The Transition to Remote Work

Current events have cast the importance of home offices into the spotlight. The spread of coronavirus has required that non-essential personnel transition to remote work or find side gigs and freelance work, creating what TIME deemed the biggest work-from-home experiment

The impacts of the coronavirus on the workforce will not end when the threat of the virus does. As we move forward, we expect to see more people self-quarantining when they are sick, instead of dragging themselves to the office out of necessity. 

Rather than setting up a temporary workspace that you’ll dismantle every time you go back to work, try creating a permanent fixture in your home. Understandably, many don’t have an entire room to devote to a home office. So whether your office is a nook in your kitchen or in the corner of your bedroom, we’re here to help you create a space that fosters productivity.

Working from Home

Working from home isn’t new. In fact, 83% of businesses in the U.S. have shifted towards a flexible workspace policy, and 52% of people say they work remotely at least half the working week. Regardless of what your job is, having a dedicated workspace is essential. Cramming yourself in the corner of your garage, surrounded by boxes and holiday decorations isn’t good for you or your workload. Not only does your workspace have to be functional, it needs to be a space where you can thrive.

Increased productivity

Studies show that the most significant factor in an employee’s ability to focus is the environment they’re in. Distractions in your workspace will impact your productivity and ability to concentrate, while a well-designed workspace can increase your productivity by up to 20%. There isn’t a cookiecutter way to set up your office to achieve optimal productivity levels. How your office is laid out should suit your needs and accommodate what type of work you need to do. 

That isn’t to say you have to keep your desk spotless if that’s not your style. In fact, according to the Association of Psychological Science, the bright side to having a messy desk is creativity. So depending on what your profession is, a little mess may suit you well and benefit your work. 

DIY Home Office Upgrades

In light of the stay-at-home orders, some people are finding themselves in short supply of what they need to create the perfect home office. Many people have taken to the DIY route to stay busy and fill their home office needs while creating a workspace they won’t feel stuck in. Instead of just telling you, we decided to show you our picks for creative DIY home office ideas and tips. Hover over the objects in the infographics to read our advice.

Every home office needs equipment. The work you do will determine what equipment you need in your home office. Most people will need to have all the basic technology: a computer, WiFi, and not to mention a comfortable office chair. You may have expensive equipment like cameras, sound and video equipment, or high-value crafting tools in your workspace. Whether you work from home temporarily or if you’re a work-from-home veteran, make sure your homeowners or renters insurance covers everything you have.

Protecting Your Equipment

Homeowners insurance makes sure that the things in your home are financially covered in case of theft or a disaster. Most policies also include liability coverage, which is your legal responsibility for any injuries or damage that results from you, your property, or your family. Transitioning to more remote work means you need to take a look at your existing policy and make sure you’re covered.

What will my homeowners insurance cover?

Your insurance policy protects personal property, which means there are strict guidelines on items that are for business use. If you are a remote worker who is employed by someone else, then you are generally covered under your employer’s insurance. So if your employee-supplied laptop is stolen, more than likely, your employer will cover it. Contact your employer to check your coverage. Your personal policy will not cover the damaged business property if you are employed by someone else. 

How much does it cover?

The average insurance policy has a $2,500 coverage limit for home office equipment not covered by your employer, though you are able to request a higher limit if needed. Some agencies will allow you to extend your current coverage to include business property that you own, but it’s generally a good idea to have an additional policy if you run a business from your home.

Do I need additional coverage?

Not every insurance policy will cover business supplies, and those that do will have limited coverage, so you may need additional coverage. A study from International Communications Research found that nearly 60% of home-based businesses do not have the proper level of insurance. Don’t assume that everything you need to run your business is covered under your policy. If you run a business or have expensive equipment, you should find a business homeowners insurance policy that suits your needs. 

Ask the Experts

To help give you the best information on all things DIY and home office needs, we asked the experts for their best tips and tricks.

Anna Barker, personal finance expert and founder of LogicalDollar

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

The one home office item that has been invaluable for me is having a proper monitor and not simply using a laptop screen. Being hunched over squinting at a small screen is a one-way ticket to back pain and headaches. A great way to avoid this is by making sure you have a larger monitor set up in your workspace at home. That way, it will be much easier to see what you’re working on, which can do wonders for both your productivity and your health.

Is it necessary to add extra insurance(home/renter) coverage for home office equipment?

Your existing homeowners or renters insurance should cover your home office equipment. That said, if you have any expensive devices as part of your workspace, it’s good to check that your policy limits are high enough to cover these. Also, keep in mind that if you’ve brought office equipment home from your employer, they may hold you liable for any damage to that equipment. It’s good to check your employer’s policy on this to see if they’ll cover you for this or if it’s worth making your own arrangements.

