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1 October 2020

Home office ideas, tips and inspiration

Our working from home guide will help you pick the best spot for your home office and fill it with essential tech and comfy furniture
1. working in a home office
TM
Tom Morgan

The coronavirus lockdown has made working from home the new normal for many people, which means you get to choose how your home office is set up.

Whether it's a spare room or a study, the kitchen table or the dining room, to maximise productivity you'll need the best equipment when kitting out your home office. From the best laptops, printers and office chairs, to getting the most from your broadband, lighting and decoration, our guide covers all your working from home essentials.

10 home office ideas for different spaces

Plan your home office space to suit your personality, plus the tasks that take up your to-do list, and you'll have a more productive place for telecommuting. 

Here's some inspiration to get you started:

Where should a home office be located?

If you're not lucky enough to have a separate study as your home office, here's what to consider depending on the space you have available when you're working from home.

The spare room

A spare room home office is a potential blank canvas for you to personalise as your own. You'll have privacy, more space for your desk, chair, tech and storage and there's no need to tidy everything away every night – you can simply shut the door.

But you need to think about whether you get a decent internet signal in here. If not, you might need to consider investing in a wi-fi extender to improve the range. 

Your desk might also need to double as a dressing or bedside table if the room will be needed for visitors in the future. 

The living room

Perfect if you need to double working from home with childcare, but it's probably a good idea to set up your living room workspace in an area that's facing away from the TV. 

You may also need to remind other members of the house who are around to use headphones if they want to listen to music, watch TV or play video games.

Your sofa is a soft spot to retire to when you need think time away from your desk, but make sure you don't get too comfy.

Many households will have the internet router set up behind the TV in the living room. If that's the case, you're more likely to get a speedy internet connection while using a laptop in the same room. Running an ethernet cable from the router to your computer is another option, but make sure nobody trips over it.

The dining room

Check the table height to see whether it works as a desk, and if you're using a laptop put a cover down so you don't scratch the surface.

If you're planning on working at the dining room table for hours at a time, treat yourself to a chair that's better for your posture. Our guide on choosing the best chair for your home office has all the details.

The garden

A summerhouse or shed sat in the garden could potentially be converted into a home office. You might prefer the view that comes with working in the garden, or there might be plenty of natural light. It can also create the feeling of 'going to work', which some people like. 

If you want to put up small detached buildings, such as a garden shed or summerhouse in your garden, building regulations will not normally apply if the floor area of the building is less than 15 square metres and contains no sleeping accommodation. But always check full details on the government's planning portal

If you're working in a space that's separate to the main house and further away from your router, consider that your internet connection might be choppier. 

The loft

A spacious loft can make for a nice, private home office space. You'll want to make sure that it's as clutter-free as possible, as a busy work area can be a pain to walk around.

If your loft already functions as a bedroom or study area, you won't need to make too many adjustments to turn it into a home office.

But if you're starting from scratch, you'll need to come up with a price estimate for the project to avoid overspending and ensure you have planning permission, if necessary. Note the height of the ceiling and ensure it meets minimum height requirements – the highest point of the pitch must be at least 2.2m.

Another important factor to consider is internet access. Think about the position of your router and whether or not you'll get a good internet connection from the loft. If not, you'll need to feed an ethernet cable into the loft or try some wi-fi extenders.

Find out how to get started on your loft conversion with our step-by-step loft conversion guide.

Other factors to consider

  • Light A well-lit environment is important for your health and reduces eye strain if you're staring at a monitor. If natural light isn't good, invest in decent lighting. 
  • Noise You'll find it much easier to get your work done in a peaceful environment. If you can't escape a busy house, some noise-cancelling headphones will help.
  • Time Hanging a clock on the wall will not only keep you on track but also help you to remember to take regular screen breaks to rest your eyes. See more on 10 ways to stay healthy working from home.
  • Visitors If clients will be coming to your home office, think about where you'll put them and how you'll entertain them. A Which? Best Buy coffee machine could come in handy.
  • Storage If you can't close the door on your home office, you'll want storage that tidies everything away out of sight once your working day is done.
  • View If you're lucky enough to have a lovely view from your home office window, try and position your desk there. If not, create your own view with an inspirational picture or framed quote.

How can I decorate my home office?

Keeping things organised while you're working from home is really important. Your normal office should have plenty of storage space, but that might not be the case at home.

Work in some extra storage spots as you're decorating your home office. You could try buying a filing cabinet for the corner of the room or place a couple of small paper baskets on your desk.

