When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people found themselves scrambling to create a work-from-home space that satisfied their needs. However, not many people could have predicted these temporary spaces would become permanent.
Although this is not the new normal for every working adult, it certainly is for many. According to a recent survey from Gartner, a research and advisory firm, more than 80 percent of company leaders said they would be comfortable allowing employees to work from home, at least part of the time, on a permanent basis. That number has risen steeply since the pandemic began as employers quickly realized the benefits of a virtual workforce, including reduced costs on office rentals and increased productivity.
So what does this mean for individuals with a nine-to-five office job who now have to figure out a more permanent virtual setup? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t fret. There are plenty of affordable ways to craft a virtual office that’s functional and that can help you comfortably adjust to this new reality.
1. Create some separation.
First and foremost, for your work-from-home setup to fuel maximum productivity, it needs to be removed, whether physically or metaphorically, from the rest of your home. If you already have a designated office, try to only conduct work in that room. Resist the urge to use your office for other tasks, and if you work on a laptop, try not to carry it from room to room to do your work.
If you do not have a designated office, placing a physical or mental barrier between your work and play zones is imperative. For example, if your desk is set up in your living room, consider purchasing a room divider. Sites like Amazon and Wayfair have a variety of styles available, so you can find a divider that fits seamlessly with the rest of your room. If you’re not keen on a physical barrier, set mental barriers for yourself during work hours, such as refraining from turning on the television or keeping your phone away from your desk.
2. Up your tech game.
You may not have needed the highest internet speed or a top-notch router before the pandemic, but a proper work-from-home setup requires reliable internet service, and that may mean shelling out for an upgraded system. Fortunately, most internet providers offer plans with a wide array of speed options, so you can find the right match for your needs. If you have a larger home and multiple people online at the same time, you might consider purchasing a second router so you can guarantee a strong internet connection throughout your house.
Aside from a solid internet connection, you’ll want to make sure your computer setup is as close as possible to that in a professional office. Investing in a quality laptop and/or monitor, keyboard, mouse, and mousepad can help your workspace look and feel more professional—and help you look and feel more professional, too. Be sure to check in with your employer about a stipend for your home office supplies, and, depending on your location, you may qualify for tax breaks on these purchases as well.
3. Comfort over substance.
It’s not necessary to spend a fortune on a desk and desk chair. What matters most is comfort and that they serve their purpose—helping you get work done. Nowadays, a desk that doubles as a standing desk is a popular option. Sitting all day can cause a whole host of problems for your body, but it can also be burdensome on your mind. Standing upright can help with blood flow, leading to more energy and an improved mood. The typical standing desk will run you anywhere between $40 for portable models to $500 for more high-tech varieties, and most can be converted back into a sitting desk so you can have a standing or sitting option throughout the day.
A proper desk chair is even more important than a proper desk, so it’s worth the investment if you want to purchase one on the higher-end of the price spectrum. However, there are also plenty of middle-of-the-road and less expensive options, too. Your desk chair needs to be supportive enough to keep you upright yet comfortable enough to get you through an hour-long meeting without straining your back. Look for a chair with ergonomic in its name—meaning it was designed with the human body and comfort in mind. Lumbar and head support are equally important to prevent slouching, especially for taller people.
4. Don’t be afraid to personalize.
If the beginning of the pandemic was the first time you ever worked from home, you might have felt wary about making your setup and background the slightest bit personal. Every video call felt like your colleagues could see into your home life, and that’s not necessarily what you wanted. At the same time, a permanent setup should involve a little personalization. After all, if you could have pictures of your family and other knickknacks on your desk at work, why can’t you also have them on your desk at home?
Be mindful of your background and ensure that it is clean and professional looking. But feel free to fill your workspace with items that make you happy and more productive. Perhaps you want to start your morning with a little motivation? A letterboard with changeable pieces can be a fun option to hang above or place on your workspace. Or, if you’re a fan of aromatherapy, using an essential oil diffuser or lighting natural scented candles can help ease you through the day.
5. Extras are essential
In the same vein as personal items, investing in extra odds and ends to make your office space more comfortable and functional isn’t frivolous—it’s a wise choice. For instance, if you have to do a lot of writing for your job, consider purchasing a high-quality notebook and pen set that will make your handcrafted letters or paperwork look and feel more professional. Or, if your job requires you to do a lot of typing, make sure your wrists are protected by investing in a wrist pad to place at the edge of your keyboard. Here are a few other examples of extras you might consider:
- Cable ties: to prevent wires from impeding the space under your desk.
- Filing cabinet/bins: to keep important papers and sensitive documents safe.
- Adjustable desk lamp: to create the perfect lighting for productivity.
- Blue-light glasses: to prevent eye-strain from excessive screen time.
- Noise-canceling headphones: to fuel your focus and inhibit distraction.
Now that many people are working from home on a permanent basis, it’s important that home workspaces are crafted with intention. Use these ideas to ensure that your setup has everything you need to be happy and productive.