Nick Rizzo, fitness research director at RunRepeat.com

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

If you are going to be working from your home, the first thing you need is a button controlled sit-stand desk. Being forced to sit at your computer for a full 8 hours a day is not only difficult, but it is also incredibly unhealthy and harmful to your productivity.

Being able to stand, move around, stretch your muscles, and change your position will help you have more energy throughout the day and productivity. With my current desk, I am able to work while in a kneeling position, in a chair, standing, or even on a stationary bike. Switching from position to position after every hour of work.

What modification/upgrade do you consider a necessity for a productive workspace?

One of the hard parts about working from home is that whatever else is happening at home can distract you. This is why having high-quality headphones that also cancel out sound is a necessity. Being able to shut out any external distractions will enhance your productivity and support you in maintaining your focus.

Additionally, music has been shown to improve your overall mood, energy, movement, and productivity, so having headphones with great sound quality only improves and enhances the experience.

Marty Basher, DIY home improvement expert with Modular Closets

What modification/upgrade do you consider a necessity for a productive workspace?

While some say that a messy desk is a sign of genius — Mark Twain and Albert Einstein being notable examples — for the rest of us who don’t quite hit the genius mark, it’s just a distraction to being productive in your work. Having a rolling filing system that can be hidden away or storage boxes that can be placed on shelves will let you get a lot more done without wondering where you’ve placed that extra box of pens or envelopes.

If you live in a very small space and have to use the bedroom as your office as well, you need to be sure that you can separate work and home life sufficiently so as not to end up stressed, looking at emails at all hours of the night.

What advice do you have for DIY novices when attempting home office upgrades/renovations?

Shelving with storage boxes, cubes or baskets. This is where the DIY novice can have a little fun, creating a functional space. Whether you put up some floating shelves or cube shelves for your storage baskets, you can easily nail together a set of shelves to keep your work stuff properly sorted and stored away, for easy retrieval.

Is it necessary to add extra insurance (home/renter) coverage for home office equipment?

If you have office equipment that you have paid for — and has not been provided by your employer — the simple answer is yes. [But] the standard homeowner’s policy will not cover atypical equipment. So, for example, if you have specialized computers and software for what you do that would be expensive to replace and that the average person would not have at home, it’s worth looking into a rider on your existing home policy to cover your home office.

Alex Davis, creator of Ryan and Alex Duo Life

What modification/upgrade do you consider a necessity for a productive workspace?

Many take good WiFi for granted, but [we’ve learned] after working as digital nomads across eight countries in the past two years, its importance cannot be understated for your productivity and sanity! Run an online internet speed test like this one from Xfinity, and if your internet isn’t above 20 Mbps, contact your service provider to upgrade your speed. The consistency and stability of good internet will be worth the price.

What advice do you have for DIY novices when attempting home office upgrades/renovations?

When making upgrades and renovations to your home office, remember to keep it simple. For a successful work office, consider comfort, lighting, temperature, WiFi speed, and privacy. Also, experiment with what might work best for you before committing to purchases. Try out a DIY standing desk with an ironing board before splurging on one. Or, see which chair in the house is your favorite before committing to one that you find on the internet.

Is it necessary to add extra insurance(home/renter) coverage for home office equipment?

It’s worth checking with your home or renters insurance what is and isn’t covered in your current policy. Then, if you need to add on something, ask for their best rates and a discount since we’re all managing under these stressful new circumstances with COVID-19. If you’re not ready to upgrade your insurance, ask if your most important items can be covered, like your laptop.

Rachel Willson, WFH/DIY expert at Zulily

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

Adding fresh greenery and illuminated lighting are two big priorities for me, but I would say the one item I cannot live without is my comfy office chair! Having lumbar support is crucial, especially if you’re expecting. I highly recommend the investment.

What advice do you have for DIY novices when attempting home office upgrades/renovations?

You don’t have to be a pro to find creative ways to upgrade your space. I started making small improvements around my home office by reorganizing the drawers of my desk. Fun fact, you can use utensil trays to store pencils and desk supplies in drawers. 

Darla DeMorrow, certified professional organizer (CPO®) founder of HeartWork Organizing, LLC.