If you've set up a computer in your home office, work on your cable management. Run the cables around the back of your desk and keep them compact with some cable tidies. Ikea sells a whole range of cable management accessories that keep things looking nice and neat.

Good lighting is key to improving productivity and keeping your mood up. Shop around for desk lamps or standing lights if things are a little dark.

You may also want to try:

What home office furniture do I need?

A sturdy desk

The desk needs to be sturdy enough to be stable, but bear weight in mind if you need to move at the end of the working day.

Having a desk with lots of storage space is a bonus, but make sure there's enough room for your knees or you won't be comfortable. Drawers to the side will generally give better clearance for your legs.

For more tips on what to watch out for see our home office desk buying guide.

A comfortable chair

Buy a chair that offers plenty of back support. If you don't want to invest in a new chair, try a special support cushion or lumbar roll and position it at the base of your spine.

Make sure you pick the right chair for good posture by reading: Choosing the best chair for your home office.

Five more nice-to-haves for your home office shopping list

  1. Desk lamp A cheap way of adding some light to your workspace. A desk lamp with a swing arm is easily adjustable, or you can buy an organiser desk lamp that has built-in slots for pens and and post-it notes.
  2. Ergonomic foot rest Stay comfortable at your desk with a portable footrest. These reduce pressure on your legs and your lower back, plus they're relatively cheap.
  3. Laptop stand Position your screen right in front of your eyes so you're not sat in a position that's bad for your back
  4. Phone cradle This will keep your phone still if you're using it for video calls. If your smartphone has wireless charging functionality, you can pick a stand that gives your mobile some juice at the same time.
  5. Whiteboard Handy if you need to jot something down and don't want to sacrifice your printer paper. You can hang your whiteboard just above your PC monitor or laptop for quick access.

What home office tech do I need?

A capable laptop or desktop PC

The best laptops we've tested are easy to use and handle multitasking without a fuss. If your work requires you to have lots of tabs open at once, owning a laptop with lots of processing power really makes a difference.

Even if you own a laptop with a small screen, you can hook it up to a larger monitor via the HDMI port. If you have a second TV in your bedroom, for example, consider using that in your home office temporarily.

To see which budget-priced and premium laptops we recommend, see our selection of Best Buy laptops.

Alternatively, if you're looking for a machine that will be easier to upgrade with extra storage space in a couple of years, a desktop PC is a better fit.

Discover the desktop PCs that have soared through our lab tests with our Best Buy desktop PCs picks

Reliable broadband

You won't be able to host group meetings and present on video calls with a dodgy broadband connection.

According to Ofcom (and at the time of writing, June 2020), the average UK home broadband speed is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps). If you're not getting that sort of performance from your current broadband provider, it might be time to switch.

Use our expert advice to uncover the best broadband providers for powering your home office setup.

More home office tech for your shopping list

  • Noise-cancelling headphones Block out the noise of the living room from your home office with a pair of soundproof headphones. See our Best Buy headphones for more details.
  • Printer An essential part of your home office if you need to send off documents or stick things to the wall. Choose wisely and discover our full selection of Best Buy printers.
  • Smart speaker Grab a voice-activated smart speaker and you can make calls and schedule calendar events without picking up your work phone. See which models we recommend with our Best Buy wireless and Bluetooth speakers.

We'll help you pick out the must-have tech products for your home office. Find out more with our home office tech setup guide.

Home office ideas: make do with what you've got

Ideally, you should have proper equipment for home working. However, before you rush to buy, or if budget is tight, look at what you already have around you to see if you can safely make do with these in the meantime.

Kirsty Angerer, ergonomic consultant and member of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors, recommends these swaps:

  • Use a pile of books instead of a foot rest.
  • Use cushions or a rolled-up towel instead of a lumbar support cushion.
  • Put your laptop on a box to raise it instead of buying a dedicated laptop stand.
  • Connect your laptop to your TV monitor using an HDMI cable to give you a bigger screen to work on.
  • Take the drawer out of a kitchen table or dressing table to get your legs under it for use as a desk.
  • A sturdy ironing board can be used as a desk for either sitting or standing once you’ve checked the height – and can be easily put away at the end of the working day.

Working from home: tax relief

Having to work from home could impact your tax bill, home insurance and car insurance.

If your bills and other expenses increase as a result of working from home, you may be able to claim a tax rebate on what you’ve spent.

For more information, see our guide: Working from home during the coronavirus outbreak: what it means for your finances.

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