10 ways to optimize home office and the biggest mistakes to avoid

Amie T. Keener is a registered interior designer and associate at Gensler. Many people may

  • Amie T. Keener is a registered interior designer and associate at Gensler.
  • Many people may have set up their home offices not expecting to be there for the long haul, but it’s becoming increasingly clear we may be home for several more months.
  • Now you may be scrambling to create a better home office.
  • But before you do so, pay attention to these possible pitfalls, especially when ordering furniture online.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Like many others, I initially thought we would be working from home just a couple of weeks.

I set up a bar height bistro table in the corner of the living room as my desk space. But, as the weeks passed, I moved my desk to the other side of the room to face out the window to take in nature, and occasionally, I’ll see a hummingbird quickly dashing around the yard.  

Amie Keener

Amie Keener.

Courtesy of Amie Keener


If you’re looking — or needing — to improve your home office with some new furniture and accessories, it may be quick, easy, and inexpensive to order something online. Yes, there are many great resources out there. But a word of caution: look out for the following common pitfalls.    

Cost

Do you have a budget? Establish one up front. Include items like desks, chair, task light, ergonomic tools. Likely items are bookcase, file cabinet, and maybe rug or flooring material. Also consider accessories such as artwork and plants as they can enhance overall well-being in the space.   

Size 

Grab a tape measure and test out what new furniture will look like in the space.  Consider taping it out on the floor with masking tape or cutting out newspaper or a cardboard box the size you are considering.  

Ergonomic factors

We are all spending more time in our home offices. Comfort is important, and good ergonomic solutions are even more essential. Do you need a desk and task chair? Or would you benefit from soft seating, like a lounge chair or sofa for some of your work?

Do you like to stand up and work? Maybe a bar height table and stools make more sense for you. 

Location 

Does your home office space have enough light? Will you be on video calls? Natural light can always improve how we look over video. Seek out light sources from a variety of angles. Avoid all down lighting. You want to make sure to provide the best representation of yourself on video.

Consider the animals in your home: Do they find your workspace cozy too? I’m allergic to cats, but I get a kick out of seeing my co-worker’s furry friends jump into the view of the camera. Having an animal join our calls has been a nice treat on occasion.

Take into account the noise near your home office workspace; if you are on a morning conference call, will the sound of your toddler in the background alarm your coworkers?

Consider the temperature of your office space: Is it hot, will you need to add a fan or something to circulate the air? Will the noise of the fan get picked up on conference calls and sound like a jet?  

Connectivity

Do you need power/data cords? I miss my motorized sit-to-stand desk at the office. Consider cord lengths and distance from wall outlets. Will you need to connect to printer, screen, speakers, camera, etc.? You don’t want to create deathly tripping hazards or risks of overloading electrical outlets/circuits.

I found my internet speed improved by connecting an ethernet cable directly into the router. If you can place your workspace as close to the router you may minimize future technology headaches.   

Product

Where is the product coming from? What is involved with shipping and handling?  Most office furniture today is blended with parts from around the globe. Does the company have customer support here in the US?  

Freight 

Is the product insured as it goes from the factory to your home? What if there’s freight damage? It’s rare, but something to consider, with unknown shipping sources.

Stick to a reliable company that provides insurance, like the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, etc. How much time will it take you to chase down the right part?  

Assembly

Does it require you putting it together? Do you have the right skill set, tools and patience to assemble the new furniture?  If not, it’s critical to find someone who can help in an affordable and efficient manner.

Warranty

What happens if your new furniture is all set up and a few weeks pass, and something breaks? Read the fine print; what is the warranty on the product you are purchasing?   

Care and maintenance

You want your furniture to last and be germ free as much as possible. Wood is always a nice feature for desks, but are you willing to take care and responsibility for it?

Are you like me, who often eats lunch at my desk? Maybe plastic laminate or metal surfaces are more logical for your space.   

I suspect we will be working from home in some form or fashion in the coming months, so it’s important to have a well thought out home office furniture solution. We love our families and roommates, but it’s beneficial to have a quiet place to break away in your home.

Also, you may find yourself using your home office workspace for other uses (paying bills, making out grocery lists, meal planning, writing letters, etc.). Flexible and adaptable solutions are valuable in more ways in one.

Amie T. Keener, RID, IIDA, LEED AP, CDT is a registered Interior Designer and Associate at Gensler. With more than 20 years of experience in the commercial building industry, Amie’s professional career is a robust blend of commercial interiors projects for energy, automotive, financial services, technology, and professional services firms. Currently, her focus is on furniture services, where she helps develop and implement furniture standards for clients.

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