scene
You might be surprised by how much an indoor plant or two can aid your working environment. A host of studies have identified benefits including:
- Enhanced creativity and productivity
- Reduced stress and sickness
- Cleaner air
Obviously you don’t want to go overboard – too many to manage becomes a task in itself and your office shouldn’t turn into something out of The Day of the Triffids – but a small number will undoubtedly be of benefit.
You don’t even need to buy something ready-made – it can be stimulating to grow your own plant(s) on the window ledge. Tending to them can offer a few minutes rest for your mind each day.
16) Use aromatherapy
What does your office smell like? It’s sounds like a strange question, but it’s a serious point. Aromatherapy can play an important part in creating a happy and productive working environment. The many benefits include reducing stress and anxiety, boosting energy and performance, and strengthening the immune system.
Many modern commercial offices now plan for environmental factors such as aromatherapy and you too can apply this to your own home office and enjoy all of the benefits it brings. A pot plant, scented candle or a diffuser can all help bring a stimulating aroma to your room.
17) Choose the right office chair
You should aim to sit correctly and comfortably at all times whilst working from home. Choosing the right chair is fundamental to being able to maintain good posture throughout the day and therefore avoiding back and neck strain.
Look for a chair with the following qualities:
- An adjustable backrest, which is at least as high as your shoulder blades. If the curve of the lower back isn’t naturally supported, place a cushion there to bolster things.
- An adjustable seat height. With proper adjustment your feet should rest comfortably on the floor, and a foot rest may also help. When sat at your desk, to maintain good posture your eyes should be roughly the same height as the top of the screen.
- The seat should be cushioned, ideally with memory foam, to ensure it stays comfortable over the long term.
- Longevity – when it comes to choosing the right chair, try to invest in quality. You could be sat in this chair for 40+ hours per week, for years to come. Buy cheap and risk buying twice.
18) Choose the right office desk
Generally speaking with desks, it’s a case of the bigger the better – at least 1 metre in width and 60 cm deep. This will allow you to work freely, without feeling hemmed in.
In terms of the style of desk you choose, there are a tremendous number of possibilities, and you could even consider a variable height desk (i.e. one that you can choose to stand at).
As is the case with choosing your chair, take your time, shop around, and carefully consider what desk will suit you and the style that you want to create within your new office.
Finally, if your desk isn’t positioned opposite a window, try to place something above it on the wall, such as a picture. It’ll give your eyes something different to focus on when you look up from your monitor.
19) Minimise other office furniture
Try to keep other furniture to a minimum. However, if you have a relatively generous amount of space, a comfortable chair or even a small sofa affords you the opportunity to come away from the desk for thinking time, reading, or to take calls when you don’t need to be in front of your laptop.
20) Protect the carpet
If the room is carpeted, with you sitting in the same position for a sustained period of time it will soon wear thin. To avoid needing to buy a new carpet every year or two, invest in either a rug or, ideally, a transparent chair mat.
21) Invest in technology
Such is the nature of most modern-day homes, your home broadband is usually comparable, or even sometimes superior, to the speeds that you get in an office. However, if it’s not fast enough, this will undoubtedly become frustrating at best, and unworkable at worst.
The distance of your hub from the router will have an effect on internet speed and indeed it’s worth considering bringing these closer to the room you’ve designated as your home office. A signal booster can also help.
Alternatively, rather than rely on wi-fi, you may need to consider an ethernet cable connection. This will maximise speeds and consistency of signal, which will be especially important if you’re a heavy user, such as regularly downloading files or participating in conference calls.
In terms of your computer itself, it’s worth considering a large monitor, even if that means plugging your laptop into this. It will help to position the screen at a more ergonomically suitable height, and the larger screen is also likely to reduce eye strain.
22) Think about security
Although it’s not pleasant to think about the possibility of a fire or theft, unfortunately these things do happen, and so it’s best to plan ahead just in case.
A fire-safe box is a good investment to protect important documents. Equally, to mitigate against the effects of a burglary, a safe will help to secure documents, back-up hard drives, and can even be a good place to store your laptop.
23) Perfection takes time
You’re going to spend a long time in the room and so of course it’s important to ensure you set yourself up for success. Ultimately it should become a comfortable, productive environment, but it’s important to accept that there will be a certain amount of trial and error - it’ll take time to get things just right.
24) Keep it fresh
You need to create an environment that will continually stimulate you and help you to do your best work. In order to achieve this it’s essential that you periodically refresh your office. In a traditional office environment things change on a regular basis and the same should apply if you’re working from home.
It goes without saying that you should be cleaning and tidying your office but introducing new items such as pictures and plants will really help keep things fresh. You should also consider changing the layout occasionally, by moving your desk or other items of furniture around the room.
Refreshing things regularly will help avoid any feelings of monotony, which in turn will help you to be more happy and productive.
25) Have fun
The final tip is to enjoy the process of creating your home office. Unlike a commercial office, you’ve got almost complete control to create your ideal working environment and that’s an exciting and liberating prospect.