As more people work for themselves, they want a home office that encourages productivity while exhibiting their distinct identities.
There are several things to consider. Consider practical concerns like insurance, luxuries like comfortable office chairs, and aesthetic components like color and lighting.
If your setup is inadequate, your health might be in jeopardy.
Immersing yourself in the project is thrilling, but opening your doors might be daunting if you don’t know what to do.
Pondering the task at hand? For advice, consult an expert and a few other small business owners who have been in your shoes.
Top tips for setting up a home office
The team at Cleveland Containers offers their advice on creating a home office that’s right for you.
The separation between home and work
When working from home often, it’s crucial to establish a firm boundary between your personal and professional lives. This is particularly true if you later decide to have customers or coworkers around.
How productive do you feel while working, splayed out on the couch, or reclining in bed? Most likely, the answer is not very. You may maintain the professionalism and productivity you’d experience in a more conventional working by setting up a separate office area.
Determine the ideal location for your office first. Both can be ideal choices if you have a spare room that also serves as storage space or a guest room that is seldom utilized.
It’s not an issue if you don’t have a spare room; you may construct an office in your backyard instead. A small office may be housed in a shed or shipping container without too much yard area.
Making a home office can help you maintain your solitude while preventing distractions. After all, no one can work effectively with a TV playing loudly in the background.
Utilize what you have to the fullest
If your workplace is tiny, you should maximize the available space. A crowded area is unappealing and perhaps seems a touch is confining.
The key is still structure, even if we all have our working methods and some people like “organized chaos.” Maximize your available space by keeping documents in file dividers or boxes; doing so will save you from spending ten minutes frantically looking for a single piece of paper.
Buy a few drawers to hide any extra office supplies or equipment from your desk. To outfit your workplace, you don’t need to invest much money. You may get plenty of ideas by making a short trip to IKEA.
Invest in the right equipment
When you’re working remotely in your home office, one of the worst things that could happen is for your laptop to suddenly crash, or for your broadband to stop working.
It’s worth spending a bit extra to ensure your technology is up to date and working properly. Have a local, responsive web team on speed dial so that if you do suddenly have any issues with your devices, you can get them fixed fast.
Related: Better Business Technology – Advice and guides on how to better your business through improvements in efficiency, technology, and collaboration
When creating your home office, you’ll also need to ensure that there are enough plug sockets. You’ll need space to charge your laptop and phone, as well as space to potentially plug in a printer and a lamp. It may be worth buying a plug extension so you have enough sockets.
Another highly important piece of equipment for your home office is a chair. When you’re sitting down for long periods of time, you want to make sure that your chair supports your back and neck, and helps with your posture. You can find ten of the best ergonomic office chairs here.
Choose the best colors
Like music and pictures, colors evoke certain emotions within us. Whilst you may not be overtly aware of this, color is more powerful than you think, and is something to bear in mind when decorating your home office.
Avoid cool colors like blues and lilacs, which encourage feelings of peace. Relaxation is great for your bedroom, but not so much for your office!
Instead, you could incorporate purple into your decor, which is known to stimulate the imagination, or even a cheery yellow – provided it’s not too bright.
If you’re unsure about reaching for bright colors, then try neutral shades like grey and cream. They won’t cause distractions and are a great base for creating a feature wall further down the line.
“Incorporate purple into your decor, which is known to stimulate the imagination, or even a cheery yellow”
Find natural daylight
Natural daylight improves our mood and makes us happier, which is why having a window in your office can be beneficial.
If you’ve chosen to house your office in a shed or shipping container, then you can usually modify them by getting a window built in. Placing your computer by the window means that you can gaze out whenever you want to give your eyes a break from the screen.
If a window isn’t an option then don’t worry, you can cheat it! There are lots of lamps out there that mimic daylight, so you can enjoy the benefits of natural light even though you’re faking it.
Research has shown that we respond better to yellow-cast illuminations, and a lack of light can have a negative effect, even causing depression through Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so it’s important you don’t leave the lights down low.
Once you’ve got the lighting sorted in your home office, avoid eye strain caused by glare, by ensuring your computer isn’t directly in the line of your light source.
A well-thought-out workspace will improve happiness and productivity, and the best thing is, that these tips for setting up a home office won’t take up much of your time.
