Setting up a home office for working remotely? You’re not alone! Every year, more people are choosing to work remotely, whether that be a traditional office job in their homes or a social media-fueled nomadic lifestyle. In fact, the number of people working remotely has grown 173 percent in the last decade. That’s an 11 percent faster growth rate than the general workforce!
Working from home: the pros
So what makes remote work so popular? For most people it’s the freedom that remote work affords you. There’s no supervisor breathing down your neck, and you can get your work done your own way with no fear of judgement. Many people thrive outside of a corporate office and find that they get more work done.
Working from home means:
- Increased productivity
- No commute
- Fewer distractions
- Set your own schedule
Working from home: the cons
Nothing in life is perfect, and there are some downsides to working from home. For some people, home can be filled with more distractions, especially other members of the household. Many people unfortunately hold the assumption that because you are home, you are “not really working”. Striking that ideal work/life balance can be more challenging when you work remotely.
Working from home can also mean:
- Increased distractions
- Loss of social connection
- You may overeat
- Can be hard to stop working
I attended the Boston Flex Summit in 2019. At the summit, one of the main talking points was burnout. Burnout can affect people in all types of work, but it can especially creep up on people who work remotely. Since your home and your office are one, you may start to feel obligated to work past quitting time and to take your work with you everywhere. There’s no “off” button unless you are very intentional.
That’s why it’s so vital to set your schedule and stick to it. Take the time to get plenty of sleep, exercise and fresh air. Burnout is an enemy of remote work, but you can tackle it with some determination. It’s up to you to decide for yourself whether the pros of working from home outweigh the cons.
General work from home productivity tips
While you set up your home office and transition to remote work, here are some additional tips to help you avoid burnout and keep yourself focused and productive.
Do not mix work and sleep
Creating a strong mental association between your bedroom and sleep is essential to getting high quality rest each night. Ideally you should be using your bedroom only for sleep. Bringing work into your bedroom will only make sleeping more difficult.
Having a dedicated office space is ideal, so you can keep work separate from your home life. This isn’t always possible, depending on where you live, but make an effort to create a separate “work zone”. This can be as simple as packing up and putting away your work supplies every afternoon to help signal to your brain that you’re done working.
Set a schedule and create routines
We humans are creatures of habit. Our brains love routine. In a typical office environment, there’s usually a very rigid schedule and many people take up remote work looking to inject a little flexibility into their work. This is great, but don’t completely do away with routine and schedule. You’ll be much more productive if you budget your time while you work from home.
Here are some tips on setting up an effective work-from-home schedule.
Set boundaries with housemates
This might be the trickiest part of all. While most people would hesitate to call your office or stop by your work normally, once you start working from home, there can be some issues with interruptions. To keep yourself productive and to avoid frustration, you should be upfront and clear with everyone else in your household about your work schedule. Make sure they understand that you are at work even though you’re physically at home, and that you shouldn’t be bothered.
Having a dedicated home office can help with this because you can close the door. Another helpful tip is to set up a simple “yes, I’m in”/”no, I’m out” system. You can use colored cards – red for busy; green for it’s okay to interrupt.
Home office setup for working remotely
But one thing remains the same no matter what kind of remote work you’re doing: you need a solid office.
Ideally your work from home space should meet certain criteria. I’ve talked about these mobility criteria before and they include access to things like:
- A solid internet connection
- Sufficient physical space
- A structured schedule
In an office setting, you would have all of this provided for you, and there would be an unspoken guarantee that you would never be expected to complete a task outside of the capabilities of your provided office hardware. But when you work from home, a lot of the onus is on you to make sure everything is working smoothly.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific hardware and supplies you’ll need to really be able to effectively work from home.
A laptop or desktop is a must-have. Which one you go with depends a lot on your job’s specific requirements. For the digital nomads out there, you’ll want to focus on something light and portable. (I’ve been reliably using a Macbook Air for years. IBM Thinkpads are also incredibly durable.)
Don’t skimp on the power of your machine. If you need something beefy enough to run multiple applications at once, put the money into getting a dedicated machine.
Make sure your computer is all your own. Don’t try to work on a shared laptop or a family computer. There’s too high of a risk that your work will be messed with and it will cause friction within your household if you’re all fighting over the computer.
