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How to Properly Set Up Your Home Office

Set Up Home Office

Prior to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, it was estimated that a quarter of the workforce was already working from home in some capacity. This makes sense given the vast improvements in communications technology and growth in the gig economy. It’s highly unlikely this trend will decline soon. In fact, with the recent shelter-in-place orders forcing business owners to look to remote employment options, it may be more common than commuting to the office for the foreseeable future. So, if you’re going to be working from home, it’s time to set up your home office.

Under normal circumstances, I don’t work from a home office, but many of the staff at IronPoint do. So, we took some time to think about what works best for us and share some ways to make the most of your home office setup.

Get the most out of tax savings

When you first consider working the savings you typically contemplate are commute costs and the dreaded dry cleaner. However, in some scenarios, there may also be long-term savings.

Could how you set up your home office to save money on taxes?

Sure. If you use your home office exclusively for your business, then according to the IRS, you may qualify for a home-office deduction. Make sure to work with a good accountant to maximize any benefits you may be entitled to when working from home.

While you should rely on the advice of your accountant, generally speaking, you may have two options, the first is the simplified version which is $5 per square foot of the home dedicated to the office (up to $1500), or a more complicated calculation, where the IRS will measure your business expenses against your residential expenses.

Whichever option you elect, you may be entitled to whether you own or rent, so do yourself a favor and ask your account how this applies to you.

It’s all about location, location, location …

Being exposed to sunlight or more natural elements will be optimal, so try to locate your office where you get good sunlight and the best view possible. This will certainly improve your mood, and you’ll find yourself getting more done. 😊

While the office should comfortably blend into the home, it should also be out of the main traffic flow of your house. This will help to reduce distractions.

Sometimes a separate room with a view and great sunlight is just not an option. If this is you, like so many others, you are likely basement bound. If this is you, then make sure you have good lighting, add some art or some visually stimulating items, and maybe some low-light plants. Try to make it … well … less like a basement.

Get the most out of your space 

Most of us won’t have the luxury of an empty nest. Most houses are frequently dealing with tight quarters. Especially under the current stay-at-home orders.

So, if a lot of your space is already accounted for, you’ll need new ways to maximize your available square footage so you can get some work done.

For instance, you can use your file cabinet as a desktop, so it serves a dual purpose. Also, there are reasonably priced portable desktops that allow you to use a space as an office by day and a living space by night. 

Spending some money on built-in or portable storage can also help you make the most of the space without your work constantly spilling over into your personal life.  

Get yourself the right equipment

In my corporate life, I always worked for companies where everything I needed was at my fingertips. Whatever I needed always seemed to be in the supply closet or a phone call away.

This likely won’t be the case when working from home. In fact, it could take a bit of investment to recreate that situation at home.   

To be as efficient as possible, you’ll need to create a supplies shopping list. Not the complete list, but what you’ll need to be productive on day one. This will help you identify necessary supplies and equipment, as well as what you’ll need to create the ideal office space. 

Always look to make yourself more comfortable

There’s a comfy couch in my family room that often beckons me during the workday. Yet, from an ergonomic standpoint—and from a shoulder that starts aching by mid-day—I know it’s not my best option.  

A key perk of a home office is the ability to set it up just for you: This means you’re in charge of making sure your set-up is a healthy one.   

Start by choosing a comfortable, ergonomically designed chair. In addition, your computer should be at eye level or below while you work, and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. If your feet don’t rest flat on the ground, use a footrest or booster. If you want to have an option other than sitting behind a desk, find a chair that offers good support so you’re not sacrificing health for comfort. 

You’ll need some healthy distractions

While flexibility is a key benefit of remote working, from a day–to–day perspective it’s a good idea to establish a schedule and routine. This not only puts you in a position to be more productive but also helps limit distractions by activities that don’t make you money.  

No doubt, your laundry beckons, the dishes are in the sink and your dog needs a walk. Having a set schedule allows you to set aside time to tackle some of those tasks so they’re not gnawing at you while you’re supposed to be focused on your job.    

One way to take a proactive approach to avoid time-sucking distractions is to plant some healthy distractions that will keep you focused and efficient. For instance, make sure a set of weights or an exercise ball is handy for a quick exercise break. Or keep some sneakers under your desk and schedule time in your calendar so you can take a walk to recharge and give your eyes a rest. 

Most work-from-home veterans, myself included, also caution against the cliché working-in-my-pajamas approach. It’s tempting to work in sweatpants and skip a shower, but getting up, getting dressed, and heading to your now–optimized space like it’s your job (because it is) will best position you for a productive day. 

Set clear parameters

While you no longer need to deal with the pesky co-worker sauntering up to your desk with a lengthy debriefing of his weekend exploits, there is still significant potential for human distractions.  

Your knocks at the door or your spouse can easily pull you away from work that needs to be done. Working from home with children is even more difficult. Setting some simple ground rules can help make sure you can get work done without straining the most important relationships in your life. For instance, if your office door is closed, that means do-not-disturb unless it’s an emergency.  

Also, try to establish a set quitting time. If you’re able to stick to it, your family will soon learn when you ‘are at the office’ and when it’s quality family time.

The bottom line

To the 9-5 office world, working from home can seem like a breeze. Yet, it has its own set of challenges. By creating the ideal work-at-home space, you can maximize the benefits of a 25-step commute while assuring you’re as productive as possible. 

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