Carol Mann, co-founder of We Get Digital
Carol is based in north London with her husband. She talks about making the most of the available space you have.
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when setting up your home office.
Are you going to have clients visit you? If so, make sure you have easy access to the office and that the bathrooms are always clean, tidy, and presentable. It’s also a good idea to have coffee and tea making facilities nearby.
Even if you aren’t going to see anyone in your home office, make sure that it is a really organized space for your business.
Think carefully about the growth of your business and have a place for everything. Treat it exactly as you would a professional office space. This really sets the tone for the working day.
Make maximum use of the space you have. How many people can you realistically fit into the space? If it’s just one, do you need more desk space or more storage space? Measure up carefully and buy your large items accordingly.
It is important to have a really comfortable yet functional setup as you will be spending more hours in your office than you think!
Get some good, strong shelving in place with storage boxes. There are some great second-hand furniture shops for desks and filing cabinets – it won’t cost a fortune if you shop around.
Don’t skimp on comfortable and ergonomic chairs though.
Make sure the lighting is good – directional lamps and soft lighting work well. Dimmers are ideal because if you are working late at night, you can dim the lights and get on with your tasks more comfortably.
I will stress again to measure up carefully. You don’t need massive desk space. Assess exactly how much space you need to work on and in. How much paperwork are you likely to have? A lot can be stored electronically.
As for the color scheme in my own office, I go neutral neutral neutral – there is enough color in the books, boards, files, and folders.
We have two large whiteboards for organizing and top priority lists on the wall. We have some paintings and certificates and a few fun motivational signs. Finally, we have one magnetic board for pinning important papers which we keep as clear as possible.
In the past, we spent time in our dining room where we had a desk/cupboard space built so that we had one area apart from the dining table that could be used. This meant that when the room we use for the office now was freed up we did have a good idea of exactly what we needed.
We didn’t actually build anything for our office. The house already had an extension which we were able to access once the children had left! It was just a question of decoration, purchasing the desks and storage, and putting up adequate shelving.
We have professional indemnity insurance and our general home insurance which covers us too.
Jon & Kelly Barfoot, co-founders of Vegbred
Jon & Kelly Barfoot, co-founders of Vegbred®, a 100 percent natural bread made with fresh sweet potato, prioritize simplicity and practicality in their home office.
Our slogan is “function above form”! It’s easy to get carried away with design and feng shui, but an essential aspect of a home office should be peace. You won’t need anything fancy to get started; a simple IT desktop, Wi-Fi, and a comfortable chair will do.
I made the mistake of attempting to work for an extended period from a laptop at the kitchen table or elsewhere. Take the plunge, organize a spare room, or make room in an office. You’ll avoid a lot of difficulties that were meant to be helpful!
It’s okay to start with just your house phone and a mobile phone, but it’s ideal to install a phone line with a new number as soon as possible. Although it should go without saying, this keeps work and personal life apart. A line or hub may also be operated as a company expenditure. Thus it is something to think about.
When we initially had the concept for Vegbred®, we juggled three small children while also thinking about creative new bread flavors and the upcoming health food fads. Our future advice would be to consider methods to better separate the two, which would be advantageous for both personal and professional life.
“It doesn’t need to be flash: a basic IT desktop, Wi-Fi and a good chair will be enough to get you started”
Maintaining a low-cost office setup.
Utilizing what you already have can help you save money. You may reduce your initial expenditures, for instance, by connecting your laptop to a keyboard and display rather than shelling out on a new PC.
Having a sturdy chair that is the appropriate height for your workstation. The same goes for quality LED lighting. Your health depends on having the proper tools.
We transformed an old, disused outbuilding into our first home office, but no planning approval was required since we didn’t modify the roof or install any plumbing or kitchen facilities.
However, we upgraded our coverage with the NFU to include office contents and commercial liability insurance. The NFU was especially useful when it came to data protection regulations.
We knew we would need four chairs and adequate storage to keep the desk free. So, we built a sizable central desk around which everyone sat, covered a wall with plastic laminate to form a giant whiteboard, and purchased some inexpensive desk lamps from IKEA. Simple dry lining with insulation, flooring electrics, and IT cabling was installed throughout the renovation. We made use of the house’s restrooms to keep things simple.
The coloring is consistent with the appearance and feel of our brand; additional coloring comes from books, plants, and images.
