Table of contents
- Where to set up your permanent home office
- Setting up your permanent home office with ergonomics in mind
- How to set up your home office to be free of distractions
- How to set up a home office for privacy and separation
- Having a professional background for Zoom and video meetings
- Personal elements that make your permanent home office enjoyable
- Which work-from-home accessories and gadgets to invest in for the long-term
- Lighting considerations for a permanent home office
- How to pick furniture for your home office
- Can you relocate existing items that you already own to set up your home office?
- Determine if your home office will be multi-purpose or not
- Think outside the box: can you create a home office outside of your home?
- Make sure you’re designing a place where you actually want to work from
When you first started working from home, did you ever imagine that it would be for a while? Or for an indefinite period of time? Or … forever?
While working from home may seem like a temporary setup, for much of the world, it’s going to be a long-term way to work.
Many experts have even said that working from home, or working remotely, is going to be the future of work. While we’re clear on the long-term benefits of working from home, setting up your home office for success does not always come easy.
First off, there’s the challenge of staying focused, and productive, when you work from home. Then, there’s the distractions, the noises and the draw of the TV. Lastly, there’s a lot to be said about how to comfortably work from home and which types of accessories, tech gadgets and essentials can get you there.
In this article, we’re going to share our ideas about working remotely from home for an extended period of time. From our experience, working from home with a permanent setup didn’t happen overnight. In fact, we’ve already discussed how to set up a home office in a small apartment and how to set up a home office when you share a space.
Whatever situation you have, whether you work full-time or freelance, live in a house or in an apartment with roommates, or whether you plan to work from home for a year or for a decade, we have some great top tips for you about how to hack the long-term home office checklist.
Where to set up your permanent home office
Where to set up your home office might sound simple at first, but there are a few things to consider. In being totally transparent, one of the biggest mistakes people make when they start to work from home for the first time is assuming that your home office will magically reappear without any effort or work put into it.
First, think about where you work best. Is it next to a window? Is it in a small room, so that your eyes don’t wander everywhere? Is it far away from the fridge?
Everyone has different work habits that help them stay productive, and everyone has a different schedule for working from home that suits them best.
If you live in a house, try setting up your home office in a guest room, or in a basement, where you can be alone and stay focused.
If you live in an apartment with a spouse, try splitting up between the living room and the bedroom. This was an idea that worried me LOT at first, because I didn’t like the idea of being ‘trapped’ in my bedroom, but I think that as long as you set up a space that makes you feel productive, it can be anywhere.
More on that, soon.
Setting up your permanent home office with ergonomics in mind
Ergonomics are IMPORTANT.
Think about watching someone work from their couch for eight hours. What would you say? You might say, “Isn’t that terrible for your back?” or “Don’t you have a neck ache from craning your neck downward?”
Now, think about watching someone working at a standing desk in their home office or sitting at an ergonomic desk chair that supports their back and arms. This sounds a lot better!
In the beginning of the work-from-home phenomenon when lots of people found themselves working from home with little notice, it was easy to get stranded working for 8 hours a day at the dining room table.
But, it’s not good for your back, your posture, your body or your long-term well-being, so… here are some simple ergonomic items to invest in:
- The list of ergonomic chairs with backs and armrests that we list in our guide to working from home in an apartment
- The list of desks and writing tables we recommend in our guide to working from home in a shared office space
And for a cheat sheet, here are some easy ideas you can invest in:
- A desk chair with armrests and wheels
- A fun and patterned accent desk chair
- A higher-end desk chair that goes all out with ergonomic essentials
How to set up your home office to be free of distractions
One of my pitfalls during a workday is distractions. Distractions come in the form of my phone, all the chores I want to do around the house, my personal email and the nice weather outside that makes me want to go for a walk.
Aside from my list of the best productivity tips for working from home, you may want to try these other tips:
Set your phone aside.
I find that I get the most work done if I leave my phone charging on a shelf, a few feet away from my desk. It’s a simple trick, and it tends to work.
Specify when you’ll take breaks.
Stick to a break schedule, which we outline in this guide to making a schedule for yourself when you work from home.
