Must-Haves for the Home Office

by Ashley Wirgau

The home office – that emptied closet or spare room or dusty corner turned workspace – wherever your daily grind is taking place these days, it’s time to take a look around. Is your space really living up to its potential? Do you find yourself reaching out for things that just aren’t there, wanting for the conveniences and comforts of an actual office? The days of proper office buildings might still be a long way off; why wait another second to get your in-home digs in shape? Seize the moment and grab the must-haves you need to maintain your new work environment (and sanity) today. 

Privacy

It’s hard. It really is, but privacy is quite possibly the most important must-have on the list. Without a space to call your own, without four solid walls surrounding you (or, at the very least, a room divider) working from home might leave you distracted, disgruntled, and lagging behind. Sure, you’ve soldiered on for the last twelve months, but since this home office “phase” is starting to feel a bit more permanent, let’s give it the attention it deserves.

For some, this might mean expanding their current at-home workspace. There are lots of creative ways to accomplish this without tacking on too much expense, so research all the options before knocking down walls or building new ones. Honestly, simple additions like room dividers can actually make a huge difference in how private a space feels and how much you are able to accomplish in those forty hours each week.

The Proper Tools

If you are still hobbling through the month, running to Staples to print copies and dreaming of the days when you had a second monitor to help organize all those tabs…stop. Stop it right now. Whatever you do, do not walk out of Staples one more time without picking up a quality printer and second monitor (or three or four if that’s what you’re used to). Have you been plugging away at the crumb-covered kitchen table? You need an actual desk. Is your paperwork scattered in piles in the pantry? Get yourself a filing cabinet.

Now is the time to finally bring those essential tools home to stay, and if you can’t borrow them or expense them to your employer, you might need to buy them yourself. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but keep the receipts to help with tax deductions down the road. It will ease the pain.

Good Lighting

Most of us underestimated the need for adequate lighting until we had to complete our workday under the dim glow of the hallway closet. Should your home office leave you struggling to see the words on your screen, you’re due for an upgrade. Either splurge on a desk lamp to brighten your area or join the pre-teens and wannabe vloggers and get yourself a ring light. These handy little devices drastically improve the quality of your video calls, making you look much more professional (even if your bottom half is still in pajamas).

Some Comfort (But Not Too Much)

The kitchen chair won’t do any longer. You deserve an actual office chair, one that adjusts and swivels and has plenty of lumbar support. It really doesn’t matter what age you are, eight hours in an ill-fitting, uncomfortable chair is enough to make anybody’s body hurt. Do yours a favor and spend some of that hard-earned money on a chair that makes you happy to sit down to work each morning. Don’t go too cozy, though. That chaise lounger or overstuffed armchair is going to send you straight to sleep.

Solid Boundaries

When work life and home life co-mingle, it can sometimes spell disaster, especially when there’s no one peering over your shoulder. It can be easy to get caught up in projects at home, stealing hours from the office as you play catch up on household demands. Equally troubling, though, is how quickly we can find ourselves working overtime, checking emails, and taking calls long after closing time.

While working from home, it is good to establish clear expectations around office hours, breaks, and lunchtimes, and then stick to them. We need to honor our obligations to our employer, but we also need to honor our obligation to ourselves and our families. When the office comes home, it can be difficult to shut it off completely, but in order to survive the long-haul, that is exactly what you’ll need to do.

For so many of us, that temporary space isn’t feeling quite so temporary anymore. Like it or not, we might be in the middle of a much larger shift than any of us anticipated just one short (or maybe really, really long) year ago. If you’ve been holding off on settling into your home office, it’s time to get comfortable. Bring in those home office must-haves today and take your space from makeshift to made-right.

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