Not everyone works in a commercial office building. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 43% of employed Americans work either fully or partially from their home office. If you fall into this category, you should create a productive working environment to increase your business’s chance of success. Here are 10 essential things to consider when designing your home office.
What type of colors do you intend to use in your home office’s design? Assuming you’re designing your home office from scratch, you’ll have the freedom to paint the walls whatever color you desire. And while wall color may sound like an insignificant element of a home office, it can affect your productivity and overall success.
Research cited by HuffPost suggests that extremely bright colors, such as red, instill anxiety and impaired cognitive function. In comparison, teal or slate gray boosts cognitive function, allowing you to produce more work in your home office. Painting the walls either teal or slate gray is an excellent way to revitalize your home office and create a highly productive working environment. You can check out this Entrepreneur article for a list of other productivity-boosting colors.
You don’t have to limit office’s design to a single color. It’s perfectly fine to use two or more colors. Just remember to choose colors that create a positive atmosphere and flow cohesively with one another. If your home office features clashing or mismatching colors, it will bring down the atmosphere while prompting an unproductive working environment in the process.
Natural sunlight is the best type of lighting for a home office. It’s easy on the eyes, provides ample illumination and doesn’t require power. There’s even some belief that natural sunlight promotes health and wellness. A study conducted by researchers from the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University found that workers in sunlight-illuminated offices were 84% less likely to suffer from eyestrain and headaches than their counterparts in artificially illuminated offices. Other studies have found that office workers are more productive when exposed to natural light.
When it’s sunny outside, pull open the curtains so that sunlight will illuminate your home office. In the mornings and evenings when there’s no sunlight – or when it’s cloudy outside – you’ll need an alternative source of illumination for your home office. Your office probably has an overhead fixture already, but you should still use an adjustable table lamp with a 3,000 to 5,000 Kelvin lightbulb to create optimal illumination on your desk. Bulbs ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 Kelvin create warm, soft light. Bulbs with a Kelvin rating higher than 5,000 produce particularly bright color that’s almost blinding.
Storage space is an invaluable commodity in a home office. Regardless of the type of work you do, you’ll need furniture and containers in which to store your business-related items. You can install shelves on the wall to store books, binders, folders, equipment and other items. Another idea is to install shadow boxes on the wall, which you can also fill with items.
For pencils, pens, and markers, coffee cups are the perfect storage container. Considering that 83% of Americans drink coffee daily, there’s a good chance that you own a coffee mug (or several). If you have an old coffee mug that you aren’t using, place it on your office desk to use a storage container. You’ll have an easier time accessing pencils and other writing instruments when they are stored in an open coffee mug rather than a desk drawer or other closed container.
Perhaps the most useful storage container for a home office is a file cabinet. Also known as a filing cabinet, this tall piece of equipment features vertically stacked, connected slide-out drawers for storing documents. File cabinets manufactured and sold in the United States are designed to accommodate paper documents measuring 8.5 by 11 inches – the standard size for letters in the United States. If you buy a file cabinet outside of the United States, though, it may support a different size of paper, such as 8.3 by 11.7 inches (A4).
A comfortable climate is essential to a productive workspace, and home offices are no exception. Working in an excessively hot or cold environment forces your body to use more energy as it attempts to regulate its internal temperature. If you’re cold, you’ll shiver to make yourself warmer. If you’re hot, you’ll sweat to make yourself cooler. These natural bodily functions require energy, resulting in quicker fatigue while working.
So, what temperature should you set on the thermostat? There are conflicting studies regarding the ideal office temperature. PGI cites two studies, one of which found that the ideal office temperature for productivity was 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with another study finding that 77 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for a productive office. The truth is that different people work best in different climates. Therefore, you should find a comfortable temperature that allows you to work without the distraction of being cold or hot.
No home office is complete without a desk. For most home-based telecommuters, the desk is where the bulk of their work is performed. Here, you can write letters, type documents on your computer, read books and perform countless other business-related activities.
Rectangular desks are a popular choice for home offices because they require minimal space and offer a clean, efficient design. Some rectangular desks feature nothing more than flat top with four legs on the bottom. Others, however, feature built-in file cabinets and drawers. There are also corner desks that are designed to fit in a corner. They feature an L-shaped design that you can place against two adjacent walls.
Whether you choose a rectangular or L-shaped desk for your home office, make sure it features a slide-out tray for your keyboard and mouse. Placing these computer peripherals on the same surface as your monitor may strain your wrists and eyes. You’ll have to raise your wrists higher to type, and you’ll have to look down to see the monitor. An ergonomic office desk should feature a surface height of about 29 inches with a slide-out tray a few inches below.