Get noise-cancelling soundproof headphones.
We recommend these noise-cancelling headphones by Sony, which help block out noises that come from construction, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, children, dogs and your spouse on a conference call in the next room.
How to set up a home office for privacy and separation
Privacy and separation is really important if you want to win at having a work-life balance plan.
Our best tip is to make sure your workspace is separate from your ‘living space.’
One main practice here is to also not even sit for a moment in your home office space when you’re not “at work.” And, when you are “at work,” choose to only do work, not leisure activities, at your desk.
If you’re designing a home office in a small apartment, this can be especially challenging because your space is limited.
What I’ve chosen to do is to set up a small desk in our bedroom, and I only use it if I am having work time. Sometimes, I work on weekends to build this website and I may choose to sit at my desk for focusing, or hang out with my laptop on the couch to feel like I’m actually having weekend time.
Are you looking for a divider or way to separate your workspace at home from the rest of your living areas? Try a room divider, like a Japanese-style 3-panel room divider, or a more artistic panel room divider or a classic white frame screen divider.
Having a professional background for Zoom and video meetings
Looking to have the most productive meetings while working from home? You’ll want to make sure your video background involves these key factors:
- A limited possibility of other members of your household passing through the background
- Anything unprofessional, unpolished or flashy
- A window that gets bright direct light, as this may backlight you and come in as flashes to your meeting attendees
As we mention in our guide to taking a video interview from home, it’s best to have a wall in your background, or a basic and solid backdrop, to eliminate distractions for your meeting participants.
Among the room dividers mentioned above, having a simple panel room divider can easily provide a Zoom background in a hurry.
Personal elements that make your permanent home office enjoyable
What’s an office if you don’t enjoy being there?
When I worked from an office, way before I knew about the long-term benefits of working from home, I had a few personal items on my desk.
I didn’t have too many, as I’d seen coworkers’ desks covered in personal items that seemed like a bit too much, but I had some photo booth photo strips thumbtacked to the divider wall at the back of my desk behind the monitor, and then I had a big stack of files, contracts, Post-It notes and papers (which weren’t personal belongings at all).
Now that we have our home offices, both Dan and I have set ours up to reflect our personalities. Dan keeps our small desk-size palm plant and a snake plant on his desk, where he also has some new break-time items of a Nintendo Switch and a Bob & Brad handheld massager.
I keep a bamboo plant, a desk-sized candle, a small pair of over-the-ear headphones and my AirPods at my desk. I also created a visually-pleasing space by putting odds and ends into a wicker storage box that I keep on one of the shelves of my minimalist white work desk.
Which work-from-home accessories and gadgets to invest in for the long-term
We’re so glad you asked! One of the hottest trends in working from home is, of course, designing your space how you want it to be in terms of the products you choose that are best for your working setup.
Here are a few of our favorites that have added value to our home workspace setup:
- The Roost Laptop stand for raising up your laptop to eye-level, so you can avoid neck strain forever.
- To go with the laptop stand, you’ll need an external keyboard, and the Apple Magic Keyboard is a sure bet.
- An iPad to use as a second monitor! And, don’t forget a handy iPad stand for your desk.
- Stop tapping your laptop mousepad and get the easiest fix, an ergonomic Logitech mouse.
- If a standing desk isn’t in your future, take the easy route and invest in a simple desk riser.
Lighting considerations for a permanent home office
If your home office is going to be permanent and somewhere you’ll work in the long-term, you have to think about a few things:
- Does natural light make you productive, or does it bother you?
- Is there a possibility that changing light will reflect poorly off your computer screen?
- Do you work well with soft light, or overhead fluorescent light, to eliminate shadows?
- Is a candle-lit office more your vibe, for days when the sun sets early (or any day)?
We recommend taking all of the above considerations into your decisions when planning your long-term home office lighting scheme. For us, we both work in areas of our home that get natural light during the day, and transform into soft-lit spots when the sun goes down.
In the past, we’ve recommended a few dependable types of lamps for home offices that feel cozy and homey.
