How to set up a home office in 2022

The complete set of instructions for designing an office that will keep you and your employees productive and motivated while working from home.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:

Home working used to be an employee perk enjoyed by progressive companies. Now, with hybrid and remote working policies on the rise, more and more people are able to dial into the office from the kitchen table.

Indeed, the latest ONS figures show that one in seven working adults in the UK (14%) are working full-time from a home office.

Still, making the switch to home working brings challenges with infrastructure. Those without a proper, designated workstation face more distractions, potentially impacting job performance. Using improper equipment can also come with health risks.

Our experts have pulled together the below guide, taking you through what to consider when setting up a modern, attractive home office for your small business.

By the end, you’ll be able to build a productivity palace that would make even Kevin McCloud proud.

Location

Home office

Hybrid or remote working policies are an incredibly popular employee perk. In fact, as we recently reported, 88% of job seekers view hybrid working as the most important pull-factor when searching for a new role.

However, one downside to hybrid working is that it can lead to distractions if people live in a busy environment.

As a general rule, workers should try and find a space for their office that is distinct from home life.

Try to stay away from communal areas or places where you might spend your downtime. This will help you to maintain the professional feeling of working in a normal office environment. Find more tips on staying engaged when home working in our full guide.

Those who are lucky enough to have a spare room will find this easiest. If you’re short on space, find the corner of a room that is furthest away from the potential distraction of a comfy sofa cushion.

There’s been a big rise in popularity of people investing in sheds and shipping containers. These are usually spacious enough to house an office, without taking up too much garden space.

Other, practical things to consider when deciding on a location include:

Lighting

Linked to location is the subject of lighting – an important criterion that is not taken seriously enough when it comes to finding a work space.

Few would disagree that fluorescent lighting should be left in the early 2000s. Yet, if you need more convincing, studies have proven that harsh lighting has been known to cause eye strain. It is also often cited as a trigger for migraine headaches.

In comparison, bright, natural lighting can help people to concentrate more easily – naturally improving productivity.

If you can, try to seat yourself near a window that gives you lots of healthy lighting throughout the entire day. Should that prove impossible, LED light bulbs are the next best alternative.

Equipment

home office wires

Now we come to the section most people jump to when you talk about home offices: equipment.

It’s important to kit your workstation out with the necessary gadgets that will help you to get your work done.

However, as we’ll speak about later, storage is tight in home offices. It’s therefore a good idea to follow the rule of ‘less is more’ when it comes to equipment and really think about what you do (and don’t) need to buy.

Here’s a list of the must-have items:

  • Laptop or PC
  • Computer monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mice and Mouse Pads
  • Headphones
  • Speakers
  • Webcams (make sure you’ve installed video conferencing software for this)
  • Microphones
  • VPNs (Virtual Proxy Network)
  • Password manager

Because of the wide variety of technology that you might end up buying for your home office, you might become stuck if something goes wrong.

Hire a third-party IT team on speed dial. That way, if you do encounter any issues with your devices, you can get them fixed fast.

Furniture

Ergonomic Computer Chair Bad Posture And Pain

When you regularly use inappropriate furniture that's not ergonomically designed, you are likely to experience several health problems like chronic backache, neck and shoulder pain.

In fact, research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that 39% of people who switched to home working during COVID-19 reported developing musculoskeletal problems as a result.

You can reduce the likelihood of this happening by investing in ergonomic furniture (furniture that’s been designed to be more comfortable for long periods of use). They are more expensive but much better for you in the long run.

For example, consider a standing desk, or use a laptop stand, to lengthen your back and improve posture while you are working.

Ergonomic chairs tend to be easy to find online. They are definable by their soft fabric, back support, adjustable height and armrests.

Here’s our top three picks for under £250:

Storage

The hand of a woman holds important documents in the office.

We’ve all heard the saying: a messy environment means a messy mind.

Most home offices tend to be smaller and deliberately tucked away in areas of the house so you can keep all of your paperwork and clutter in one place. This means home workers are often contending with overcrowded desk space that make it difficult to keep organised.

Invest in sneaky storage solutions such as baskets, filing cabinets, and drawer dividers to organise your stationary and office items.

Alternatively, you could use cloud-based organisational software, like a free project management system, to store documents and information digitally.

Other simple tricks include using cable ties to make sure you don’t get any wires crossed (literally, and metaphorically).

Finally, try to carry out a weekly tidy-up of your deskspace. Preferably, this should be carried out at a time where you’re not as busy, such as Friday afternoons.

Should employers pay for home office equipment?

If you’re not self-employed, or you’re an employer, you might be wondering what responsibilities a manager has towards covering their workforce’s home working costs.

Health and safety legislation requires that employers follow legislation set out in the Health and Safety DSE (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.

These stipulate that an employer must:

  • Undertake a workstation assessment for all “users” – that is those who use DSE as part of their daily work, continuously for an hour or more
  • Reduce risks, including making sure workers take breaks from DSE work and do something different
  • Provide an eye and eyesight test if a worker asks for one and provide suitable corrective appliances should a need be identified
  • Provide training and information for workers on health and safety in the office

Outside of this, there is no general legal obligation on employers to cover the costs of buying home working equipment.

However, if homeworking is to be a success, it is important for employees to have the equipment they need to perform their role.

Because of this, you might decide to choose to offer a WFH budget which employees can use to purchase equipment like display screens or chairs (just remember to ask for receipts).

How much does a home office cost?

It’s all good and well dreaming of a beautiful outdoor work terrace with a working fountain.

But if you’re just starting your own business, or you’re an employee paying out of your own pocket, you’ll likely have a strict budget you want to stick to.

Here’s our shopping list for home office equipment and furniture, complete with cost estimates:

Desk £120
Chair £200
PC/Laptop £700
Printer £70
Desk lamp £25
Stationery £20

Estimated total cost: £1155

Our guide to the cost of setting up an office provides a more detailed breakdown of the bill for designing your own workspace.

What’s next?

Home working policies have given people the freedom to work closer to their families, say goodbye to the daily commute, and avoid lengthy tenancy agreements.

But as well as the benefits, there are concerns that need to be addressed when setting up a workstation in the same area as you relax and wind down.

When designing a good office environment, we recommend you prioritise good lighting, a discreet location, proper furniture and equipment, and clever storage to create an optimised, lean workspace that won’t affect your productivity.

Are you deliberating whether to go remote and build a home office? Read our full review of the pros and cons of office working to help make your decision.

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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