The home office has gone from a luxury to a necessity in the span of just a few short weeks.
That’s because millions of Americans are now forced to work from home full time amid the COVID-19 crisis. With local stay-at-home orders likely to last for weeks to come, now is a great time to upgrade your makeshift workspace into a suitable home office for the long haul.
To learn how to do that, we talked to Jade Sills, a Best Buy In-Home Advisor in Detroit. She typically provides free tech consultations at customers’ homes, but lately she’s also been helping with curbside pickup at a local store.
“A lot of the clients who have been coming in are people who are working from home and need help,” she said. “Some might only need a couple of cables or a monitor, but others are completely starting from scratch because they’ve never worked from home before.”
Here are some of Jade’s tips for taking your home office up a notch.
Optimize your Wi-Fi
If you’ve encountered Wi-Fi issues during your first weeks at home, you’re not alone. Many people are quickly learning that their home networks aren’t suited to handle the demands of multiple people working or learning at home simultaneously.
Good Wi-Fi is vital for productivity, and that’s why it’s one the first topics Jade addresses when talking to a client about setting up a home office.
“Your network is the most important piece of the puzzle,” she said. “We have to establish that the network is strong enough to have the client work from home and, if not, figure out which modem and router to recommend.”
Jade often recommends whole-home Wi-Fi, especially for customers with a large home or heavy Wi-Fi usage. Also commonly known as “mesh” networking, this technology uses a series of nodes around your house to optimize your range and handle the traffic of more users and devices on the network. Popular examples include products from Eero and Google Nest.
Click here more tips on how to optimize your home Wi-Fi.
Upgrade your computer
With the added demands of working from home, it’s also important you have the right computer for the job. After all, a full day of work and video meetings will take a lot more computing power than basic web browsing or paying the bills.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a computer:
- Do you want a desktop for a dedicated office or a laptop so you can move around the house?
- What type of work do you do? The processing power and features you need will vary based on how you’ll be using it.
- What size screen do you want? If you’re not going to use a monitor, you might want a laptop with a bigger screen.
If your child needs a computer for distance learning, there are lots of good options, including laptops, Chromebooks and tablets.
Use an external monitor (or TV)
Many people like to have an larger monitor or second screen to enhance their home offices. In addition to standard monitors, Jade said TVs can be a great alternative.
“You can get a 32-inch smart TV for $200,” she said. “Then, if this is just a temporary office, you can move that to a bedroom or your kids’ playroom when you go back to work. That gives you a little more versatility than just the monitor itself.”
Keep a printer handy
If you’re used to printing out documents at the office, you’ll probably want to do while working remotely, too. It’s also a nice option for kids who are now doing their schooling at home.
“If you don’t want your child looking at a screen all day, you can just print out an assignment and have them do their homework on paper,” Jade said. “Then you can scan it in when they’re done.”
If you don’t have room on your desk, you can always put the printer on a small stand or tuck it under the desk. If it’s wireless, you can even hide it in a closet.
Pick the right spot
If you’re looking to create a more permanent home office, the most important thing is to find a dedicated space with minimal distractions. That’s especially true if you have other family members or roommates home with you during the day.
“Something with closed doors is preferable, so you have the option to make the room quieter and less distracting,” Jade said. “A basement can also be a great option because it tends to be quieter.”
If you don’t have a spare room to serve as a full-time office, Jade recommends adding a small desk to your bedroom or kitchen.
“You can still have a very clean office in a temporary space,” she said. “You don’t need a whole lot of equipment — maybe just your computer and a monitor. Less is more sometimes.”
Face the window
If possible, situate your desk so you’re facing a window. This will minimize the amount of glare on your screen and prevent any intense backlighting during video conferences.
“Being able to look out the window and see the sun always puts me in a better mood,” she said.
Get a good chair
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good chair. Jade said it’s one of the most common mistakes she sees people make.
“I feel like a chair is super important for a home office because you want to find something that’s comfortable and supportive, so you’re not slouching or uncomfortable for the entire day,” she said. “You’re going to be sitting there the majority of your day, so be sure to find something comfortable.”