How to Set Up a Productive Home Office (Even in a Small Space)

posted on November 10, 2020 | by Heather Bien

How to Set Up a Productive Home Office (Even in a Small Space)

Back in April, when we were all young and naive, we published this article on How to Create a Makeshift Home Office. Many of you were still in the early days of figuring out what exactly WFH meant, while also trying to navigate a world full of grocery delivery, stay-at-home orders, and Zoom happy hours.

Now, here we are eight months later. We’re in this work from home life for the long haul –– or at least likely through the spring. So, we thought it might be a good time to revisit those home office spaces and upgrade them from provisional to permanent. 

Identify a Spot that Actually Works Long Term

The reality is, even if your office goes back part-time at some point in the near future, you’ll likely face at least some days working from home –– and who knows when all of this could start all over again. That means it may be time to take the kitchen table back for dining and figure out a spot that actually works as a home office. 

Short on space? Look at a fold-out desk. Consider turning an unused closet into a desk. Take over the guest bedroom. 

Upgrade Your Desk and Chair Situation

Back in the spring, we were all making do with interim situations. But working from a sofa or a dining chair is rough on your back for the long haul. Now’s the time to consider upgrading to an actual desk chair and desk. Don’t think that means you’re stuck with a cubicle-worthy desk chair. West Elm, Article, and other modern design companies have lots of stylish options. 

Pro tip: see if your work will reimburse a set amount to pull together your home office space!

Make Sure You Have the Tools You Actually Need

You may have packed up your desk in a hurry, taking nothing with you but your laptop. Now’s the time to take stock of what you need to work effectively at home. Can you go back into the office and grab your favorite pens and notepads? Did you have industry books you refer to regularly? Do you need a second screen? A printer? Make a list of what could help you work more efficiently on a daily basis.

Bonus: maybe you’ve realized all you actually need IS a laptop (welcome to the club!) and you can now go super minimal. 

Consider Your Lighting

This is two-fold. If you’re on video all day, every day, if you present regularly to large groups or host webinars, if you’re just feeling blah about Zoom –– it’s time to get a ring light. They’re cheap, you can pick them up for a song on Amazon. It’s totally worth it. 

Second, as we’re staring down winter and it’s getting darker before we’ve even wrapped up the workday, it’s time to look at the lighting you have in your office. I love a space that’s filled with warm, dimly-lit lamps, but it’s not ideal for productivity. Brighten up your office light situation and make sure your energy level doesn’t get zapped just because the sun is going down.

Take into the Account the Five Senses and Create a Workday Ambiance

You know what can have a huge impact on your productivity? Being happy. So, think of all your senses and how they affect your day-to-day well being. Now bring that into your office and create a peaceful, energizing, calming ambiance. 

Sight: bring in your personal style. Sound: invest in a Bluetooth speaker and put together a work from home soundtrack. Smell: burn an indulgent candle, switch on diffuser. Touch: have a cozy blanket on hand. Taste: have coffee, tea, and water on-hand throughout the day depending on your mood.

Bring in a Little Bit of the Outdoors

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a window. Maybe you’re not. Either way, bring in a plant friend to warm up your space and give it a little life. A small wall-mounted planter is perfect if you’re short on square footage or just one sleek little pot on your desk could do the trick. 

Tip: If you have a curious cat, try a succulent or jade plant. While I can’t promise it will work for everyone, my plant-hungry cat doesn’t register the plastic-like leaves as real.

Looking at a Big Blank Wall? Carve Out a Defined Space

You’ve probably seen the easy paint tricks you can do with a plain wall. Painted arches are the look du jour on Instagram and there’s a good reason why: they define a specific section within a larger space. It’s perfect for delineating your home office within a larger room. Other ideas could include open shelving or one large print over the desk to give it a backbone.

Incorporate a Space that Lets You Take a Recharge Break

Of course, your desk is a space for working but you also need to take breaks throughout the day to stay at your most productive. I love keeping a few industry magazines on hand at my desk and sitting in a comfy chair with a fresh cup of coffee to give my brain a reset. Maybe you just incorporate a pillow on the floor for workday meditations. Even better if you can roll out space for a yoga mat and a quick flow to get moving (Yoga with Adriene is fabulous for 5-10 minute work break videos!). 

Shut Down Your Office Every Evening

Lastly, no matter where you land with your home office, remember you have to shut it down every evening or you’ll live where you work rather than work where you live. Turn off the lights, shut your laptop, and close the door –– you can always return to your lovely and productive home office setup tomorrow.