The Ultimate Guide to Setting up Your Home Office for Working Remotely
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With the Covid-19 pandemic causing many businesses to temporarily close their offices, millions of knowledge workers have had to adjust to working from home full-time.
In this chaotic time, optimizing your work-from-home setup is more important than ever to maintain your health and productivity.
While some workers will think working from home means they can sprawl out on the couch or in the backyard with their laptop, having a consistent, dedicated workspace setup will pay dividends in maintaining high productivity, keeping your body healthy, and separating your work from your home life.
Here are some tips for optimizing your workspace setup for working from home:
Where you choose to setup your workspace depends on the layout of your home or apartment. If possible, choose a quiet, permanent location with ample natural light. Consider yourself lucky if you have a spare room that you can designate as your home office. In an apartment, look for a quiet corner and use a folding room divider like this one from Amazon to effectively "close the door" and keep out distractions. Choosing a permanent location will help you to keep work separate from home life and put you in "work mode" when you're at your desk.
Hunching over to squint at your 13 inch screen and type at your laptop's cramped keyboard for hours on end will put your body in unnatural positions and quickly lead to aches and pains. It is important to keep ergonomics in mind when choosing the key components of your setup like your desk, chair, monitor, and keyboard.
Choose a high quality desk that gives you plenty of space and keeps your keyboard position at the same height as your elbows. Since many desks position the keyboard higher than it should be, an adjustable keyboard tray that sits below the desk surface is a worthwhile improvement.
Depending on your budget and preference, consider an adjustable standing desk (like the SmartDesk 2 from Autonomous) to stretch your legs and keep your body in different positions throughout the day.
An investment in a comfortable, supportive chair is an investment in your own long-term wellbeing. Rather than grabbing an uncomfortable chair from your dining table, consider purchasing a dedicated chair for your desk setup. Over time you will spend hundreds if not thousands of hours at your chair, so the upfront cost will be spread out over a very long period of usage. Here are a few features to look for when choosing a chair:
- Adjustable height
- 360 degree swivel
- Lumbar support
- Armrest (preferably adjustable)
- Breathable backrest for maximum comfort
If you're looking to spend less than $200 on a chair, we recommend the Lorell High-Back Chair from Amazon, which hits all of the criteria listed above.
Although standard keyboards like Apple's Magic Keyboard are elegant and minimal, using a standard keyboard puts your hands and wrists in unnatural positions that can lead to chronic pain. Like a high quality desk or chair, an ergonomic keyboard is an investment in yourself. Choosing an ergonomic keyboard like the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB or the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard will keep your hands and wrists happy.
Using a second monitor could provide the best return on investment in terms of productivity and improving your work experience. Depending on the type of task, Microsoft's Research Center has found that users can improve productivity by 9% to 50% by adding another monitor to their work setup. Additional screen real estate is particularly useful for Engineers and Designers doing Software Development, UI Design, and Computer Aided Design (CAD). Once you get used to having a large display area for engineering and design type work, you simply can't go back.
When choosing a display, make sure that the pixel density is sufficient for the type of work that you plan to be doing. If you're doing detailed design work, a 34 inch Ultrawide monitor with 1080p resolution may lack the pixel density for you to do your best work. This article goes into further detail about considering pixel density when choosing a monitor.
Ultrawide monitors like the Philips 346B1C UltraWide 34" Curved Monitor provide the screen area of nearly two monitors in a seamless experience.
To free up space on your desk, consider using a monitor arm like the VIVO Single Monitor Mount.
How you position your monitor can play a huge role in the overall ergonomics of your desk setup. Ergotron has some great guidelines for positioning your monitor for optimal ergonomics:
- Position your body to keep your spine in a neutral position.
- Adjust your screens so that your monitor is at or slightly below eye level.
Adding some plants to your work space will not only add a welcoming touch but also provide health and wellness benefits. This NASA study revealed that placing live, growing plants in your living space improved air quality by removing volatile organic compounds from the air. In addition, the presence of plants has been proven to reduce stress in an office environment in this UK environmental psychology study. To top these off, this Washington State University study found that worker productivity was boosted when they worked in an environment with live interior plants compared to one without.
When choosing office plants, consider the lighting in your work space and how often you wish to water your plants. Here are some top choices for your workspace:
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): Peace lilies make for terrific houseplants as they filter more indoor pollutants than most other plants and they thrive in shaded environments. However, you do need to maintain high soil moisture for this species by frequently watering.
- Spider Plant (Chrolophytum comosum): Spider plants are a popular beginner houseplant requiring minimal care to thrive. This green and white striped plant doesn't need a lot of sun and can survive without being watered often.
- Air Plants (Tillandsia): Air plants are small, require minimal care and don't need soil, making them ideal for home office spaces. Since the scales on their leaves absorb water and nutrients from the air, their roots can be attached to stones or wood in glass jars to accent your desk.
Some basic cable management can go a long way towards tidying up your work space. While you can eliminate cables by using bluetooth peripherals like your keyboard and mouse, power and display cables are inevitable and you may only have a single AC outlet available to power your setup. Rather than having a tangle of cords and power strips on the floor, consider using a cable tray like the Monoprice Under Desk Cable Tray to organize all of your cables out of sight.
We recommend using 3M Command Strips to adhere the cable tray under your desk. These velcro-like adhesive-backed fastening strips are super-strong, non-marking, and make it easy to detach and re-attach your cable tray when needed.
We hope you find this guide helpful as you create your own office setup and adjust to working from home. One of the huge benefits of remote working is that you have complete control over your work environment so you can customize it to make yourself most productive and comfortable.
For more inspiration, check out the setups page where you can filter remote work setups by category like ergonomic, monitor arms, and standing desk and view the detailed hardware used in each setup.