How To Setup A Home Office (So You Can Work From Home)

If you need to work from home, these home office setup ideas will help you decide how to setup a home office that you’ll actually want to work in.

how to setup a home office (so you can work from home)

With so many people starting to work from home these, learning how to setup a home office has suddenly become a popular topic.

Since I made the transition from working in a corporate office to a home office five years ago, I have learned a lot about creating a work space that is both beautiful and functional.

So I thought I would share the best home office setup ideas that have worked for me.

1 | Decide On A Desk

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Obviously, one of the most important things you’ll need when you start to work from home is a desk (or at least a convenient work surface).

If you happen to already own a desk, then you may already have this first item covered. (Although, if you’re desk is really small and you’re going to be working from home every day, you may want to consider expanding with one of the options below.)

For everyone else, you’ll need to decide what type of a desk you want.

Traditional Desk

A traditional desk is the type you buy from the store. They usually come with some storage, and may have built-in features like a keyboard tray (eg. this one* shown above), filing drawers or a place to store your printer.

Before you go out and buy a new desk, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want to use it for:

  • Do you need to store office supplies like pens, pencils and paper?
  • If you are using a desktop computer, is there somewhere to put the CPU? Does it have a pull out keyboard tray?
  • Is there enough desk space for your laptop or monitor to be far enough back that you can see it comfortably?
  • Do you need to be able to write as well as use the computer?
  • Are there other computer-related items (like a printer, scanner, or router) that need to be stored in or on your desk?

Then make sure you get something that is going to accommodate all of your work from home office needs.

I also find that desks smaller than about 48″ wide by 24″ deep are too cramped to work at comfortably.

Standing Desk

standing desk
Standing desk*

If your job requires you to spend 8 hours a day (or more) sitting at your desk, you might want to consider an adjustable standing desk.

These desks allow you to change the height that you work at throughout the day so you can spend part of the time sitting and part of the time standing.

Some of these are standalone desks where the whole work surface raises and lowers (like this one* shown above).

Tabletop standing desk
Tabletop standing desk*

And some are table-top versions (like this one*) which convert an existing desk or other surface into an adjustable standing desk.

The main drawback of these standing desks is that they don’t usually provide the same amount of storage as you would find in a traditional desk.

Make Your Own Desk

The final option is to make your own desk, and this isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds.

All you need are two ends and a flat surface.

The most common way to do this is to use filing cabinets as the ends and then put a flat door over the top of them.

This works great because you get a large work surface and lots drawers for storage. And the whole thing is very inexpensive to put together.

But this isn’t the only option.

For the ends you could use bedside tables or sawhorses (pretty much anything that is at the same height).

And the top could be made from some leftover countertop or even a piece of plywood.

So if you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend much money, look around your house and get creative…you never know what you might find that will work.

2 | Position The Desk Correctly

Now that you have your desk, positioning it correctly is the next step in deciding how to set up your home office.

Consider The View

Desk facing a window in a black and gold home office

First decide what you want to look at while you’re working.

Personally, I don’t like staring straight at a wall.

So I either want my desk looking out a window.

Desk facing into the room in a pink and white home office

Or positioned so that it is looking into the room.

But some people find looking at the wall keeps them from getting distracted. So if that’s you (or you just don’t have any other options), then plan accordingly.

If this is the case, hanging a picture you love on the wall that the desk is facing helps to improve the view.

Maximize Natural Light

A tall window in a home office

Natural light makes any room feel brighter and airier. So you might think this advice isn’t really specific to your work from home space.

But there’s actually some “real” reasons to have as much natural light as possible in your home office.

First, it gives you some clues about the time of day without needing to look at a clock.  Which you need when you’re working from home. Because it’s REALLY easy to just keep working without realizing how long you’ve been at it.

The second is that studies have shown that natural light actually provides a variety of health benefits including increased mental health, reduced headaches and increased productivity.

All of which make for a more effective work environment.

Cut The Screen Reflection

Desk with laptop screen facing away from the window

Having said that, lots of light can make it hard to see your computer screen.

So it’s best not to have the window behind you, which will cause the light to wash out your monitor.

Installing blinds will also help with this.

The window in my home office faces East and gets a lot of sun in the morning. Adjusting the blinds lets me filter some of the sun to prevent it from shining directly in my eyes.

Leave Enough Space

If you are going to float your desk in the room, make sure that you have at least 3 feet between your desk and the wall (on the side where you will be sitting).

This gives you enough room to pull out your chair without feeling like you are trapped.

In a small room, putting your desk on the diagonal may be the best way to achieve this.

Keep Feng Shui In Mind

For many people, sitting with their back to the door is uncomfortable.

It gives you the feeling that someone could sneak up on you from behind.

Which is the reason Feng Shui practitioners will tell you not to put your desk in this position.

Click here if you want to see some home office layout ideas.

