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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.

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

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

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