8 expert tips for setting up a home office that *actually* works for you

It's all about finding what works for you.

how to set up a home office

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of working from home, but to be honest, it was becoming an increasingly popular choice for the modern workforce for some time. It's also a convenient option for a variety of reasons, from being available for school drop offs and pickups, to caring for young children and avoiding spreading an illness if you're not feeling your best.

Traditional offices are designed to give employees the resources needed to effectively do their jobs, and when you work from home, you should try to create a similar environment.

Here are a few steps to remember when setting up a remote working environment:

1. Make your working space comfortable

It's not about spending extra money to get the perfect setup, it's about identifying the space and the items you already have in your home that can make you the most comfortable and put you in the best frame of mind. "Even more than the physical items, like a chair and a desk, it's about the location in your home that you choose," says Leonard Callejo, director of Cisco Webex. "For example, a space in the middle of your kid's playroom, is not the best place to set up your remote working environment. We recognize that as parents with children in the home, there probably isn't a place that is completely quiet. However, some places will be better than others (think: kitchen table) and that goes a long way in improving focus and productivity while you work."

2. Build a schedule that works for you

No matter where you work, you'll need to hit deadlines and attend important meetings at scheduled times. "But, you can take advantage of less-structured periods during the work day by setting aside your lunch hour to go over your child's lesson plan, or simply take a walk in your neighborhood together," says Callejo. "If you have little ones that take a nap at noon, then try to move your work schedule to accommodate that. The point is to create a schedule that works for you and your family—not everyone else's."

3. Surround yourself with light

A light, bright space that is devoid of clutter will help you to focus. "We might not all have such a space in our home, but even if you are working in your basement or attic make sure that you have enough light so you don't feel like you're in a cave," says Michelle Lisac, founder and principal designer of Michelle Lisac Interior Design. "Clearing that space of all visual (and actual) clutter will help you stay on task, too."

4. Burn a candle

Candles are so relaxing and can be beneficial when you're feeling stressed. "Having a candle burning nearby will help create a relaxed work environment, especially if you're trying to work with kiddos around," says Ashley Moore, founder of Moore House Interiors.

5. Keep personal items visible

Just because it's your home office space doesn't mean you shouldn't have some personal, homey items on display. "I like to keep a small plant on my desk or reminders and memories of your loved ones are a great touch," says Sybille Zimmermann, founder and interior architect of Studio Zimmermann. "I keep a small picture frame with my daughter on my desk, and everytime I look up it makes me smile."

6. Create + follow a routine

As mamas, we understand that the notion of a routine goes out the window, especially if you are forced to juggle both work and kids at home, at the same time. "Luckily, parents are the world's best multi-taskers," says Callejo. "This is going to come in handy when you are forced to switch your mind back and forth throughout the day, as these two worlds collide. We recommend either the night before or the morning of, make a list of your must-dos for the day." Also, having a plan to concretely end the workday helps you keep your home and work life separate, even though you're in the same physical space.

7. Be creative with storage

Proper storage for your home office is essential—the last thing you need is for your home office to feel cluttered with paperwork, pens, etc. "I like to use beautiful vases or mugs to hold my pens and pencils and decorative baskets or boxes to store files and office supplies," says Zimmermann.

8. Leverage modern technology

Working from home means there's physical distance between you, your colleagues and your managers. Luckily, there are effective systems available to bridge that gap and ensure you remain connected to the heart of your company's operations.

Consider having these three core tools at your disposal to make sure you do not skip a beat when working from home:

  • Video conferencing app:

"Virtual meetings with video create the ability to see who you are engaging with, no matter where they are," says Callejo. "Looking someone in the eye always establishes better rapport and a stronger inter-personal connection. Plus, these apps enable you to share your computer screen so you can virtually work side-by-side with your colleagues." We like CISCO Webex and Zoom.

  • Team messaging app:

Messaging apps allow for timely, off-the-cuff conversations with attachments and key information that can be saved in a thread for later use. "Messages can be posted anytime of the day, allowing discussions and the exchange of ideas to occur in real-time," says Callejo. "There can be 1:1 or group messages aligned around teams or projects. This helps keep everyone connected and information can be collected and disseminated quicker than it would have been over text or phone." We like Slack.

  • Document sharing + collaboration platform:

Taking messaging a step further, document sharing via a collaboration platform allows documents to be shared and edited together, in real-time. Try Google Doc to create, edit and collaborate with others.

Most importantly, just remember not to stress. You're doing the best you can, mama. Of course, some days will be better than others, but be kind to yourself. We're all in this together!

Keep your home office space tidy and organized with some of these essentials.

Tower home desk organizer

Yamazaki tower home desk organizer

Your odds and ends never looked so stylish. Made from steel and wood, this desk organizer is ready to catch everything from glasses and phones to pens and pencils.

$30

Tosca pen stand 

Yamazaki Tosca pen stand

We love the simple look of this pen and pencil holder from minimalist masters, Yamazaki.

$22

Rin wall clock

Yamazaki rin wall clock

A functional and sleek addition to your home office wall, this clock features a warm wooden face and metal frame that matches nearly every aesthetic.

$50

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.