Whether working from home has always been a perk of your job or you’re suddenly working remotely due to current events, one thing remains the same: It’s smart to set up a home office that allows you to separate your work and personal lives.
Many people love to work from places outside the traditional office. In fact, 99 percent of remote workers in one 2019 survey hoped to continue remote work at least part time for the remainder of their careers.
The work-from-home option doesn’t only benefit employees. A two-year Stanford study found a 13 percent improvement in performance and a 50 percent reduced attrition rate among employees randomly selected to work from home. Another survey of 1,004 full-time employees across the United States found that remote employees spent more time during their workdays getting things done because they lost less time to distractions.
Nothing enables these benefits more than a productive home office space. There’s a big difference between curling up on the couch with your laptop and having a designated office space — and not only because you’re less likely to have Netflix on in the background. Keep reading to learn how to set up a home office that promotes productivity and helps you stay healthy at the same time.
Setting up your home office desk
The proper desk for you depends on your space, your needs, and, of course, your preferences. Check out our handy guide to selecting the right setup. But the perfect setup isn’t only about your home office furniture; the products you use regularly and the space around your desk are also important. Here are some tips to help you create a productive desk area.
- Ditch the distractions
You may not have a separate room where you can escape when it’s time to get down to business. But if possible, find an area that you can use solely for work. At a minimum, choose a space you don’t associate with sleep, watching TV, or other relaxing activities.
Carving out dedicated workspace will help you focus on work. Just as importantly, it’ll allow you to leave work behind when you leave the office (so to speak). While it may sound cozy to catch up on emails from beneath your comforter, you could create an association between your bed and work — which may ultimately make your sleep area anything but a relaxing retreat. Plus, you’ll feel more professional and ready to face challenges if you’re not tangled up in last night’s sheets.
- Be smart about where you sit
Thanks to good lumbar support, an ergonomic office chair can help you maintain good posture and reduce back and neck pain. And when you feel better, you may work better. According to a 2003 ergonomics study, employees who used an ergonomic chair reported a productivity increase of 17.7 percent.
- Don’t just sit there — stand
A standing, adjustable, or dynamic work station may be the best option of all since it can help reduce the risk of shoulder and back pain. It may also help lower the risk of other problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer that are associated with sitting for hours. That’s especially true if you take regular breaks to walk around. It can be difficult to stand all day long, however, which is why many workers opt for an adjustable desk that allows them to sit and stand at intervals.
Take note of how you handle different tasks when standing versus sitting. For example, some people get better results when they sit to do tasks that involve fine motor skills. Others find that standing after a meal helps them avoid a post-meal slump.
- Type on a keyboard designed for wrist health
It doesn’t matter if you type 120 words a minute if you develop carpal tunnel syndrome in the process. An ergonomic keyboard (rather than a traditional, flat keyboard) can help lower your risk of a repetitive stress injury such as carpal tunnel by reducing wrist strain. That’s a big deal, considering more than half of workers in a 2016 study reported hand and/or wrist pain. In another study, ergonomic office supplies, including ergonomic keyboards, lowered the repetitive task-related injury risk levels of 44 percent of participants — plus, they look cool.
- Let the light in
Natural light helps boost productivity, so use it to your advantage. In a Cornell study, workers in an office with smart windows that optimized natural light reported a 10 percent decrease in drowsiness and an 84 percent drop in eye strain. Those seated near one of these windows also had a two percent increase in productivity. That means natural light could help a company realize an additional $100,000 per year of value for every 100 workers.
- Include plants in your office décor
You’ve probably seen more and more plants in the offices of big, successful businesses. Amazon’s Seattle campus, for example, has spheres of more than 40,000 plants from around the world. These companies are on to something because plants increase workplace satisfaction along with productivity.
A 2014 study found productivity increased by 15 percent when the researchers added plants to a previously spartan space. Don’t worry if you don’t have much of a green thumb — plenty of plants need little attention, including succulents.
- Set up your space for stretch breaks
You may not be able to fit a full yoga flow in between meetings. But if you have a yoga mat in your office, it’ll be easy to take a few minutes away from your computer to stretch or do a few exercises when you have a short break. Yoga reduces stress and back pain, which are two major reasons why employees take sick days. It can also increase energy, relieve stress, improve concentration and focus, help with creativity, and even boost morale — all of which can positively impact your job performance.
A foam roller is another simple tool that can add to your ability to stretch in the office, especially the part of the back that tends to tighten when we hunch over a keyboard. Even if you don’t know the difference between Downward Facing Dog and Sphinx, a foam roller can provide relief to a tight upper back in a few minutes.
Who can deduct home office expenses?
If all of this has you excited to make some of these home office ideas a reality, be aware that not everyone with a home office can deduct these expenses. Only independent contractors, not employees of a company, can claim them.<
According to the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act, for the tax years 2018 through 2025, you can’t deduct home office expenses if you’re an employee — even if you work solely or primarily from your home office. Self-employed workers (gig workers included) can claim home office expenses, including home office furniture. However, to qualify the space in question has to be used solely for business. Even if your dining room is your preferred desk or you consult with most of your clients from the living room couch, you can’t claim those as expenses.
Although you may not be able to claim your home office expenses on your taxes, upgrades to the space in which you work can take your job performance to the next level — which has the potential to pay off in a big way.