Office desks are made of a variety of materials, some of which include genuine wood, manufactured wood, aluminum, steel and even glass. While manufactured wood desks are the least expensive, this is a case of “you get what you pay for.” Also known as engineered wood, manufactured wood is cheap and highly susceptible to damage. It may look and function fine at first. But over time, desks made of engineered wood are likely to break and degrade.
In addition to a desk, your home office needs a high-quality, ergonomically designed chair. You can invest in a premium hardwood desk, but it’s going to improve your productivity unless it’s paired with the right chair.
There are dozens of different types of office chairs, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Executive office chairs, for example, feature multiple castor rollers on the bottom of a swivel base, along with armrests on the side and a solid backrest. Mesh office chairs, on the other hand, are characterized by a mesh backrest for additional airflow.
The most important thing to consider when choosing an office chair is how it supports your back. Your office chair should feature additional fabric or material on the bottom of the backrest to protect against low back pain. Many office workers suffer from low back pain because they are forced to sit in poorly designed chairs. One Lower Back Pain Study found that more than one-third of office workers suffer from low back pain. In addition to taking regular breaks by standing up and stretching your legs, choosing an ergonomic office chair with lumbar support can protect you from low back pain.
Privacy is a critical factor to consider when designing your home office. Working from home has its perks, such as no daily commuting and the ability to prepare your own meals in the kitchen, but it also has its drawbacks. According to a survey conducted by the Endurance International Group, one out of five (21%) business owners said they are less productive when working from home because of distractions.
When working from a home office, you’ll probably encounter a variety of distractions, including the television, answering personal calls, family members, and household chores. It’s important that you design your office with an emphasis on privacy to prevent these distractions from hurting your productivity. If noise from other rooms is slowing down the pace at which you work, for example, try installing sound-absorbing panels on the wall. Also known as acoustic panels, they significantly reduce the amount of sound that passes through the wall on which they are installed. If you get distracted by the television, leave it off until you are finished working. Something as simple as closing the door to your home office can also minimize the number of work-related distractions you encounter.
Pay attention to the size of your home office. Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that you can fit more furniture and equipment into a large home office than a small one. More importantly, the size of your home office will affect your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows business owners and independent contractors to deduct the cost of their home office from their taxes for the year in which it was used. According to Forbes, however, most people who work from home don’t take advantage of this deduction.
As of 2018, there are two ways to deduct the cost of your home office from your taxes, both of which consider your office’s square footage. Under the simplified option – the most common method – you can deduct $5 per square foot of dedicated office space, with a maximum annual deduction of $1,500. If your home office is 125 square feet, this allows you to deduct $625 from your federal taxes. Contact a professional tax accountant to learn more about the home office deduction.
Although there are exceptions, most people who work from a home office rely on technology to perform their business’s work. If you don’t have an internet connection, for example, you won’t be able to send and receive email, conduct video conferences, research websites, access online project boards and perform other online activities.
Even if your Internet connection is reliable, a weak Wi-Fi connection may hinder your ability to work from your home office. If you experience slow or unreliable Wi-Fi in your home office, here are tips to improve your connection:
- Place router as close as possible to your computer and other wirelessly connected devices.
- Switch security encryption protocol of router from WEP to WPA or WPA2.
- Install a repeater to boost your Wi-Fi signal.
- Update your router’s firmware whenever a new version is released.
- Reposition your router’s antennas to see which direction and placement offer the fastest speeds.
- Avoid hanging mirrors on the wall. Mirrors reflect light as well as Wi-Fi signals, so using them in your home office may slow down your wireless connection.
- When all else fails, plug your computer directly into your modem so that it doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi to connect to the internet.
Even though this space is used for business-related purposes, your home office should still feature an attractive décor. If it’s cluttered with unused furniture, boxes of seasonal clothes and other unnecessary items, it creates a negative atmosphere that may hurt your daily productivity. Furthermore, you may be ineligible for the complete home office tax deduction if you use this space to store your personal belongings.
There’s no single “best” way to decorate a home office, but you should keep it clean and tidy. This, of course, is something that the right storage solutions can help you achieve. And remember, avoid storing personal items – clothes, furniture, toys, etc. – in your home office. This area should be decorated and designed with the sole purpose of allowing you to work in a productive and efficient manner.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.