8 Tips for Setting Up a Productive Home Office

Flexible desks, portable gadgets and clever planning help a growing number of people work productively and seamlessly from home offices.

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Setting up a home office space ranks as a necessity for more workers than ever before. There was a 173 percent jump in the number of people telecommuting between 2005 and 2020, according to research through Global Workplace Analytics — and that was before the 2020 pandemic mandated the situation.

A truly healthy and productive setup isn’t as simple as plopping your laptop on your coffee table and calling it an office. Here are our best tips and tricks for creating a successful work-at-home space.

Find Your Home Workspace Fit

Ideal home offices have a door you can close to block noise and distractions. If that’s not possible, seek other adaptable solutions. A fold-down desk plus tri-fold screen/room divider stakes out a little privacy in any spare corner. Or you can convert a closet into an office, too.

Or go totally portable, such as a kitchen cart converted into a standing work station, or a small portable TV tray or laptop desk. That gives you flexibility to move it around the house, wherever it’s quietest. Just be sure give your files and supplies a dedicated home in a cabinet, drawer or closet, so you can easily tuck away your work at the end of the day.

Make It Video Call-Ready

Keep at least one wall of your office or work area free of clutter that can be distracting and look unprofessional during virtual meetings. Position your camera so lamps or ceiling fans don’t sprout from behind your head.

Select Your Seating

If you’re going to make one investment, a quality place to sit is a wise choice. The U.S. Occupational and Health Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends an office chair with lumbar support for your back, the ability to swivel between monitors if necessary, and height adjustability, especially if a partner will also be using the chair. Install a roller mat if the home office is in a carpeted area.

Create Quiet

Ideally, you’d shut out a noisy household or neighborhood by sound-proofing your home office. Since that’s hardly realistic for everyone, other options include investing in noise-canceling headphones or a white noise app with earbuds.

Raise Your Screen

If you use a dining room or kitchen table as a workspace, elevate your computer screen so it’s at eye level or slightly lower, to keep things easy on your eyes, arms, neck and shoulders. Place a laptop on a stack of sturdy books for a speedy solution, or invest in a stand or a combination stand and desktop organizer. Or build your own computer stand with a jigsaw and $10 worth of materials.

Reduce Eye Strain

While it’s tempting to face a window with a view outside, that can increase eye strain if your computer is directly in front of you. Pivot your work station so natural light comes in from the sides, rather than behind or in front of your computer.

No Chair Required

Elevated work stations are said to provide a host of benefits, including increased circulation and productivity. A simple tabletop standing desk is inexpensive or easy to make. You could build an entire adjustable desk, too. Another option more active than a traditional desk chair: an exercise ball, with or without a stand.

Do a Desktop Right

If you prefer a desktop computer, invest in a wireless mouse and keyboard, plus a clamp-on keyboard tray that attaches to and slides beneath a table or desk. That reduces shoulder, back and wrist strain.