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design a home office

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Many people already knew before the stay-at-home order how difficult it can be to work from home. They also knew how great it can be! It has its pros and cons. The isolation of it can cause depression for some, while others may prefer the solitude. It’s much harder to get your family or housemates to leave you alone when you’re working at home than when you’re working at the office. On the other hand, it’s quite nice to get to spend more time with them, as you can take your lunch break with them, and see them the second you finish work, rather than wait through the commute home. Whichever side you’re on—love working from home or resent it—one thing is for certain: the home office is almost never as productive and professional as the real office in a commercial space.


Your home office likely wasn’t designed to be that—an office. Maybe it was once a nursery or a guest room or the home gym or the arts and crafts room. Commercial spaces are typically designed, from their conception, to cater to the needs of a business and working professionals. It just has that feel when you walk in, and there are lots of little details that you may not even notice are there to help you focus.


Fortunately, there are some things you can do to your home office to make it feel a bit more like a commercial space—perhaps like the office you currently miss, as you’re only temporarily working from home during COVID-19. Or like the ones you’ve always admired, even if you permanently work from home. Here are ways to make your home office feel like a real office.


design a home office

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Have an office mailbox

When you bring in the mail for the home, separate out the mail that’s specifically for your business, and add it to a mail organizer in your office. It’ll help you stay on task to open this mail in your office, with the door closed, than out in the kitchen or living room where others can distract you. It also puts the mail near other things you may need to address it, like documents in your office.

design a home office

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Add an office phone line

Getting the phone situation sorted out is a two-step process: 1) don’t let the main house line run through the office, as you’ll constantly get bogged down with non-work-related calls, and 2) install a work line. Give people who need to reach you at work that specific phone number. Adding a line is typically rather affordable.

design a home office

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Bring in the coffee pot

Going to the kitchen to top off your mug of coffee often means getting dragged into a conversation with a family member or housemate. Set up a corner in your office to keep a small coffee pot that’s just for you. Or, invest in a Keurig or a single-serving machine to really make it feel like a commercial space.

design a home office

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And office snacks

Going to the kitchen for those snacks also tends to result in a much longer break than planned. Near your office coffee pot, add a few baskets and fill them with the snacks you’d find at a real office like individual servings of trail mix or bags of pretzels. Add a bowl of fruit for something healthy. You can even put in a mini-fridge, to keep your lunch in there, if you really want to make this official.

design a home office

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Wireless keyboard and mouse

If you’ve ever had a job for which you had to go into an office, you likely had a wireless keyboard and mouse there. There’s something about having the keyboard and mouse separate from the computer that really makes it feel professional, and helps you do more precision work. So invest in a set—there are many these days that connect via Bluetooth to most laptops.

design a home office

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A work desktop

This one will obviously depend on the available funds, but many people who work from home find it quite useful to have two computers: one for personal use and one for work use. There are just so many applications and documents on the personal computer that can get you distracted, and it may be slow due to all the things you’ve downloaded over the years. Working on a work-specific computer can mean working faster, and it can put you in that professional mindset.

design a home office

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A large, multi-tiered office desk

Don’t just use whichever small antique desk you originally picked out for that room. If you’re going to work from home, you need a large desk. Possibly an L-shaped desk, so you can put your computer on one arm, and documents, mail organizer, office supplies etc. on the other. And having a pull-out platform for your keyboard can also be helpful.

design a home office

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A work-specific filing cabinet

Don’t put your work documents in the same filing cabinet as the one where you keep mortgage, car insurance, health insurance, and other home-related documents. It’s too distracting to go past those in order to get to a professional document. Invest in a filing cabinet that’s just for work-related documents, and that sits in the office.

design a home office

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An indoor fountain

If you think about it, you may recall that many commercial offices you’ve visited had indoor fountains—either large or small ones. They do a good job of drowning out outside noise, keeping you focused, and they instantly add an air of professionalism because it’s just not something you typically find in, say, a bedroom or kitchen.

design a home office

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A physical work-specific calendar

First off, don’t just rely on the calendar on your phone or computer to stay organized. Buy a large paper or whiteboard calendar to put up on the wall of your office. And second, have one that’s just for work appointments, reminders, and deadlines. You can put your son’s soccer game and your dentist appointment on the calendar in the kitchen. Seeing those personal appointments in your workspace has a way of distracting you.

design a home office

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Post your “office hours” on the door

The people in your home will need to talk to you about things throughout the day. Often, the reason they interrupt you is that they just don’t know how long they’ll need to wait to speak to you, if they don’t. So put up a sign that informs them. You can write on there during which hours you’ll be working, when you’ll be taking a break, and when you’ll be done for the day. If they know they can talk to you in three hours, then they may not interrupt you right now.

design a home office

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Choose the right colors

Muted natural colors like a calming sea green or medium-brightness blue have a way of helping us remain focused. Colors like light yellow or orange belong in the kitchen, where we’re meant to feel happy and calm, but muted blues and greens are good for an office where you need to remain alert and dialed-in.

design a home office

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Get a printer just for the office

Remember that any time you need to leave your office, or someone needs to come in, you risk a long interruption. So have one printer for the home, that’s outside your office, and one printer that’s just for work, that’s inside the office. Don’t allow people to use the office printer, as they can jam it, or accidentally throw something of yours away.

design a home office

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A good work chair

Get a work chair that will promote good posture—leaning back too much can promote sleepiness. It should also be height-adjustable so you can always get a comfortable view of what you’re working on, whether you’re looking at your computer which is perched on the top tier of the desk, or looking over a document on the lower portion of the desk. It should also roll, so you can easily move around the office without having to get up and break focus.

design a home office

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A large wall clock

Sure, you have a clock on your computer, but every commercial office has a large wall clock. It just makes things official. And it reminds you of the time—and perhaps how far behind you are on a task—in a more dominant way than that tiny little clock in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen does.

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