Are you working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but planning to go back to an office, at least part-time? The pandemic has left a lot of people uncertain as to how long their remote work situations will last, and as a result, wondering how much time, effort, and money they should put into creating a nice workspace at home.
There are all sorts of cool, quirky, and useful things you can buy for a home office. Before you get too invested in it, however, consider instead making a few simple and inexpensive tweaks to your existing setup to improve it.
We have 10 suggestions for making a home office better, most of which you can do immediately and often for little to no money. If you work for an organization that supports remote work, ask if there’s a budget for home office equipment and see if you can get a few items reimbursed. Either way, these tips will make your home workstation better almost immediately.
1. Hook Up Your Headphones
A pair of headphones can cost anywhere from about $12 to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on what you need and want. But even an inexpensive set of headphones for less than $50 with a microphone is a good investment for remote work because it noticeably improves how you sound to others on video calls.
If you’re willing to spend a little more money, noise-canceling headphones can tamp down ambient sounds. Big, comfortable over-ear headphones can make it seem like you have more privacy than you actually do and help you focus.
The nice thing about headphones is you might get just as much use from them outside of working hours as during. Who wouldn’t want a decent set of headphones for music, podcasts, audiobooks, and travel?
2. Use a Back Pillow
You don’t need an expensive office chair at home, as it’s easy to adapt any standard chair to be more comfortable with a simple back pillow. Look for an inexpensive curved foam cushion ($25-$85) for your chair, or save yourself a few bucks by trying something you already have around the house, like a small decorative pillow or rolled-up towel.
Having adequate lumbar support is just one piece of the ergonomic puzzle. Be sure to look at some other tricks to make your home office ergonomic.
3. Raise Your Monitor or Laptop
When you look at your computer, your eyes should be nearly level with the top of the screen. Commonly, the screen or monitor is too low. That’s how you wind up craning your neck or hunching over. There are two simple solutions.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a monitor or desktop computer in your home office, add a few books under the base to raise it to a comfortable height.
With a laptop, you need a little more equipment: a laptop stand (also sometimes called a riser) and an external keyboard and mouse. The stand should add a few inches of height and tilt, too. Don’t try to type on a laptop’s keyboard while the device is on a stand, as it could cause other injuries to your wrists and shoulders.
4. Light Your Face for Video Calls
Looking good on video calls really doesn’t take much, and it’s so worth the effort. When you take video calls from home, the most important consideration is lighting.
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