Updated: Sep 15, 2020
A complete guide to setting up a home office.
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The past few months of working from dining tables, couches, and beds have taken their toll on novice telecommuters. Many of us are feeling stiff and sore, no matter how many online yoga classes we do. With many of us settling in for the long haul — told to stay home until at least New Year’s or, like some Facebook and Twitter workers, permanently — the makeshift office of early stay-at-home orders is getting old. Since working from home is less “temporary” than you thought, you might be ready to trade in your metal folding chair for an ergonomic model or treat yourself to a set of noise-canceling headphones. Maybe you want to make the spot where you spend your days more welcoming and video-conference-friendly. Perhaps your employer is even offering a stipend for workers in need of home office improvements.
While comfort is essential in any office, an office that is too casual may seriously impede the ability to get things done. You have to find a way to separate yourself from the rest of the goings-on in the home and limit all other home sounds and interruptions. A dedicated workspace in your home is the easiest way to minimize household distractions so you can focus on work. As best you can, you will want to recreate what you have at the office, with its real desk, chair, keyboard,
The 7 Essentials to Think About When Designing Your Home Office:
Your Tech Equipment
Your Health and Well-Being
1. Home Office Locale
You will likely spend many hours in your home office, so do not short yourself on space; opt for the rarely used guest room over the windowless closet. Consider traffic flow and your ability to withstand distractions. Do you work best in the thick of activity, or should your office be tucked away in a quiet space? Can you work listening to your children in a class? Most people cannot work effectively in a sea of noise or right on top of their loved ones. Attempt a degree of privacy from surrounding activities.
Portable screens can be used to shield the work area from nearby activities. Alternatively, divider walls that double as bookcases will not only divide the area but also can provide superior storage solutions.
2. Your Layout
The old rule, "a place for everything and everything in its place," was coined to relieve stress. If you carefully think through your storage possibilities, you can make smaller nooks feel spacious.
Your desk will likely be the place where you spend the most time. We consider the minimum desk size for serious work to be 30” deep x 60” wide. To promote better health, consider a desk that can rise and become a standing desk. Consider the myriad of options available for the organization of papers on your desk. What is essential for productivity is an organized desk that keeps unfinished work in order and prevents the chaos of disorganized piles. Your desk, shelves, and storage should serve you, not the other way around. Consider your workflow and what items you need at your fingertips before investing in furniture. Look for pieces that are both beautiful and functional.
Home office furniture should complement other rooms in your house instead of screaming "soulless cubicle." If your home has traditional décor, warm wood and soft comfy chairs or a love-seat are ideal if you have space. A contemporary home office can feature artistic pieces or modern metal furniture.
Acoustics. To help create the quiet needed for real concentration and work, a degree of white noise can be helpful. Air filters and low fans will operate at a low speed to muffle other sounds. Quality headphones can also serve to block interruptions. However, you still need to be heard on phone and Zoom calls. Bravo AV has numerous acoustical solutions to help quiet your room and allow you voice to be clearly heard on conference and Zoom calls. You will have a tough time keeping your audience’s attention if you sound like are in an echo chamber. Another benefit of acoustical treatments in your office is that your office can be a quiet place where you can really focus.
Chairs. Treat yourself to a great chair. You are going to be in it for a good part of the day.
CNN Budget chair: Alera Elvison Series
CNN Overall: Steelcase Series 1
Popular: Herman Miller Aeron Chair – mesh makes the chair cool and comfortable
3. Home Office Tech Equipment
Network. Home networks might seem like they are simple, but they are not. Smartphones are simple to use, but the technology behind them is very complicated. The truth is that home networking is a sophisticated technology. It is wrapped up in electronics like routers, modems, switches, and wireless access points (WAPs) that we plug in and give us access to the internet. With everyone working and learning from home, your network has never been more taxed. You need a robust home network to support video conferencing. Check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and find out what your data plan is. We recommend a data plan from your ISP of at least 150 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 50 Mbps upload. We also recommend hard wiring your computer, as this will give you the best performance and highest security. If that is not possible, make sure your Wi-Fi is up to the task.
Computer. Consider purchasing a large monitor or multiple monitors. We recommend at least a 27” monitor. Laptops are amazingly portable, but hours of looking down can hurt your neck and overall posture. Proper monitor placement can help prevent fatigue, eye strain, and neck and back pain. It can also decrease glare, which will improve posture and reduce muscle fatigue. Adjustable desks and monitors can also convert into standing desks.
Phone. Perhaps you will want a separate phone line to your oﬃce so that business associates or clients do not get a busy signal. Also, look into whether your phone has the capability for messaging, conferencing, and speaker functions.
Insurance. And, do not forget insurance on that equipment. Aﬀordable policies will insure your home oﬃce equipment in the event of a loss or disaster. You will want this peace of mind.
Power. It is not uncommon for the typical home oﬃce desk area to have the following items needing power:
External USB Backup Disk
What we typically see is a cheap surge protector on the ﬂoor by your feet. With a maze of wires. The biggest threat is that you kick a plug loose by accident. Cord management options: Encase cords on the desk in a fabric cord cover, and feed the wires into a desk grommet, which is a plastic or metal cap that helps guide cords through a hole in the desk and hides them underneath. Tame the cord jungle on the ﬂoor by mounting a high-quality surge protector to the wall or desk about 18 inches oﬀ the ﬂoor, and carefully organize all the cables out of your way with cord winders.
If you suﬀer with occasional power
outages, we recommend an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to
protect your data from loss.
