This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business.
The COVID-19 pandemic may be causing you to work from home for the first time in your career. This transition is even more difficult if your kids are out of school and at home. As a first-time remote worker, you may be wondering, how do I best set up my office for success? In this article, we’ll be discussing several home office setup tips including proper insurance, the right equipment, and productivity hacks.
Here are 16 ideas to consider when creating your home office:
Equipment For Your Home Office and Supporting Services
Having the right office equipment can make working at home more enjoyable and can make you look professional to clients and vendors. Proper lighting and colors create an energizing environment. High speed internet and a separate phone line makes you look professional.
1. Purchase A Standing Desk
A standing desk is an adjustable desk that can be used for either sitting or standing. Periodically standing while working is considered a healthier option than long periods of sitting. Standing can reduce weight gain, blood sugar levels, and the risk of heart disease. Additionally, a standing desk may relieve back pain.
Varidesk provides different types of standing desks, including those with a built-in standing feature and those that have a converter you can place on top of an existing desk. You can purchase a converter standing desk starting from $175.
“I don’t sit well. I find that if I sit in my office I become uncomfortable while working. As such, I struggle to write with focus, and I start to feel neck and back tension. I’ve learned that I need to alternately sit and stand during the day.
I often start the day standing at a standing station in my office; then, I might move to a Pilates ball or a wobble chair that I can adjust for my standing station or for a traditional desk. Typically, by evening, I’m ready to sit and can adjust my monitor, remove the standing station and, voila, I can sit and work like most other people.”
—Susan Fitzel, Learning & Development Consultant, SusanFitzell.com
2. Have Proper Lighting
Natural lighting from the sun gives you energy and increases creativity. If possible, we recommend placing your desk as close as possible to natural light. If you can’t place your desk next to natural light, or you live in a location that doesn’t receive sunlight for long stretches during the year, consider a seasonal affective disorder light box. This light replaces the light and natural energy given by the sun. You may find that the light improves your mood and creativity.
Additionally, having poor lighting in your office can make you look unprofessional on video calls. If there is a window in your video background or a large source of light, that video lens will focus on that and make you look dark. It’s a best practice to have a light shining in front of you and behind the camera. If your current office setup has a light at your back, you may need to shift your working space for video calls. If your office has poor lighting, consider purchasing an indoor lighting kit for under $100.
3. Use An Ergonomic Office Chair
Posture and the way you sit affects serotonin (a feel-good chemical) levels in the brain. It’s important to choose an ergonomic chair, a chair designed for comfort in the work environment. Typically, ergonomic indicates that a chair will adjust to your body type. Working in a chair that forces you to lean forward can cause poor posture. A chair that is too low can cause strain on your wrists. Choose an easily adjustable chair, so you can work comfortably for long hours.
Additionally, when choosing a chair, consider the upholstery. Some people are allergic to certain types of upholstery, such as non-organic leather. Also, make sure the arms of the chair are adjustable. Arms that are too high can cause constant shrugging which puts additional pressure on the neck and shoulders.
4. Set Up A Private Business Phone Line
One of the first things you’ll want to do as a new home business is set up a business phone number. This helps you differentiate between personal and business phone calls. Additionally, you can set up a voicemail specially for your business. You can also purchase a phone number for any area code you’d like. This is helpful for someone who moved out of a city but still wants to maintain the area code of the city they previously lived in for business contacts.
“Working from home necessitates the privacy of a business phone line. Maintain confidentiality by setting up a VoIP phone line using your existing internet connection. RingCentral offers personalized vanity numbers for as little as $19.99/month, and it works with any Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) enabled phone. You can also install the app on your mobile device and take calls from anywhere.”
– Marc Prosser, Co-Founder, Fit Small Business
5. Go Wireless And Avoid Clutter
It’s easy to clutter your workspace with device wires. A laptop, monitor, internet router, printer, keyboard, mouse, microphone, and lamp can create a wired mess in your office. This mess can cause a lack of focus and creativity. Many productivity gurus say, “cluttered desk, cluttered mind.” Consider purchasing wireless items like a Bluetooth printer, mouse, and keyboard to clean up your work area.
