Thanks to the pandemic, working from home is no longer just a modern option, but a necessity. With 57 million remote workers in the U.S. in 2019 alone, the number has continued to grow exponentially and is projected to continue to lead a massive-scale transformation for the traditional workplace.
So what do all of these remote workers have in common? They suddenly need a home office, and they need to start from scratch. What do they need? What can they skip? How much does this environment ultimately matter for the work you do? Here are the 7 must-haves for the perfect home office.
1. An ergonomic desk
You may think this is unnecessary – after all, how much space can a laptop take? But that’s not the only thing you need for a successful work day. Between your computer, an extra monitor, a laptop stand, a keyboard, mouse, and paperwork, you need enough space to work comfortably.
Whether you work in data science, transcribing, or as an IT professional, the fact of the matter is that you need to properly conduct your business, as well as storage space, and anything else that can make this space a more pleasant space to be in and increase productivity.
2. Supportive seating
As professionals working from home, we spend at least 8 hours a day in our designated desk chairs, so a random kitchen chair won’t do. Investing in a comfortable, supportive chair is an absolute must. Ideally, you’d be able to try out a few chairs in order to find the right fit for your height, weight, anatomy and needs.
Generally, higher quality chairs will be more expensive, so an investment is required, but we’re talking about your lumbar support and long-term health, so the extra expense is entirely worth it. You can also supplement with lumbar support pillows in order to create your ideal desk chair setup.
3. Natural light
And precisely because so much of your time is going to be spent here, it’s incredibly important that you manage to make this a pleasant, inspiring environment that’s light, airy, and beautifully decorated according to your tastes and needs. It should be a relaxing space where you are able to focus and work, not a claustrophobic, dark, stressful closet.
That’s why natural light is so essential to creating a healthy space. Choose a room with a big window and if you can, place the desk facing the window. That’s going to not just ensure a constant mood boost, but it also helps you harness natural light and save on the very costly energy bills resulting from so many resources being spent at home during work hours.
4. Strong Wi-Fi
It goes without saying, but when you’re working from home, Wi-Fi is, perhaps, your most essential asset. You can improvise anything else – a makeshift desk, working on the sofa, using your phone as a ring light – but if you have no internet, your hands are tied, and your work is impacted.
Think about how much you use the internet and choose a package that suits your bandwidth needs. If you only ever use the internet for emails and online shopping, you can get away with a low bandwidth plan, but if you’re Zoom conferencing or streaming online, you need to spring for more to ensure that you never suffer through spotty connections or the dreaded lag.
5. A door that locks
It’s very important for your home work space to be a separate room, preferably remotely located from the rest of your home. That’s not always possible due to space constraints, but the separation between your office and your home is a physical illustration of the mental separation you need to keep between your work and your personal life.
An office door, and ideally, a lock, is a necessary boundary not just for your mental health, but to ensure the security of your work and professionalism from day to day. If you have an important meeting, you can simply lock your door to eliminate distractions. At the end of the day, you can leave this space, close the door behind you, and leave work at work, which will help you unwind.
6. A Zoom wall
Daily Zoom calls and hours spent video conferencing are a reality for a lot of us these days – we participate in 50% more meetings than we had before COVID – and as we saw from early pandemic blunders, making your home work meeting-appropriate can be difficult, and your background can be distracting, at best, and unprofessional, at worst.
That’s why it’s a good idea to consider setting up a “Zoom wall” in your home office space. It can just be a blank wall you can have in your background, or you can have pictures, a plant, maybe bookshelves – just make sure that this corner of your space is always camera-ready.
That way, you will no longer have to scramble to put things out of frame or stop family, kids, or pets from walking in and out of frame. It’s an easy and cheap way to make this part of your work life easier.
7. A home assistant
Statistics show that Millennials, in particular, are very interested in smart tech and AI applications not just at work, but also in their homes. And what if you could merge them together to help you while you work from home? Enter the home assistant.
Patiently and quietly perched on the edge of your desk, Siri, Alexa, or Cortana can serve as your assistant day in, and day out. Whether you need to schedule a meeting, look up important facts, call someone, or get a reminder for an important date, the home assistant is easy to activate, always polite, and always performs duties the way she’s instructed.
Working from home is an option preferred by most employees, and according to studies, a whopping 89% of employees are satisfied with their remote work arrangements. However, with this change taking place overnight due to the pandemic, a lot of work from home employees were left with subpar or inadequate work spaces in their homes.
Thankfully, home offices can be made more relaxing, more conducive to productivity, and better suited to your needs. You just need to have the right items that can take it from a space you work in to a workspace. A good desk, a comfortable chair, and reliable Wi-Fi are absolute necessities.
But you can also add “extras” that make everything better. Ensure that this space gets some natural light, add some decorative knick-knacks and maybe even a spiffy new home assistant and you’ll notice a difference in your level of productivity.