Almost one in four American workers are realizing the benefits of working from home, whether they’re remote employees or running their own small business. But setting up your home office isn’t without its challenges. For many of us, space is at a premium, there are endless distractions, and it can be hard to separate your professional life from your personal.
Read on for home office setup tips and inspiration on what works best for other small business professionals just like you.
Tips to Consider When Creating Your Home Office
Marc Prosser, Co-Founder, Fit Small Business
When you’re working from your own house, the boundaries between home and work can quickly become blurred. Give yourself a degree of separation by setting up a personalized business phone number with RingCentral. You can call, text, and fax from your business number on any mobile device, and get unlimited calls to anywhere in the US and Canada. Start a free 15-day trial.
Susan Fitzell, Author, Consultant, & Professional Speaker
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.
If you’re going to be sitting in your home office for several hours a day, you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself by investing in a good chair. Click here to see our recommendations. You can also check out our top tips on picking an office chair.
4. Enforce office hours
Carrie Sharpe, Communication Consultant and Speaker, He Says, She Says
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 homeschool 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 homeschooling schedule. That works for us; it’s important to figure out what will work for you!
5. Don’t mix business and pleasure (financially)
Jeff White, Real Estate & Small Business Writer, Fit Small Business
It’s important to make sure business and personal checking and savings accounts are separate. This will save you loads of time and effort at tax time, not to mention throughout the year if you pay quarterly. Also, if you are ever audited, having a business bank account will make it much easier to prove that your books are balanced correctly.
6. Check your insurance coverage
Barbara Weltman, President, BIG IDEAS for Small Business
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 or 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.
7. Keep your home office separate from your living space
Samantha R. Strazanac, CEO and Founder, Strazanac Solutions LLC
I own a marketing consulting firm and work out of the spare bedroom in my townhouse. The best thing about my workspace is the desk and the fact that it is separate from the rest of my house. The desk and dual monitor gives me the feeling that I am in a real office and not at home, unlike how it would feel if I were working off the kitchen table.
The biggest key to my setup and success is separating work from home. I close the door when I am in my office, and I close the door when I am not in my office. I do not eat in my office or socialize in my office. It is for work only.
8. Stop interruptions before they happen
Richard Lowe, Founder, The Writing King
One of the issues I ran into creating a home office was since it’s at home and without supervision, it’s easier to give into interruptions.
I had to make it very clear that if I was in my “office”, at that time a small room to the side of the living room, I was not to be interrupted. At first my family was offended, but eventually, they understood this was not personal—I was trying to make a living and had to set boundaries.
9. You have to want to spend time there
Michelle Pippin, Founder, Women Who WOW
While I’m okay with some chaos, I want my office to be welcoming to me. It must have ambiance. I love working from home because I get to work exactly the way I want — on my couch, at my desk, in my workout clothes, or whatever. But I also love that I get to choose what I’m listening to and how the place smells. I love my essential oils and great music to fuel my days!
Also, it must be effective. I’m not “playing” business. This is how I support my family, so my home office must work for me. It must be conducive to producing my best work. That’s why every home office should be different from the next. As I grow and as my business evolves, my office does too.
10. Add a touch of professionalism with a virtual office
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
Although convenient, a residential address and personal phone number don’t give you the credibility to be taken seriously as a professional. A virtual office from Alliance Virtual Offices includes a commercially recognized business address, a local or toll-free number, and a live receptionist who can answer calls in your company name. You also get access to meeting rooms, coworking space, and hot desks in 275+ US cities. Get a free quote today.
Joanna Douglas, Owner, Clean Affinity
Avoid getting sidetracked, and you won’t fall short on any tasks that you need to do for the day. For example, in the morning, I wake up at 6am, get my kids fixed up with breakfast, finish some chores, then get to work around 8am. At 12, I’ll be fixing lunch for the kids and I check in with my employees and list down what we have accomplished so far. Write up a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
12. Have processes and procedures
Similar to the tip above, it’s useful to create a formal system of operations for your home office that you follow. This doesn’t need to be too formal, but standardizing recordkeeping, paying invoices, logging time, responding to emails, and other administrative tasks will help add structure to your day. It will also help to keep your office organized and ensure that information is available where and when you need it most.
13. Incorporate energizing style elements
Natalie Athanasiadis, Head of Digital, Design Visibility Group
Style the office as a space that will energize you and motivate you to want to be in there and achieve the most. Incorporate scents where possible because they can help you get in the zone. You can use items like reed diffusers, candles, or essential oil vaporizers. Just try and keep it consistent.
14. Go green
Real plants add more than just a colorful element to your office. They actually help clear the air of all sorts of nasty toxins, from formaldehyde to benzene.