If you’re on a tight budget and cannot purchase new equipment, consider purchasing Velcro ties to consolidate and organize the wires. This will not only look appealing but also cause less stress from detangling if you need to move any of the items.
6. Get High-speed Internet
You may need to upgrade your internet account to accommodate your working-from-home tasks. Video calls can use a lot of bandwidth (which is how the internet transfers data), especially if you’re working for a remote company that has dozens or hundreds of people on a video call. You don’t want to be the employee who constantly has a poor internet connection that causes a blurry video or interrupted audio.
If upgrading your internet is too costly, consider getting quotes from several companies and comparing the quotes to your current provider. Business Services Connect pulls quotes from several internet companies such as Cox, Comcast, and Spectrum. They also offer other business services such as phone systems.
Decor Home Office Ideas
The decor in your working environment can create a certain mood and set energy levels. The types of colors, direction your chair faces in relation to the door, and scent can all affect your mood. Additionally, if you’re tight on space, you can utilize shelves to unclutter your office and give it a more organized look.
7. Go Green With Plants
Adding plants to your office creates a relaxing environment with quality air. Plants eliminate harmful toxins like formaldehyde and benzene while also producing oxygen. Additionally, if you’re meeting clients via video, having plants in the background can add a calming touch to a plain wall or window.
Consider buying a few air-filtering plants such as a dwarf date palms, spider plants, and Chinese evergreens. If you struggle to keep plants alive, consider hard-to-kill plants such as dracaena or aloe vera instead.
8. Have A Flexible Furniture Plan
It’s likely you won’t structure your work space the way you want it with your first try. Consider organizing your space, working in it for a week, and re-assessing. Did you feel comfortable in that setup? Did you look forward to walking in the room? How was the lighting in the room and on video calls?
A simple office organization tip is to never have your back to the door. If you do have your back to the door it may create subconscious stress and raise cortisol levels (a stress chemical in your body). Additionally, if you’re meeting clients from home, having your chair face the door is considered a power move. Everyone is different, so try your new setup, see how you feel, and don’t be afraid to change it.
9. Design Your Space With Energizing Colors
The colors in our environment affect our focus, energy, and productivity. The psychology of color is an in-depth study; however, generally speaking, adding a blue or green to a room creates a calming and soothing environment that reduces stress and increases harmony. Brighter colors such as red, orange, or yellow create energy, promote innovation, and foster optimism.
You may want to base the colors you choose on your personality. For example, if you find that you often have a high amount of energy, you may want to add blues to your working space. If you find yourself tired and more relaxed, consider adding red or orange. Of course, you don’t want to overuse colors in your workspace. Use the colors previously discussed to compliment more neutral colors such as gray and white.
10. Utilize Vertical Space
If you find your office too cluttered with items, consider using floating shelves. You can store items that don’t weigh much such as a small scanner or office supplies on a shelf. Additionally, shelves can be a great option to holding plants, photos, books, and anything you care about. Showcasing more personal items is a great way for clients and customers to build a relationship with you because it helps them to get to know you better.
11. Incorporate Energizing Style Elements
In addition to color, other items in your office can induce relaxation or create energy. Artwork can set a certain mood in your office. Abstract art with bright colors can spark energy and creativity. A nature painting with cool color tones can create a relaxing environment.
Additionally, aromatherapy, which diffuses essential oils into the air, can set a mood in your office as well. To use aromatherapy you need to purchase a diffuser and an essential oil to use in it. For energy, consider using essential oils like peppermint, spearmint, sweet orange, and lemon. For relaxation, consider lavender, jasmine, bergamot, and lemongrass.
Productivity & Financial Home Office Setup Tips
Working from home can easily lead to decreased productivity if you’re routinely distracted by family and nagging personal to-do lists. There may also be additional financial costs that come with working from home like additional insurance costs.