Connectivity During Storms. If it is critical that you be able to connect with the outside world during storms that may knock out power and/or your ISP we suggest a generator and a second ISP provider. For instance, if you have Verizon FiOS you would add cable. We would install a switch that receives feeds from both FiOS and the cable company with automatic failover. Failover within a communications network is the process of instantly transferring tasks from a failed component to a similar redundant component to avoid disruption and maintain operations. Because the output of generators can fluctuate more than the electrical grid, we strongly suggest putting the Surgex UPS-2000-0L Battery Backup with Surge & Power management this will protect sensitive gear and computers for voltage irregularities.
A note on generators:
Be prepared. Get an annual maintenance plan.
Keep the area around the Generator clear. Don’t let your shrubs overgrow the generator.
Keep extra Oil on hand. These generators typically burn oil. Once a day shut the generator down and check the oil level.
If you have a storm the causes your generator to run for 250 hour or more call your service company to get the oil and oil filter changed.
4. Your Lighting
Good lighting is essential. When we are talking about light, we mean both artificial and natural. Ideally, you want as much natural daylight as possible. If your space has a window, it will enhance the lighting. Daylight is the most evenly balanced source of white light available, in that sunlight has an approximately equal proportion of each color of the spectrum. However, sunlight never has a uniform color or intensity and differs depending on the time of day and geographic location. Thus, even in spaces with ample daylight, adjustable shades may be needed to receive favorable lighting consistently. You will want this good lighting to prevent eyestrain — and so you will look fabulous on Zoom calls (details on this in our Zoom blog). As an American Lighting Association Lighting Associate, I am well-versed in color temperate, CRI, Lumens and beam spread etc. I can help you make your light awesome.
In addition to the lighting fixtures themselves, Bravo AV can help you with lighting control. Imagine at the push of a button every fixture turns on to the exact lighting level you want. It is not magic; it is Lutron Radio Ra2. Lutron can control your lights and your automated shades. Talk to us about how lighting (and shade) control can make your life more productive and easier.
If no daylight is available, a combination of general and task lighting will be required. A high-quality task light will be essential for late nights or cloudy days. If your home office is in a basement or a room without windows, check out daylight-replicating light sources that will provide energy-efficient, full-spectrum lighting. If you are still using a cheap plastic lamp that you picked up at a drugstore years ago, it is time for an upgrade. Many ergonomic task-lighting fixtures have dimmer switches so you can control the amount of light.
The most effective lighting brings out the fullest quality of the colors illuminated. If lighting levels are too low, there can be adverse psychological effects, including depression. A correctly lit room reduces eye strain. For human comfort, a yellow-cast illumination is best. It is the color of brightness and midway through the color progression from cool to warm. Lastly, to avoid glare, do not place overhead lighting directly above computer screens, and do not put a computer screen directly in front of a light source. illumination is best. It is the color of brightness and midway through the color progression from cool to warm. Lastly, to avoid glare, do not place overhead lighting directly above computer screens, and do not put a computer screen directly in front of a light source.
There will be times when you are not on the phone or a Zoom call and you would love some beautifully reproduced music. Bravo AV can install in-ceiling, in-wall or bookshelf speakers to fill your room with JOY. We have options to meet every budget!
Cannot disturb other people in the house? We can set you up with a small digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and a wonderful pair of closed-back headphones. Our favorite DACs are: iFi Nano Black or Schitt Audio Jotunheim. Our favorite headphones are Sony MDR Z1, Focal Elegia and Focal Stellia. For wireless noise canceling, we like Sony WH-1000XM3s. If you have never listed to a good DAC and headphone combination you are in for a wonderful surprise.
Closed-back headphones are headphones that are completely sealed around the back, only allowing sound out where it can reach your ear. This means that closed-back headphones will block out a lot more outside noise, but most importantly not disturb someone in the same room.
We can install a doorbell camera so that when you are working you can see who is at the door and whether is necessary to you to get up and answer it. Imagine that it is 6 p.m. in January, and it is dark outside. You hear a funny sound. With a push of a button, your lighting control system can turn on your security flood lights, bathing your house in light.
7. Your Health and Well-Being
You many find yourself sitting for much longer periods of time while working at home because you are not getting up to physically visit a college. We recommend a mid-morning and mid-afternoon break where you get up a stretch and if possible, take a 5-minute walk. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. We recommend the fabulous Yeti 20oz tumbler cup because it keep liquids either hot or cold.
How Bravo AV can help
We are technology experts that have helped many people optimize their home office. We can help with just about every aspect of your home office:
Setup of external monitors and video conferencing lights
Please also see our article “How to Zoom like a Superstar”
Why Bravo AV
We are a one-stop shop. We have relationships with carpenters, painters, electricians, etc., to provide anything you need to create your perfect home office.
For additional resources, please visit our website’s Knowledge Center. Here, you will find dozens of articles relating to Bravo AV’s services. Additionally, you can check out our photo gallery to explore our previous work.
For additional resources, please visit our page on Home Networks with articles like this on everything you need to know. Additionally, you can check out our photo gallery on the same page to explore our previous work.
Bravo AV is proud to be an HTA (Home Technology Association) Certified Installation Firm and professional A/V experts. Tom Curnin, the owner of Bravo AV, is a CEDIA Professional Designer, a certified THX Level 1 home theater professional and a member of the Home Acoustic Alliance trained to Level II. You can contact Tom directly at (908) 953-0555 or through email at Tom@BravoAV.com.