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

Not everyone has a room designated solely as a home office. You can turn an alcove, a loft, a corner of your bedroom, or a section of the kitchen island into an upbeat home office. Turn an under-utilized dining room, reach-in closet, or basement into a beautiful home office. Plenty of home offices have to pull double duty as guest rooms, craft spaces, libraries, playrooms, or shared office space. Throughout the years, my home office has been in a corner of my bedroom, a tiny spot in a one-bedroom apartment, a dormered attic space with poor air conditioning, a converted porch, a second bedroom, and even in a hallway. Find a place you enjoy spending time, and then create your workspace in that space.

What advice do you have for DIY novices when attempting home office upgrades/renovations?

Use file cabinets the way they were designed to work: 50 percent of the file cabinets I come across are either empty or stuffed with piles. Neither state works very well. Create a functional file system with hanging file folders and a dark pen. You can get fancier with interior files, a label maker, color on your tabs or folders, and section markers, but these additions aren’t necessary to achieve the essential step of simply getting more organized. If you don’t have a file cabinet, a structured tote bag or a mobile file box can stand in for office furniture.

Lisa McGreevy, productivity and tech analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

I never want my workspace to be without a smart speaker on my desk. It makes my day so much easier when I can set alarms and reminders, add things to my to-do list, or change the music I’m listening to just by speaking a simple command.

What advice do you have for DIY novices when attempting home office upgrades/renovations?

Don’t spend extra for upgraded wireless speeds unless you know your WiFi signal can reach where you’ll use it the most. If you have a dead area that’s not getting a signal, an inexpensive signal booster will get the job done. There’s no need to rewire the whole house to accommodate it.

What are some changes that make a big impact on your workspace, but not on your wallet?

If you spend a lot of time on video calls, you can set a professional tone without spending a ton of money on equipment. Set up your work area facing a window with natural sunlight or near a lamp with diffused light so people can see you and not just your silhouette. If you’re working on a laptop with a built-in camera, set it on a stack of books or a box during calls, so the camera is right at eye-level. Otherwise, people will be looking up your nose as you deliver your presentation.

Michael Payne, CEO of AnywhereWorks 

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

I’d recommend a Prism Anti Fatigue Mat. They’re great for standing meetings and they double as an exercise pad for mini-workouts throughout the day. It’s always tempting to invest in a good chair, but standing can improve your circulation and improve productivity. If you can switch between standing and sitting throughout the day, I’d recommend that.

What advice do you have for DIY novices when attempting home office upgrades/renovations?

Consider how you appear to others on video calls. Don’t make colleagues or clients look at a messy flat. To that end, it could be worth investing in a video backdrop. There are plenty of options on the market, but providing they offer a neutral image (think brick wall or white canvas), they’ll make for a suitable background. Ideally, a video backdrop should reflect your brand and ideals, and not just show your kitchen in the background. The video-screen can also act as a separator between your workspace and your living space, which makes it easier to get out of that ‘work’ mentality when the day is done.

Matthew Ross, Co-founder and COO of The Slumber Yard

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

One product I’ve found extremely helpful for working at home is a white noise machine. It helps drown out all the outside noise so you can concentrate on your work. I also find some of the sounds the machine produces like rain dropping and waves crashing quite soothing and relaxing, which in turn boosts my focus and productivity. All in all, it’s a fairly inexpensive investment to ensure you’re not distracted from your neighbor’s dog barking or your children playing downstairs.

What are some changes that make a big impact on your workspace, but not on your wallet?

Use your TV as a second monitor. Rather than spending $100-$200 on a brand new monitor, consider using an extra TV around your house as a second monitor. This will not only save you money, but it will also provide you a large screen to get work done in a timely fashion.

Irina Gedarevich, CEO of eSEOSpace

What’s one home office item you cannot live without?

One home office item that I absolutely cannot live without and has definitely made WFH so much is easier is always having a charging port on hand so that I can plug in as many computers, phones, iPads, and gadgets as needed. I have found this item to be essential so that I can remain productive and focused on my work, without having to worry about any of my devices dying throughout the day.

What are some changes that make a big impact on your workspace, but not on your wallet?

My main recommendation would be to declutter as much as possible, so your mind remains at ease. I find that whenever my workspace becomes too messy, I feel so much more disorganized and stressed than when it’s clean and tidy. In addition to this, it’s important to completely separate your work and home life since it can make a big impact on how efficiently you work. To do this, try to scroll through social media, eat your meals, etc. away from your workspace so that you can remain focused on your work and free of distractions throughout the day.

Bottom Line

When you work from home, you have control over your space. Instead of settling for whatever is around you, be strategic and create an environment that’s conducive to both your style and work needs. You don’t have to spend a fortune or buy all the latest gadgets to have a productive home office. Instead, create a space you’re happy about with things you already have in your home.