3 | Get A Comfortable Chair

White leather desk chair with a black lamp

This may be kind of obvious, but if you’re going to be sitting in a chair for hours every day, it needs to be comfortable. Which makes it an important step in your home office setup.

Buying an ergonomic chair that is adjustable and fits your body will make working much more enjoyable.

While I am usually a pretty big fan of buying furniture online, this is one purchase that I think is better to make in person. Or at least make sure you can send it back if you buy it online.

Chairs are kind of like mattresses…what is comfortable for one person won’t work at all for someone else. So you need to try them out to see if you like them.

There are 3 criteria that I think are a must for office chairs:

1. The chair has to have wheels. When you have to pull it out and push it in multiple times a day, it just makes your life a whole lot easier. If you have carpet or an area rug under your chair, make sure the wheels are big enough to roll easily. Or consider getting a chair mat*.

2. It has to be height adjustable. This is just to make sure that the seat is the right height for you and for your desk. Your feet should be flat on the ground when you’re sitting, and your elbows should be at about a 90 degree angle when you’re typing.

3. A good desk chair needs arm rests. I have only recently come to realize this. I have a really comfortable, ergonomic, cushy chair (with no arm rests) in my current office but for some reason I still can’t sit in it for very long without getting restless. Whereas the white chair in the picture above (which doesn’t seem like it should be nearly as comfortable), I can sit in all day…and I finally came to the conclusion that it’s the arm rests.

4 | Place The Keyboard At The Right Height

Keyboard and mouse on a laptop stand in front of a desk

To make working in your home office really comfortable (and prevent wrist and elbow issues), make sure that your keyboard and mouse are at the right height.

Everyone is a little different in what they consider to be comfortable, but for me typing at regular desk level is a little too high.

Which is why I always use a wireless keyboard and mouse (like this one*) on a pull-out keyboard tray, even when I’m on my laptop.

If you have a traditional desk that didn’t come with a keyboard tray, here’s a workaround:

Buy an inexpensive laptop cart* that slides under your desk and use it as a rolling keyboard and mouse shelf. Just make sure to measure the opening under your desk first so you know how high and wide your cart needs to be.

5 | Get High Speed Internet Access

One of the most frustrating things about working from home is slow internet speed.

I highly recommend ordering the fastest service you can afford, and making sure that the wireless router you are using is also up to date. (If you are paying for fast internet service but have a slow router, your computer wireless service will be slower than it should be).

Along those lines, I recently upgraded to this wireless router* and I love it.

It was more expensive than I normally spend, but it is super easy to set up, it is blazing fast, it doesn’t take up as much room as my old router, and the wireless works everywhere in my house. So it is totally worth it as far as I am concerned.

6 | Provide Lighting

A lamp provides lighting on a home office desk

I believe good lighting is important for every room in your house, but it’s an absolute necessity for a work area like your home office.

Even if you have a room with a lot of natural light, adding a good desk lamp is a good idea.

If you do have to work late, or it’s just a gloomy day, the extra light is helpful. And having it within reaching distance is very convenient so you don’t have to interrupt what you’re doing to turn it on.

Because they are usually adjustable, traditional desk lights work well.

However, I like the look of table lamps better. So I look for ones that are fairly tall (like you would normally use on a buffet). That way the light spreads out enough to cover most of the desk surface.

7 | Reduce Clutter

The next one of my home office setup ideas is to eliminate as much clutter as possible. I think this is another important step to making your home office as efficient as possible…not to mention easier to work in.

Go Wireless

One way to do this is to use as many wireless components as possible.

Wireless Router

As I mentioned above, getting a good wireless router that provides fast download speeds and doesn’t drop connections is really important. Especially if you are planning to run your home office wirelessly.

My current wireless router (which you can find HERE*) provides good coverage for the whole house, is really fast and is really easy to set up.

Even better? It looks better than most routers do so you don’t have to worry too much about trying to hide it.

Wireless Printer

A mini home office in an armoire

If you need to be able to print documents, a wireless printer is a good idea, too.

That way you can hide it away in a closet where you can’t see it, or on a shelf where it isn’t taking up desk space.

Mine is stored in an armoire that I converted to a mini home office space. (And yes, the wireless works in the cabinet, through doors or even in a different room).

I prefer laser printers (this is the one I have*) over ink jet printers.

They usually have better print quality, many can print double-sided (which saves paper), and they print faster.

Laser printers are a little more expensive to buy, but they usually end up being cheaper in the long run because you don’t have to replace the ink cartridges nearly as often.

And Paperless

To really reduce the amount of paper you have hanging around, going paperless works really well.

For this to work, you need a scanner, an organization system for your scanned documents and a paper shredder.

Scanner

If you have a multi-function printer (like mine), a scanner is included so you may not need an extra machine.

However, if you have a lot of documents to keep track of, you might want to get a specialized document scanner. It is a lot faster, and lets you load multiple pages at once.

I use this compact version* that works really well and folds up small enough to store in a desk drawer.

