Work & Career
Here’s Exactly What You Need to Be Successful Working from Home
Increase your productivity, make yourself comfy, and improve your health by upgrading to this sweet home-office setup.
Let’s start with the basics: It’s far more challenging to be efficient, focused, or creative without a dedicated workspace. Setting up shop in your bedroom, at your kitchen table, or on the couch allows for unwelcome distractions. “Ideally, you can designate a room with a door as your office so that you can have privacy when working, but also escape from work when it is time to be home with family,” says Liz Toombs, a Certified Interior Decorator and president of PDR Interiors. “If a room and/or door are not feasible, then carve out a corner of a space in your home to be your work area. The idea behind a dedicated workspace is to create boundaries between work and home life that can be respected. It’s not healthy to have work bleed into personal time or vice versa.”
The human body was designed to move, but desk jobs have forced our bodies into a more sedentary lifestyle. And that’s exactly why standing desks were invented. “Even if you have a great ergonomic setup and maintain the perfect posture your grandma taught you, you’ll eventually develop aches and pains if your body isn’t consistently moving,” says Dr. Keaton Ray, co-founder of MovementX, who has a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “Despite our best intentions, sitting inhibits your muscles from activating and eventually you’ll end up slouching. But when you are standing, there are instinctive signals to your brain to keep your muscles engaged—otherwise, every time you got lost in an email chain while standing, you’d end up on the floor!” She goes on to explain that when using a standing desk, your muscles are automatically engaged and pumping blood through the veins in your legs. The increased blood flow leads to increased oxygenation, which leads to a healthier cardiovascular system. Finally, when we stand we have more freedom to shift our weight side to side and rock back and forth on our feet, contributing to improved long-term balance.
When your pelvis can move while sitting, Dr. Ray says your lumbar spine maintains mobility, your neck is in healthier alignment, your spinal discs are getting precious blood flow and oxygen, your core muscles are activating, your cardiovascular system is staying strong, and you are passively burning calories. “Even if you found the perfect ergonomic chair, the truth is you shouldn’t be sitting still on it for hours on end,” she explains. “The best chair is one that allows you to move and vary your posturing.” So find a chair that keeps you moving while working from home—one you can bounce on, or transition from sitting to standing, or you can rock your pelvis back and forth on. If you refuse to give you your traditional chair, then at least follow these tips for helping your body recover from a day of sitting.
If you want the flexibility of working while standing, but already own a desk that you like, then the Fellowes Lotus DX sit-stand workstation is an excellent addition to your current set-up. A built-in charging station with wireless charging stand will help keep your devices on 100 percent, and changing positions from sitting to standing and back again is a breeze. If you hate the clutter of unsightly cords, it has a core management system with rear USB ports for your keyboard and mouse to help free up your workspace.
Many corporations see the productivity value in doubling up on monitors for employee workstations, so it stands to reason that you’ll want that same setup while working from home, too. “It allows you to be more productive with less switching from page to page,” says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “It’s especially important for data entry and writers who need to do research.” And now that you have twice the desktop space, follow this advice on how successful people organize their computer desktops.
If your employer has provided you with a laptop, that’s great, but working on one all day long can be a real drag. The screen is tiny, the keyboard is awkward, there’s no mouse, and its design causes you to hunch over. A docking station is your solution because it essentially converts your laptop to a desktop computer — simply connect your laptop to your dock and you’ll have access to a separate monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers. Gone are the days of bulky and ugly docks, when you choose the new HP Thunderbolt Dock G2. It’s a space saver with a sleek design that supports up to two 4K displays.
Can’t find what you need? Do the walls feel like they’re closing in on you? Filing cabinets, bookcases, desk drawers, and baskets can help keep you organized and sane. “The type of organization you have will depend on what type of space is available to you,” says Toombs. “If you have a room in your home with a door that you can close so it is not visible to guests, your organization can be more utilitarian, such as filing cabinets or banker’s boxes. If you have a desk in the corner of your living room, your organizational tools should be more aesthetically pleasing so as not to detract from the appearance of the space.” Need some inspo? Don’t miss these 8 clever ways to organize everything at your desk.
Wireless all-in-one printer
Working from home can sometimes mean that space is limited, so you’ll want to find double-duty, space-saving accessories that will increase your efficiency. “An all-in-one wireless printer is a great example of a tool that can print, scan, fax, and make copies without requiring different electronics for each job,” says Kayla Hein, creative director for Modern Castle and practicing interior architect and designer for Tulsa design and architecture firm GH2. Plus, it’ll save you from wasting time running up to the local print shop every time you need to sign a document or print a spreadsheet. Choose a wireless one, like the new HP Tango, and you can even print hands-free with Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
If you spend a great deal of time working on a tablet, then your arms are probably tired from propping it up all the time. LEVO’s tablet stand is great for holding a tablet in any position for reading in a chair, sofa, bed, or standing. It works with all iPads and other tablets up to 12 inches across—just know that it doesn’t hold a keyboard, so you’ll have to place that in your lap.
Amazon Prime Membership
Unless you stole a Swingline stapler from your last in-office job, working from home generally means that you’ll need to provide all of your own supplies. Hein suggests an Amazon Prime membership, which makes it easy to get the supplies that you need without having to go to the store or wait for weeks on your shipments to arrive. Some markets even offer a two-hour delivery, in case your boss is really breathing down your neck. Plus, it’ll make the rest of your life easier too—check out these 17 Amazon Prime benefits you might not know about.
If you’re used to relying on an office coffee machine or nearby café for your afternoon pick-me-up, then you may be in for a rude awakening when you transition to working from home. “Keeping a coffeemaker in your home office helps you avoid running into distractions on your way to the kitchen,” says Claudia McLaughlin, an interior designer and the founder of CMF Transitional Organization, LLC. “It’s easy to want to quickly unload the dishwasher or pop in that load of laundry when you’re working from home, but keeping a separate coffee machine in the office will help your productivity skyrocket.”
Whether your employer has mandated video conferences or you just want to have a more personal connection to the outside world, a webcam is a must-have item for your home office. “Installing a webcam to your desktop or laptop can be a great way to stay relevant and ‘in person’ to people who work outside of your home office,” says Hein. “Logitech webcams are one of the best in the business and are easy to set up and effective at connecting people worldwide.”
Are you squinting, getting headaches and struggling to see details? It’s time to climb out of the dark. Lighting designers at Houzz say a home office should have layers of light rather than a single light source. “Layered lighting brings in light from multiple sources throughout the room,” says Anne Colby, Houzz senior editor. “Be sure the lighting is diffused and the fixtures are positioned to avoid creating screen glare, which can lead to eyestrain.” Consider all options to determine what’s best for your home office, including recessed ceiling lights, a pendant light, a desk lamp, and a window with a blind.
We all know that plants turn the CO2 we breathe out into oxygen we breathe in. “But many people don’t realize that indoor plants can actually filter out volatile organic compounds and other harmful pollutants,” says R. Terry Cline, SpaceBehavior Specialist and Licensed Architect. “And, of course, there are aesthetic and soul benefits—we feel more calm, happier, and more spiritual as we look at living things in our environment, take in their colors, and their fragrance.” And because working from home can feel claustrophobic if you never step foot outside, Cline suggests projecting shadows of the branches and leaves onto the ceiling by using a small light fixture with a clear filament bulb to create a sense of sitting under a tree. Next, check out these 14 jobs where you can be your own boss.
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