12. Enforce Office Hours
It can be difficult to focus working from home if you have a stay-at-home parent or kids in the house. To limit interruptions, consider simply setting office hours. This is much easier to do if you have a stand-alone office in the home. Similar to rules when working in an office with other employees, if your door is closed, no one can come into the office unless it is an emergency.
“It’s important to find an office space in your home that works for you and your family and can be personalized to fit your interests and work needs. Most of my work is online and with clients via Skype or FaceTime. I also home-school our five children. I chose to make my office in our bedroom because it’s near our living room where our children do their schoolwork. I chose a corner desk because it fits best in this space.
I even bought a stop sign that I hang on my door whenever I’m working with a client, so our children know they can’t interrupt during the appointment. My office hours work around our home-schooling schedule. That works for us; it’s important to figure out what will work for you!”
—Carrie Sharpe, Communication Consultant & Speaker, He Says, She Says
13. Get A Virtual Office Address
A virtual office address in a large city can make you look professional to clients and vendors. Typically, it’s an address at a shared business location such as a co-working space. A virtual address comes with mail forwarding, so you don’t have to visit the actual address for your mail. You may find that shared office offers other services for an additional monthly cost, like a dedicated phone number and receptionist.
Servcorp can set you up with a virtual address at one of its co-working locations in cities like Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco. With a virtual address, it also gives customers up to three hours a day to work at one of its co-working spaces. Servcorp’s virtual addresses start at $79 per month.
14. Focus With the Pomodoro Method
It can be hard to stay focused working from home with distractions like chores, pets, social media, and food. To maintain a laser-like focus on work and improve productivity, consider a time management method called The Pomodoro Technique. It’s a simple strategy of working without distraction for 25 minutes, then taking a five minute break. Repeat: 25 minutes on (work time), five minutes off (break time), four times in a row. After that, take a longer 30 to 60 minute break. Then, repeat the entire process again.
After working for 25 minutes straight, you get to reward yourself with a five minute free break. The five minute break is rejuvenating and gets you ready to start working hard and focused again. There are several tools you can use to track your pomodoros. A simple and free tool is tomato-timer.com. Set the timer, and work diligently until you hear the buzzer go off. Set a five minute timer, take a break and repeat.
15. Apply The Home Office Tax Deduction
Working from home often qualifies you to deduct home-based expenses on your tax return. You can deduct office expenses like a printer, paper, and writing supplies. Additionally, if you use 15% of your home as an office, you can deduct working expenses such as bills, utilities, and insurance. To stay organized throughout the year, use a small business accounting software like QuickBooks to keep track of your business purchases; you can write off the cost as a business expense.
16. Check Your Insurance Coverage
If you have employees working out of your home or are receiving customer visits, you need to purchase both general liability and property insurance. General liability insurance protects you if someone gets injured in your home. Property insurance covers your office equipment in the event of damage, loss, or theft. For a home-based business, general liability costs around $640 per year.
“Don’t assume your homeowners or renters policy covers your home office. Check your existing policy to learn whether you have liability coverage for accidents that may befall business visitors such as clients, customers, or even delivery people.
You may need to purchase a separate commercial liability insurance policy. Also find out whether you have property coverage for losses to business items, including expensive equipment, and if so, the extent of your coverage.”
—Barbata Weltman, President, BIG IDEAS For Small Business
Working from a home office can sound like a great idea; however, if you don’t have the right equipment, visually appealing decor, or knowledge of productivity techniques that work, you will have huge challenges to overcome. Set yourself up for success with features like a chair you enjoy sitting in, lighting that makes you feel good, and tried-and-true strategies to help you work more efficiently..
Before starting an at-home business, it’s crucial to separate your personal and business finances for legal reasons. If you register your home business as a limited liability company (LLC) and you don’t keep personal and business finances separate, you could be putting your personal finances at risk to a business liability, like a lawsuit. Chase Business Checking provides safe and secure checking for small businesses. You won’t pay any fees on your checking account when you maintain a balance over $1,500.