Organization System

For your organization system, you could just set up file folders on your computer that keep your scanned documents sorted so you can find them.

But I store all of mine in Evernote.

It’s an app that allows you to share your documents across your computer, phone and tablet so you can access them from anywhere. And it has a great search feature so you can find the document you’re looking for even if you forget which folder you put it in. (Evernote also works well for other things like note taking and check lists…I use it for all kinds of things besides storing my scanned information).

The scanning software for my scanner has an option to load the scanned documents directly into Evernote making it really easy to load them in there. (Which is a necessity for me, otherwise it wouldn’t happen).

Paper Shredder

Once you have scanned your documents, then you may want to shred them. Especially if they have confidential information like credit card or bank statements.

An inexpensive home office paper shredder (like this one*) is good enough for most people, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

If you have a garden, the shredded paper can be used to keep weeds down, something like landscape fabric. I spread it out around my plants and then cover it with mulch.

Hide Cables

Cables can be a big source of clutter in a home office, even if you have gone wireless. Here are some of the organization ideas I have used to keep the cable mess under control.

USB Cables

USB hub and devices in a desk drawer

I used adhesive velcro* to install a USB hub (which you can find HERE*) in the top drawer of my desk. (Make sure to get a powered one if you intend to charge things like your phone with it).

Since most drawers do not go all the way to the back of the cabinet, there is enough room to put the cables down behind the drawers and out the bottom of the cabinet. If your cabinet isn’t open at the bottom, you will need to drill a hole in it that’s large enough for the ends of the cables to fit through.

That way I can plug in all of my USB-powered accessories (like my fitbit charger, wireless headphones and memory card reader) and keep all of the cords in the drawer.

Computer Cables

A laptop power bar attached to the bottom of a desk with velcro

Adhesive velcro is your friend.

In addition to installing the USB hub above, I have used it to attach the power pack for my laptop to the underside of my desk.

And to keep the laptop power cord attached to the desk leg.

To keep lengthy cables in check, use zip ties. Just fold up the cable and pull a zip tie around it to keep it together.

Monitor Cables

If you have a monitor, get a desk-mount monitor stand with a cable channel (like this one*). It will keep your monitor off your desk surface, giving you more room to work as well as keeping the monitor cords in order.

You can see all the details these cable organization ideas plus some other desk organization ideas HERE.

8 | Provide Storage

The next step in deciding how to setup a home office is to figure out what storage you’re going to need.

Shelves

A printer and scanners stored in a home office shelf

If you need books or reference materials for your work, then a shelving unit is a must.

Bookcases can also be a good place to store office equipment like printers and scanners. And they kind of blend in with the shelves.

Home office shelves with the office equipment hidden by a picture

However, if you prefer not to see the printer, you could add a picture to your shelf to cover it up.

I installed this one so it swings out on hinges which makes the shelves really easy to access. Find the tutorial HERE.

Drawers

I think every home office should have at least a couple of drawers.

Besides helping to contain the cable clutter (from above), drawers are useful for organizing office supplies and notebooks.

Use kitchen drawer organizers to keep all of the supplies in order. Getting different sizes of bins (like these ones*) will allow you to configure the drawer storage the way you need it.

I always keep one drawer free for “dumping space”. That’s where I can put all of the stuff that accumulates on my desk when I want a clean surface. (Kind of like a home office junk drawer).

9 | Make Use Of Wall Space

Office supplies hung on a pegboard on the door of an armoire

I don’t think I could mention a room that requires organization (like a home office) without mentioning pegboard.

It is the best thing for making use of wall space! (Or door space in the case of my armoire makeover).

Covering the pegboard with wallpaper or wrapping paper makes it look like it belongs in the room. (Find out how to decorate pegboard HERE).

Magnetic pin board on a home office wall

Or if you prefer, you can use the same decorating techniques to make a magnetic bulletin board.

Cover a galvanized steel sheet* with wallpaper or wrapping paper. Make sure it’s steel and not aluminum (or the magnets won’t stick).

Then use magnetic pins to hold things on the board. These ones were made by gluing magnets* to the back of cabinet knobs*.

10 | Make the Space Yours

pink and white home office

The last one of my home office setup ideas is to add some decorations that you love.

Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in this room, I believe it’s important to make it look and feel good.

In my upstairs office, I did a blush pink, gold and white home office…that I like. But it is a pretty common color scheme for a woman’s home office these days.

Black and gold home office

For my downstairs office, I went with a glam black and gold color scheme. Which is a bit outside of some people’s comfort zone. But I LOVE.

My point is, decorate your office with what you love.

That’s one of the benefits of working from home…you can do what you want with your office space. So make the most of it!

Well, those are my tips for setting up a home office that you’ll actually want to work in. Hopefully, you’ve found some ideas to create your own inspirational work space at home.

Do you have questions or comments about how to setup a home office? Tell us in the section below.

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