3 Tips for Setting Up a Home Office

The remote worker’s checklist for a productive workspace

Working from home is great — no commute, no cubicles, no noisy co-workers — but remote work has its own challenges. Family, pets, TV, chores, and other distractions are just a step away, but you can resist their pull with a few strategies for designing a home office that keeps you focused and productive.

1. Separate your workspace from your living space

Even if you don’t have a separate room for an office, you can create some boundaries so your work time and downtime don’t bleed together. A dedicated workspace also helps create mental boundaries: if you designate a space to “go to work,” where only work happens and no other activities, it will help give your day some structure. Even if you only have a table or a corner of a room to spare, entering that space acts as a mental trigger that it’s time to focus.

2. Scout out a good location

If possible, choose a spot away from activity centers like the kitchen and living area, especially if other people will be using those spaces during your work hours. Think about the environment — Will it be noisy? Is there a door you can close for meetings or when you need quiet? Do you have enough electrical outlets?

3. Make it comfortable

When you’re working in the same spot all day, you’ll need surroundings where you can get into “deep work” mode and prevent the pains and strains caused by bad posture or uncomfortable furniture.

Let in the light. Good lighting is important to prevent eyestrain and headaches, even if you’re working by the glow of a computer monitor or laptop screen. If you can set up your workspace near a window or other source of sunlight, that’s a natural mood booster, but ambient light from desk or floor lamps can also help keep your eyes from working too hard. Avoid harsh fluorescent lighting and spotlights if you can.

If you’re a night owl, apps like f.lux can minimize the potentially harmful effects of blue light from your devices. This free software calibrates your screen according to the time of day — cool and bright during the day and warmer in the evening and at night—to counteract the blue light. All you have to do is enter your zip code and preferred wake-up time, and it gradually shifts the color temperature of your screen throughout the day. You can even adjust the color temperature of its three stages (daytime, sunset, and bedtime) to your personal preference.

Consider ergonomics. You don’t have to invest in an expensive ergonomic chair to create a comfortable workspace. With a simple height-adjustable seat, some posture pointers, and the right layout for your gear, you’ll set yourself up to stay energized all day.

Source: University of Maryland

For example, when working at a computer, your elbows should be at right angles and the screen roughly at eye level so your body is properly aligned, rather than hunched over your laptop or workstation. Prefer to switch off between sitting and standing? If you don’t want to invest in a standing or adjustable desk, monitor and laptop risers can lift your gear to eye level.