5 things to consider when building your home office

5 things to consider when building your home office
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Working from home is an easy thing to say, but it's not always as straightforward as people hope for. However, you can make the transition much more painless if you have a little bit of a plan in place. We’ve done some of the hard work for you too, having devised a simple five-point checklist of things to consider when you’re building a home office for the very first time.

Why, you might wonder, do you need a home office anyway? Well, in the same way as lot of family members, friends and work colleagues don't seem to think working from home involves doing a proper days work, you need to be in the right ‘zone’ in order to be productive, efficient and, let’s not forget, happy. Flopping down on the sofa with a laptop might seem the easiest option, but it’s far from ideal.

Therefore, the best option is to turn a spare room into a home office. You don't have to commandeer the whole room either, as if it’s just you working from home then it’s surprising how little space you actually need. But how you lay out and occupy that space is critical to productivity.

Of course, not all of us have the luxury of a spare room that we can transform into an office, but there are ways around that too. The main thing is to find or create some dedicated space that you can call your own for the time that you’re working. Even if it’s the kitchen table, make the effort to turn it into a proper work area. Make a concerted effort to keep this your productivity zone.

So, with your sights on potentially suitable space, here are our five top tips to consider when building your home office.

1. Space

We all want more space and if you’re building a home office then you’ll need some, though not as much as some people like to make out. Central to the home office theme is your actual working area, which ideally will involve having a decent desk. You can go down the flatpack route for one, or go the whole hog, splash lots of cash and get a bespoke solution in the shape of a proper desk.

If you're planning on working from home long-term then the latter option can be sensible. There are lots of furniture outlets, both physical and online that can produce a tailor-made desk solution for you. You can get a decent desk in all sorts of shapes and sizes too, plus some companies will come around and fit them if you baulk at the thought of anything DIY-related. Just don’t buy a cheap-and-cheerful offering as any wobbles, shakes or other flaws will soon become too annoying to bear.

If you’re looking for another angle entirely then consider getting yourself a standing desk. These quirky things are just that; desks that can be raised and lowered to suit your height and preferred stance while providing all of the usual flat working space you’d get from a conventional equivalent. Some models can let you stand or sit at them, which is the best of both worlds.

2. Seating

A good quality office chair should be your next goal in the home office kitlist. While it’s tempting to use any old chair that might be surplus to requirements, this is not only going to be bad for your posture but over time it’ll probably start interfering with your productivity. Being comfortable while you work is vital, so it’s really worth investing in a proper office-style chair that can keep you comfy and efficient during your days and, possibly, nights working from home.

On the point of being comfortable, you should also consider any other accessories that’ll make put you in a better and healthier position. If you’ve got a desktop PC then kitting yourself out with a quality monitor display can be prudent. In some cases you might want to emulate the work office environment that many people use and have two monitors, depending on what sort of work you do obviously. If you’re using a laptop then a laptop stand can be another way of improving your working position.

3. Connectivity

While we’re all connected when we’re out and about thanks to smartphones, tablets and laptops, the home office can present you with a whole new set of challenges. The need for decent internet is a given nowadays, but it’s not always in the room that you’ll want to call your new home office. If you're in a small property then chances are the Wi-Fi router signal will reach wherever you are. If you live in a larger place then it might be worth beefing up your signal. Broadband providers and third-party hardware solutions are both worth investigating on this point.

The other option, if you run into technical issues such as being too far from the exchange, which is a common issue with some providers, is mobile broadband. Similarly, some properties have cable broadband in the street outside but providers might not have run a line into your property. Flats and apartments can often fall foul of this. If that’s insurmountable then it’s a good idea to consider using mobile broadband as there are plenty of options and by shopping around you’ll be able to find the best current deals to suit your needs. Dongles and MiFi options are numerous too.

4. Hardware and software

Your home office will also be the base for all of your hardware that will transform you into a powerhouse of productivity. However, older houses can often have a distinct lack of power points, so factor a multiplug into your budget equation. It's a small thing but vital if you’re going to be charging things like laptops and phones, as well as powering printers and other office peripherals. Investing in a decent lamp can be another solid purchase as having a properly lit workspace can make a huge difference on how productive you are.

Having a printer isn’t an essential in a world dominated by emails, digital documents such as PDFs and all the rest of it. However, even a fairly low-budget printer can be handy for the occasional times when you urgently need a physical copy of something. Just don't forget the ink and paper supplies to go with it.  And, talking of emails and PDFs, you’ll want to have the correct and legal software in place to stay productive.

If you’re running to a tight budget then it might be worth investigating the many and varied free software options out there. There are some accomplished alternatives to Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud. In some cases they're actually better, depending on your willingness to adapt to a slightly different way of working.

5. Yourself

While it’s easy to max out your credit card ordering anything and everything to create the perfect home office, it’s easy to overlook yourself in all the fun and games. Think about what you like in the regular office workspace and maybe attempt to recreate that at home. While your home office space will lack the fellow employees there’s no reason why you can’t have a decent coffee machine to hand, or even a water cooler for that matter.

Having a dedicated work area that feels like a bona fide office will, ultimately, make you much more productive. It’ll also do a lot to confirm to family, friends and other remote working colleagues that you are actually doing a proper days work from home. Something you’ll be able to confirm when the latter group dial in for a Monday morning video conference. Just don't forget to put a tie-on to complete the ‘business as usual’ stance.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.