Don’t have a green thumb? No problem. Try hardy indoor plants that are hard to kill, such as aloe vera, spider plant, and dracaena.
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, Fit Small Business
Setting up a home office can be a costly endeavor. Thankfully, working from home often qualifies you to deduct office expenses when tax time rolls around. Everything from your stapler, to your floor lamp, to that beautiful new desk can help you pay less at tax season—IF you have good records. Use Quickbooks Self-Employed to stay organized throughout the year and when April arrives, you’ll be all set. They even offer a bundle with TurboTax to make filing a breeze. Start a free trial today.
16. Have a flexible furniture plan
Keeping your working and living spaces separate is ideal, but it’s not always possible — especially if, like me, you live in a smaller condo. In these cases, you can make the most of your space by making your office do double duty.
Apartment Therapy suggests using tablespace you already have, such as a dining room table or a kitchen island. A small desk can also be a vanity when you’re not working on it.
17. Take breaks
Working in a traditional office forces you to take the occasional break from your desk, whether it’s for a meal or a meeting. But when you’re working from home, it can be hard to remember to do other things when the lines between work and home become blurred.
Take yourself out for a coffee or lunch, go for a walk, play with your dog, or just step outside for some fresh air to break up your day.
Good lighting is often overlooked, but it influences how you feel in your home office, which will directly affect your productivity.
Natural light from the sun is the best, especially during winter months, but in lieu of that, try to experiment with different intensities or light tones to find out which one works best for you. If you have the space, different fixtures can create different moods.
19. Design your space with colors you love
Forget office beige or primer white. The colors of your room will have almost as much of an effect on you as the lighting, so choose ones that align with your work style.
For some people, that will mean bright and energizing colors like orange or lime green. For others, a more calming shade of seafoam blue is best.
20. Make the most of vertical space
Floating shelves are inexpensive and easy to install. Plus, they give you an opportunity to display the things you care about. Floating shelves are an excellent alternative to a bulky bookcase when space is at a premium.
We loved this tip from Fast Company. Websites like Pinterest or other design magazines can be great for inspiration, but their ideas aren’t always the most practical.
Upholstered dining room chairs, small vintage desks, and bright colors all photograph well but are they really conducive to how you like to work? Too much visual stimulation can be its own distraction. A good home office needs to place function over form.
22. Make sure you’re getting a home office tax deduction
Crystalynn Shelton, Tax & Accounting Analyst, Fit Small Business
If you are a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC and use a portion of your home for business, then you could be eligible for a home office tax deduction that could significantly lower your tax bill.
23. Make easy improvements!
Even though this article is about setting up your home office, it’s never too late to improve yours. If there’s something that’s not working its best for you, change it!
There’s not much that a little thought, reorganization, a few well-chosen accessories, or a bucket of paint can’t fix. Or if you have the time, you can completely transform your working space over a weekend.
It’s easy to fall into a routine, but a quick home office makeover can be just what you need to re-inspire you.
24. Break up your routine
No matter how great your home office is, sometimes you just need to break up your routine. Find a local café with WiFi and make it your office for a day.
A change of scenery can help inspire creativity and being around other people can help to fill the social void that leaving a traditional office can create. Best of all, you’ll never run out of coffee.
25. The psychology of color
Different colors evoke different emotional and physical reactions and impact mood and energy levels, so be aware of the impact of the colors you choose for your office.
Blues, greens, and violets are peaceful and relaxing; yellow grabs attention; red is energetic; white and grey minimize distractions; and, purple inspires creativity.
26. Go wireless
Avoid adding a cluttered and tangled mess unnecessarily by using as much wireless technology as you can. Keyboards, mice, printers, and your internet connection can all be shared wirelessly, giving you more flexibility with your furniture arrangements and keeping your space tidy and visually pleasing.
Personalize your office’s walls with paintings, photos, or anything else that you find personally pleasing to help keep you inspired.
Whether you prefer a gallery-style arrangement with lots of variety or a single statement piece as your focus, incorporating art into your home office helps to keep you motivated, inspires creativity, and adds a personal touch.
The Bottom Line: Home Office Setup Tips
For those of us who work from home, myself included, the benefits are great:
- We’re liberated from our desks
- Our morning commute is usually from our bedroom to our den or workspace
- Our office is wherever we make it — a café, library, or even on our travels
- We have the flexibility to set our own schedules and be more available for life’s demands — as long as we’re available for meetings and client commitments, of course.
As well, allowing staff to work remotely also has quantifiable benefits to a business’ bottom line. But the first step to ensuring that working from home benefits you and your business is to create a comfortable home office setup that minimizes distractions and maximizes productivity.