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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.

Nuna

New mama life is often fraught with decision fatigue. From choosing a pediatrician to choosing a baby monitor, it can be difficult to know which solutions are made to last. Fortunately, Nuna just made one very important decision a lot easier. That's because their new MIXX Next Stroller has everything a new parent needs to get out, get around and get everything done.

An upgraded version of their popular MIXX stroller, the MIXX Next features a more compact fold (shaving 6.5 inches off the folded size, down to 27.5 inches long and 23.6 inches wide) thanks to a compact fold-away axle where the rear wheels tuck under the frame when it folds. Plus, the new model also stays standing when folded—meaning no more back-straining as you bend to pick up your folded stroller and heave it into the trunk. Instead, the MIXX Next can be tucked more easily into storage whenever your ride comes to an end.


Nuna Mixx Next Stroller


Speaking of the ride, your little one will love the new rear-wheel Free Flex suspension™ and front-wheel progression suspension technology that absorbs more shock as you roll over uneven terrain. The wheels have also been updated to tough, rubber foam-filled tires for a smoother, more durable ride and the no re-thread harness makes it easy to clip your baby in securely and quickly. And when all those gentle bumps lull your baby to sleep? The seat features a five-position recline that adjusts quickly with one-hand—all the way down to a true-flat sleeper recline—just don't forget to move them to their crib when you arrive home. (Don't forget to extend the water repellent, UPF 50+ canopy to keep those sleepy eyes shaded.) Even better, the all-season seat keeps baby cozy in winter and unsnaps to mesh for a cooler ride in the summer.

Perhaps most importantly, though, this stroller is made to last. (After all, what's the point of solving a mama dilemma if it creates another one a few months down the road?) The MIXX Next pairs perfectly with all Nuna PIPA™ series infant car seats using the included car seat ring adapter, and then adapts to a child seat that can face toward you (for a little face time) or forward for when your little one is ready to take on the world. All in all, this stroller gets you where you need to go with a child up to 50 pounds, meaning it's the only one you'll ever need.

The MIXX Next is available in three colors and retails for $749.95.

This article was sponsored by Nuna. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

Work + Money

Do you need a family emergency kit? (Hint: Yes, you totally do)

It only takes a few minutes to be better prepared for emergencies.

Right now is understandably a time for concern, but the same message applies: Prepare, don't panic. We parents have a responsibility to care and provide for our children, ensuring their well-being before and after any disruptive event, whether it's a natural disaster or an outbreak that forces temporary shutdowns and closures in our community. When it comes to emergency preparation, I always tell parents one thing: You want to have a plan just in case the worst really does happen.

As a mom of three young kids with a firefighter husband, I'm constantly anticipating potential problems—and thinking ahead about how to cope. Thinking ahead and planning has saved me many nights of pacing the floor, and has made me feel more confident as a parent.

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