We put attractive food pictures on the walls as well as maps and whatever branding we had made as a fresh food delivery company.
Lloyd Cox, owner of The Human Codex
Lloyd Cox runs his business, The Human Codex, from his caravan. He travels around the world, but there are extra implications when you have a moving office.
In my office, space is crucial as well as heat. There is very limited space in a caravan, so you have to be mindful of what goes where, and you have to make sure laptops don’t overheat or have their fans blocked.
We have all the chargers and monitor cables hooked up that won’t move when we tow, but the laptops are easily moved so we can work outside when the weather is nice. You have to be as paperless as you can be!
You have to be minimalistic with the tools you need as well, so everything must be essential. If something isn’t used on a daily basis, like a printer or scanner, it isn’t in there!
The biggest mistake I made was trying to have a PC in there – it took up too much space and overheated quickly. You just can’t lug a PC tower outside as easily as a laptop. We also made the mistake of trying to have the equipment we didn’t need such as mice and paper.
We almost lost quite a few important documents at first, but now everything is scanned so if the hard copy is lost we have an electric copy.
You have to be very careful of wattage in caravans too. Appliances plus laptops can easily blow the fuses!
We have normal caravan insurance (just for the van itself, but we also have travel and business insurance for everything we use). It’s not so easy to nip down to the shop to get a replacement, however, the cover we have does deliver a replacement within the EU.
Using the space
We had to play with what we have – it’s important to be flexible. The layout for us is quite lucky as the bed is separate from where we work, although you can work from bed (one of the perks of remote working). The lighting can be tricky – there are plenty of windows, but with more light comes more heat, so it’s kind of a balancing act to make sure you can see but also don’t overheat.
We haven’t changed the color of the office section yet, although when we can. We would like to paint the office the colors we use on The Human Codex platform (white, grey, and purple) but again, we need to be mindful not to make it too dark.
What actually goes on the walls is an ongoing debate between myself and Toni (CEO). I would love to have our logo and motto – ‘We each have a story to tell, we each have a lesson to teach – but it isn’t very practical with the limited space we have.
I’m trying to see if we can have both painted on the walls rather than have them hanging up.
Jessica Morgan, owner of Carnsight Communications
Jessica had to get planning permission for her converted garage, but the transformation (and the bi-fold doors) were definitely worth it.
Having worked at my kitchen table before, the most important thing for me in a home office was space – to be able to leave documents where I’d left them without having to hurriedly tidy up every evening and set things up every morning.
I wanted a dedicated space that was only occasionally used for something else (we have a sofa bed in here, so it can also be used as a spare room).
Doing up the garage
We did the work as part of an extension so planning permission was needed. We connected the detached garage to the house so there was quite a bit of work involved. Because we’re on the edge of the Cotswolds it was quite a strict process but being at the back of the house, we had more flexibility with this room. We’re covered on contents insurance with the house.
The key elements were a good desk, a printer, and a filing cabinet. My layout then changed again when my first employee joined.
I also had to do a layout plan to know where the sockets were going to go. Looking back, one of my biggest mistakes was not putting enough sockets in! I tried to anticipate where everything would go but I’d say, as a general rule, try and have sockets on every wall you can.
Having a space that was as separate from the house as possible was important, both for me and for people who come here. We have a bathroom here and there’s an area of the utility room which adjoins with a fridge, our kettle, and a coffee machine so we don’t have to go into the kitchen at all.
I would have chosen underfloor heating next time as our radiator doesn’t keep us really warm on freezing cold days. There was a lot of snow last winter!
Forking out a bit more
I went for a slightly more expensive desk which felt sturdier and had a lot of space. I paid a bit more for office chairs because good posture is essential. Electronics-wise, I invested in a good Wi-Fi extender and a decent printer and cartridges. We have a good speaker and we spend quite a bit on coffee!
Bi-fold doors were probably the biggest expense but they’re definitely worth it in summer when we can work with them fully open.
Frames on the wall were cheap as were picture ledges. We’ve got some personalized stationery but otherwise, I have a back-up of cheaper pads and pens.
“I would have chosen underfloor heating next time as our radiator doesn’t keep us really warm on freezing cold days”
Creating a positive work environment
I wanted to enjoy spending time there. Thus the aesthetic was crucial to me. I, therefore, selected complementary neutral fixtures, furniture, and pillows.
