More and more Americans are turning to working out of their homes as a way to earn their living, as it both cuts down on commute time and decreases their employer’s overhead. Not every job is possible to do from a home office, of course, but for those that are, we offer 10 awesome ways to make it the envy of all your coworkers.
Invest in a Good Chair
You’ll be spending most of your waking hours sitting in a chair, so if there’s any area to splurge on, this is it. For eight hours a day, you want to make sure your back, knees, arms, shoulders, feet and neck are as comfortable as possible, and a good chair is a huge difference maker. Get one with a curved back, adjustable armrests and adjustable height, and test them out thoroughly in the store. Use all the positions you normally sit in, such as slouching, leaning forward, shifting to one side, and reaching around you. A good office chair can cost hundreds of dollars, but rehab to fix muscle problems can get into the thousands. Your call.
Try a Ball or Treadmill for Your “Chair
One of the dangers of working from home is a lack of exercise. No matter where you work that’s not in a home office, you at least get a bit of exercise, whether it’s from walking to your car or bus stop and then into your office. At home, though, it’s easy to turn into a slug and take off years from your life, but you can ameliorate a bit of that by working out while you work. A popular choice is to sit on an exercise ball so you strengthen your core and back muscles, while some home office workers have opted to place their laptop on a treadmill so they can walk and strengthen their bones while typing. It’s a bit unusual, but you’re killing two birds with one stone in a highly effective way.
Pick the Right Space
Typically, home offices have been relegated to spare bedrooms, dens or basements, but there’s no rule that says you have to keep it there. Because you’ll be spending the better part of your day in your home office, pick a space that feels right on all accounts: is it cold and drafty, warm and stuffy, or can the temperature be adjusted easily? Do you need a window to look out of, or are you happy with four walls? Whatever makes you happy, go with that, whether it’s as untraditional as a dining room office or sunroom. Just try to keep your home office out of your bedroom, so you can maintain the association of sleep with your bed instead of with work.
Streamline Your Space
Once you’ve got the right space for your home office picked out, here’s a sneaky tip that not home office workers know, and that’s the magic of the L-shaped desk. Setting up your desk in the corner is the best way to maximize space efficiency (as well as positioning yourself next to a window to always have the prime view), and an L-shaped desk just takes things one step further. Instead of awkwardly fussing with a filing cabinet or wall unit, an L-shaped desk combines everything together to make all your supplies close at hand. Pro tip: Slide a clear plastic mat under your desk and chair to protect the floor; this also makes it easy to clean up anything that’s fallen.
Capitalize on Natural Light
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the ability to use the sun to light up your office space, as opposed to horribly depressing fluorescent lights. The sun is bright, cheery and full of Vitamin D, while artificial lighting just makes you feel like you’re stuck in a cubicle or basement all day. While putting your desk in a corner maximizes the available space, shifting it so it’s parallel to the windowpanes is best to get the sunlight. If you’ve invested in an L-shaped desk, then simply move it around until you’re facing the window with the other half of the desk perpendicular to the panes.
Hanging Art on the Walls
Quick, when’s the last time you see Picasso or Seurat on the walls of an office? It happens occasionally, but unless you’ve got a coworker like Mad Men’s Bert Cooper, it’s not very likely you’ll see anything but bland, generic art on the walls. Going out and buying original pieces is a very pricey investment, but there are a few ways around that. You can buy prints and a nice frame to hang them in, if you want to get replicas of famous pieces; you could frequent your local coffee shops and see if any homegrown artists have art that inspires you; or you can take a high-resolution photo or image you really love, and have a photography store blow it up to painting size.
Turn Your Office into a Green-Friendly Space
Having plants in your home office is an excellent way of adding a level of elegance and sophistication to the space, especially if you go with tropical plants. Some plants that do well inside that don’t need too much sunlight include peace lilies, Ficus Benjamina trees, Lucky bamboo, African violets, mother-in-law’s tongue, and moss (to create a moss terrarium). But if you’re looking for plants that both add a lovely aesthetic as well as freshen the air, then things like Lady palm, red-edged dracaena, and spider plants are all really good choices.
Paint the Walls
You’ll be staring at your walls the entire day, so why not have a little fun with them? Paint them any color you want or even think up neat designs, but just remember that different colors inspire different moods. For instance, red evokes feels of passion, which may work against you if you’re stressed. Blue, on the other hand, is calming, but can make you feel sleepy if you haven’t had a good night’s rest. Orange is bright and cheerful, green gives a soothing burst of energy, yellow is peaceful, and brown is cozy.
Keep the Tech Look to a Minimum
Not only is a plethora of cords a tripping hazard, but it’s unsightly, too. You can’t exactly get around a bunch of cords in your home office (think: computer, printer, phone, scanner, fax machine, phone charger, wall/table lamps, etc.), but you can control how they look. Invest in a little box that bundles all the cords together and hide it behind your desk behind the wall. It’s worth it to nail a little holder in place so you don’t see the box or cords, plug in all the cords to a power bar, hang the power bar on the wall behind your desk, and then have just that plugged into an electrical socket. If you have to have cords running around the room, staple them to where the baseboards meet the floor, and run them along the wall until they reach the socket. Not only will it make it safer for you to walk around in, but it helps create a neat and tidy aesthetic.
Make Your Walls Pop Out
Now that you have almost every single area of your home office covered, the last bastion to tackle is your walls. It’s a bit of a tricky balance to ensure your walls are both functional and nice to look at. Hang either a dry-erase board or corkboard for your office work, but add in family pictures on either side for a personalized touch. The key is to avoid having your home office look like a boring cubicle, yet not so much it resembles a college dorm room.