While working from home has an array of enticing benefits, you need to construct a cozy home office to maintain focus and routine.
From answering emails in your underwear to skipping the daily commute, working from home is like a dream come true. But the dream can become a nightmare without a good home office setup, as productivity plummets and poor posture wrecks your neck.
But don’t worry—we’re here to help. With a modest budget and these 7 pro tips, you can transform an ordinary old room into an executive home office setup fit for a Fortune 500 CEO.
And as a neat little bonus, we’ll show you how to claim those expenses back on tax at the end.
1. Create a Dedicated Workspace
When you live and work in the same physical space, it’s hard to psychologically disassociate between your career and home life. That’s why creating a dedicated office space is key: it lets you switch off from work mode in the evening and spring back into action come 9 a.m. the next day.
Of course, with the real estate market the way it is, not everyone has a spare room lying around the house. But there are creative solutions to be found: deck out a guest room, tuck a small home office into the storage space under the stairs, or do a cheap office renovation in your basement.
If you truly don’t have anywhere to declare a dedicated workspace—a common conundrum among apartment dwellers—then find a spot you can transform on a whim. The simple act of putting your laptop away each day will help you flick the mental switch between workspace and living room.
Oh, and whichever part of the home you choose, make sure it’s quiet and distraction-free.
2. Get an Ergonomic Chair
Sitting is the new smoking. And sitting on an ordinary chair for 40 hours or more per week is like huffing down two packs a day.
A good chair is the essence of a good home office.
Although you mightn’t notice much difference at first, a non-ergonomic chair will gradually wear down your neck and back. With time, you’ll begin experiencing discomfort, which hinders your ability to perform at your peak. Worse yet, you risk exposing yourself to long-term harm as prolonged periods of sitting can lead to musculoskeletal deformities.
The solution is relatively simple, however: an ergonomic office chair. The executive models come with a bewildering array of bells and whistles, but you don’t necessarily need anything all that flash. A low-cost office chair will suffice, just ensure it has the following features:
- A backrest that mimics the natural curvature of the spine.
- A padded and comfortable seat.
- Adjustable height and tilt (at least 15 degrees from vertical).
- Padded armrests that let your shoulders relax and keep your elbows tucked in close to your body.
3. Use A Desk of the Right Height
While an office chair is a crucial piece of ergonomic furniture, a good quality work desk of the right height will also work wonders at keeping back strain at bay while working in your home office.
So what is the correct height for an office desk?
Most manufacturers aim somewhere between 28 and 31 inches above ground, although the sweet spot depends on how tall you are. The easiest way to work out the ideal figure for you is by consulting an online desk height calculator.
Granted, the chances of finding an attractive and affordable desk that’s precisely the right size are pretty slim—but that’s why many options come with adjustable height settings.
Height aside, there are a few other essential features to consider when shopping for a work desk.
- Keep sufficient clearance underneath to move your legs throughout the day.
- Opt for smooth edges to eliminate cuts and bruises.
- Avoid glass-topped desks as they don’t work with a mouse and reflect glare.
- Keyboard trays enhance ergonomics even further.
4. Position Your Monitor Properly
The next home office ergonomic adjustment you should make is about your monitor. It needs to be positioned properly to avoid neck strain.
The trick is to adjust your monitor to make the top of the screen at eye level or a wee bit below. Then, as you read text in the middle of the screen, your eyes should peer slightly downward.
The correct position is essential for ergonomics, especially when working in front of a screen full time. Most computer monitors come with an adjustable arm to let you tweak the height. If not, plonk a few books (or what have you) underneath until you reach the desired elevation.
A laptop is terrible for your posture in the long term. However, there is a straightforward solution to its non-ergonomic woes: the laptop stand and USB keyboard. This killer combo lets you keep the screen up at eye level and the keyboard down low—your neck will thank you for it later. Some models are ultralight and portable, perfect for the coffee shop dwellers and digital nomads.
In any case, keep the monitor about 20 inches (an arm’s length) from your face to minimize eye strain and activate a blue light filter if you’re on the graveyard shift.
Depending on the type of work you do, it might even be worth investing in a second monitor. Having two screens at your disposal is a luxury that’s difficult to understate.
5. Invest in Good Tech
Is your laptop chugging along at the pace of a retired turtle?
Then it might be time to upgrade now you’re working from home. All those wasted minutes waiting for files to load will add up over the years, not to mention the immense frustration of suffering through a snail-paced PC. A neat home office is of no use if your tools aren’t sharp.
The same logic applies to your router and home internet plan: cheap out on a substandard service, and your productivity will take a nosedive. It’s worth shooting for a reliable connection that’s slightly faster than you think you need.
A quality keyboard is also worth its weight in gold. Aim for something with oodles of space and soft tactile keys to see you pump out those words with ease. The top office keyboards are designed with ergonomics in mind, reducing wrist strain and mitigating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Finally, for the enthusiastic audiophile, it’s worth splurging on a top-end set of speakers or headphones. The right type of music—think instrumental over lyrical—can aid productivity during specific tasks and make this whole 9-5 business a whole lot more fun.
6. Spruce Up the Décor
It pays to pay attention to your home office décor. A sprightly interior design will elevate your mood in the morning and make your work area a pleasure to behold. Plus, a cozy office space doesn’t cost a fortune, as you can do it yourself when it comes to décor.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as they say, so fill your custom office space with ornaments that align with your style. Popular options include pretty paintings, family photos, and pot plants—the latter helps lift your mood and improves the air quality in the room.
Inspirational posters can help keep motivation in check, while whiteboards bolster old-school analog creativity. Throw in a cool themed calendar so you can plan your month with a smile.
Lighting plays an integral part of interior aesthetics, too. Use natural light over ultraviolet where possible and consider getting a desk lamp to even the spread.
7. Home Office Tax Deductions for Employees
Disclaimer: We are not accountants. You should contact a CPA (certified public accountant) to assess your personal situation.
As home office gear is a legitimate business expense, does that mean you can write it off on tax?
If you work exclusively for a company, you’re out of luck. American tax law changed in 2018 to exclude remote employees from any home office deductions (your boss should be footing the bill anyway, right?).
Self-employed workers such as freelancers, however, can claim a home office deduction through the IRS under two conditions:
- The home office is for regular and exclusive use in running your business
- The home office is the principal place of your business.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to freelance full-time. Some remote employees do a few freelance gigs on the side and claim the home office deduction. Nonetheless, there’s a bewildering array of exceptions and inclusions to consider—get in touch with your accountant for the nitty-gritty.
In any case, the IRS calculates the home office deduction on a square foot basis rather than outright expenses. So with that in mind, keep your expenditure reasonable.
With these nifty tips on how to create a funky and functional home office, you can transform a subsection of your home into a productive workspace. You’ll be spending a heck of a lot of time in your new office, so it’s worth investing sufficient money and effort to make it shine.