A good chair
You really want to invest in a comfortable, ergonomic chair. You will be sitting at your desk for hours, and if you’re not properly supporting your body, you’ll be sore, tired and achy. Definitely not the conditions for doing your best work.
Unless you’re working from home in a quaint, European villa (in which case, congratulations!) you’ll likely be putting up with noises and distractions as you try to get your work done. Cars, neighbors, the sounds of the city, there are a lot of noisy distractions out to slow your productivity.
Get yourself a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones. AirPods and Beats are both fine choices, it just depends on your personal preference: do you just want headphones or do you prefer the feel of a full headset? Having a quiet workplace will make a huge difference in how much work you’re able to get done.
Consider the apps and programs you need for your remote job. What kind of work are you doing? What pieces of software are essential to your job and which will help you work more quickly and smoothly.
Internet / Wi-Fi
Obviously you’ll need internet to work from home, but not all providers are made equal. I know a lot of areas don’t have a great deal of variety, but if you can, look for a provider that offers fiber optic. If there’s no fiber, then sign up for the strongest broadband connection available. You’ll need these faster speeds to remain productive. The minimum you should settle for is:
Not sure what speeds you’re currently getting? Don’t rely on your internet provider to tell you. They’ll give you “maximum” numbers that won’t be very accurate. Instead to go speedtest.net to see what kind of speeds you’re getting.
We’ve also got a handy guide here to show you exactly what speeds you’ll need to comfortably run video meeting programs like Zoom and Skype.
In rural areas where great internet isn’t readily available, consider mobile internet or satellite options, like Hughesnet. You can use your phone as a mobile hotspot or invest in a mi-fi device to assist you while you’re traveling.
If you end up using your phone as your sole source of internet while you travel, then I’d definitely recommend a T-mobile phone plan so you can get online without paying through the nose.
Powering your remote office
When you work from home, you are at the mercy of your power company. If anything goes wrong and the power goes out, you’ll be left in the dark, literally. I’ve had many an important conference call be interrupted because some random event killed the power.
While your old office job had some guaranteed stability surrounding these things, working from home means you just can’t ever know for sure. So err on the side of caution and set yourself up with some fail proofs.
Pay the extra ten bucks and get a decent surge protector. Be sure you work on a dedicated outlet to minimize the risk of overloading. If you use a laptop, be sure to have a spare battery fully charged and waiting should the power go out (it’s not a bad idea to keep a fully-charged portable phone charger on hand, as well).
But even with spare power, you might not be able to work because the internet will be down. It’s a good idea to take one of my travel hotspot suggestions from before and have it on hand in case you ever find yourself without internet.
Here are some extra remote work tools that you can live without, but which do make your life easier.
Once you’ve experienced working with two monitors, you’ll never want to go back. You can get a second monitor and hook it up to your laptop or desktop fairly easily.
Similar to the ergonomic chair, an ergonomic keyboard may be what saves you from an expensive and bothersome carpal tunnel procedure.
External USB microphone
You might not need this for regular meetings, but if you host or participate in webinars then you’ll really appreciate the extra clarity of an external microphone.
If you use a laptop, then external speakers are a good idea. Most laptops don’t have great sound to start with and even on those that do, the speakers tend to be one of the first parts of the machine to break down.
This is a personal favorite of mine, but it’s just an example of one way to pamper yourself a bit. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself and to find things that help you relax and ease any stress tension you may have built up over the course of the day. Maybe you won’t end up with a massager exactly, but make sure you find something that helps you unwind each day.
Again, you might not need a treadmill exactly, but make sure your home is equipped to help you get some exercise. If you’ve got access to outdoor recreation, that’s great, but if you’re cooped up in a small home without a gym or park in sight, then get a treadmill, an elliptical or some other piece of equipment that allows you to get your heart rate going.
It’s important to have a home office setup for working remotely that enables you to be productive.
- Desk and space in separate area of house/condo/van/boat/RV etc
- Ergonomic chair – for the amount of hours you’ll
- Upgraded hardware with ability to use the applications you need for work
- Software – the applications you need to install for work
- Ergonomic chair, headphones, mic, monitor
- Internet – strong internet with backup wi-fi using mi-fi, hotspot, or satellite
- Power – devices fully charged, backup power, surge protectors