As we faced south, maximizing light was crucial, and I wanted to sit in front of a window to take in the garden’s lush vegetation. Along with white and wood fixtures, I also selected white walls, a white wood effect floor, and pendant lighting.
At the time, Helen Baker, a designer with whom we worked, customized her garden birds print so that we could use it as a blind in my preferred turquoise color. It’s ideal since we often see birds eating outside the window when we glance up. The cushions on the couch are the other important piece of color, together with the bright yellow pinboard and wipe board. We use the space to meet up with clients or to have coffee.
The workplace is mostly light and pale to maximize light and space with a few pops of color. When things grow chaotic, I believe the light colors also give us a sense of tranquility.
I have framed some of the most recent coverage I’m most proud of. As you so rapidly move on to the next endeavor, it seems to me that it’s necessary to recognize your successes.
For reference, we have periodicals, newspapers, and some images of my kids on picture shelves. We also have a wipe board and a pinboard that are both bright yellow, so we can pin things like thank you cards on them. The other piece of art was created by my great-uncle Glyn Morgan.
Ingvar Gudmundsson, owner of SimplyBook.me
Icelandic entrepreneur Ingvar used to work flat-out before he built his current home office, which allows him to balance work and family life. He advises that you stay off the laptop for long-term work.
The first thing to think about is how you’ll set up your workday so that you can balance work and family obligations while still having a productive day.
Many individuals consider having a home office a fantastic option to work from home while caring for children. Sadly, it’s not that simple. It’s crucial to keep your personal and business spaces distinct when working from home if you want an efficient home office. My wife used to work away from home, and our infant was just nine months old at the time.
We would let him stay up late to spend time with his mother to give me work time, enabling him to sleep until noon, and allowing me time to work the whole morning.
When he wakes up, his attention shifts away from his job and onto the infant, and nothing gets accomplished. However, by dividing up the parents’ schedules in the way we did, I could still have a full workday, if not continuously.
If you attempt to accomplish both at once, your mind will be ripped to bits!
Before I had kids, I was just constantly at work. Therefore I set up my first home office then. I seldom went outside for fresh air from the time I got up, having my breakfast in front of the computer until I went to bed in the evening. I just sat at my chair and worked toward the objective I had set for the day (I was programming), and if I succeeded sooner than anticipated, I made a new objective for the same day.
I now regret not giving myself a little more time off to engage in physical exercise or athletics. I think it would have helped me and maybe made me more productive.
Make it useful in both work and daily life.
Purchase a screen, a reliable mouse, and a chair or stand by an office table to set up a productive home office. Avoid thinking you can work on your laptop for extended periods; it should only be used for short-term, direct work.
I utilized a laptop as my workstation, which had the unfortunate side effect of leaving me with horrible workplace ailments, including stiff mouse fingers, tennis elbows, and back discomfort from constantly bending forward. Get a cheap phone and consider yourself off the clock while not at your computer if you need to save money.
Have a big screen and use a program like f.lux to automatically decrease the lighting in the evenings since we spend much time staring at screens in home offices, even at night. Even if you work late, this helps you maintain your sleep schedule.
I spend a lot of time at my computer, yet when I’m not working, I’m not there. I can still answer calls if they are urgent, but I seldom use my phone for email or the internet, so there is no need for a pricey phone.
Use a tool to set the screen to dim automatically at night. This makes it easier to maintain your sleep schedule even when you have late work.
The cost of a nice office chair does not need to be hundreds of pounds. Find a chair that keeps you in a comfortable working posture by trying them out. A table that can be elevated is something else I’d suggest. They don’t cost a lot and let you switch positions and keep doing your job well.
I never considered the safety or legal requirements for establishing a home office. In certain nations where you require authorization, this is significant. However, there are no specific legal requirements for this in other nations.
I advise business owners to begin paying themselves salary when practical. When you can, apply for government subsidies and assistance while your company is being built; this will help pay your staff.
Never disobey the law by failing to file accurate VAT returns; always follow the guidelines. Even the insomniac evenings wouldn’t be worth it.
Other Web Resources on Home Office set-ups
Includes some examples of home office designs for different types of businesses.
Finally, looking for some inspiration?
How about this ‘Work From Home Office and Desk Setup Tour’ from Matthew Encina?