There’s also no reason not to invest in some cute fairy lights to add some magic to your home office, if you’re going to be there for a while!
How to pick furniture for your home office
Everyone wants to know how to pick permanent home office furniture. It can certainly be overwhelming.
If you don’t have space for a standing desk, try a more compact desk that blends in with your other furniture. I’ve been using this small and slim white writing desk for quite some time now, and it matches the other furniture we have in our home. No regrets!
When it comes to chairs, you have quite a few options. Do you want (or have space for) a proper desk chair with all the fixin’s like a headrest, arm rests, rolly wheels and an ergonomic adjustable back? Here’s an example of what we mean, from Herman Miller.
If you’re short on space or don’t want a desk chair that’ll scream “OFFICE,” go for a desk chair that feels more like a piece of furniture. On the complete other end of the spectrum are fun statement desk chairs like this one.
Are you somewhere in the middle between a proper office desk chair and a chair that blends in with your living room or bedroom? Go for a standard rolly desk chair that’s both ergonomic and budget-friendly.
Feeling wild, and do you want to have backup for when you just want to plop down around 5pm? Go for a bean bag chair! Why not?
Can you relocate existing items that you already own to set up your home office?
Yes, you can certainly relocate existing items from your home to set up your first home office. This can be anything from a dining room chair to a corner of your dining room table.
We have to be honest, though; we’ve tried repurposing non-ergonomic items from our home into our office setup, and if you plan to be working from home for a long time, it’s worth investing in true ergonomic products.
We talk more about that in how we set up our shared home office for success.
How to keep your rolly desk chair from sliding around a wooden floor
This is a common question that we recently came up with a solution for. Dan has a rolly desk chair that seems to roll on its own across our hardwood living room floors.
To make it stop in its tracks, we laid out our YOGO ultralight yoga mat as a rolly desk chair mat. It works like a charm, and we recommend this little home office hack!
Determine if your home office will be multi-purpose or not
Another thing we talk about in our guide to how we set up our home office together is what if you want to make your home office space a meeting-friendly environment? Or, what if your home office is also going to be a place where your kids can do some homework on the weekends? Is your home office also your yoga studio?
Consider the following in terms of making a multi-purpose permanent home office space:
- What is the second purpose that your home office will serve?
- Is this going to be a temporary need?
- Are there products you might need to purchase, in order to get you to the point of ultimate utility?
- Would it be ideal to check with family members, housemates or roommates on this multi-purpose space you have in mind?
If you live alone, you can surely forget the last bullet point, as this choice is 100% up to you.
If you plan to make your home office workspace into doubling as another type of space, pin down your vision, and plan out how your space will transform from an office into that home gym, or classroom, or photography studio, on nights or weekends.
If you do happen to be considering a fitness-related multi-use for your home office, be sure to check out our guide to how to stay fit when you work from home, as we have quite few useful and easy tips to employ.
Think outside the box: can you create a home office outside of your home?
If you have the space, there are situations in which you can build a small office in your backyard that can be a great getaway for a home office
In fact, we found this site called Modular Dwelling that creates customizable spaces on your land, so that you can have a tiny office in a house or edifice outside your actual home.
There is also this cool idea from Luke Beard, who shared on Twitter that a backyard studio to work from could be the future of cool and unique spaces to serve as places to be productive.
If this is the future of permanent home offices for the long-term, we’re here for it!
Make sure you’re designing a place where you actually want to work from
The last thing that you want to do is spend all of this time and money on a home office, and spend all of your time working in your living room. Your home office is your separation between your work-life balance.
If you like to work from a couch, consider getting a couch in your office. Care for bean bags? Well, get a bean bag.
One more tip we’d like to share is to (for the moment), forget about the perfect styled Insta-perfect home offices you’ve seen on social media. Lots of these are staged, some are renderings and some just don’t exist in real life.
Your home office doesn’t need to measure up to be photo-perfect and it doesn’t have to mirror anyone else’s.
If working from home is going to be permanent for you, consider what makes YOU happy, productive and motivated, and start from there.
Last updated on February 1st, 2021