If you WFH, you’re in good company. And no, I’m not just talking about your Alexa. According to one estimate, at least 50 percent of all U.S employees will be working remotely by 2020. While that may sound great to the sweatpants-loving set among us, take it from someone who knows: Working from home can really take a toll on the home part of the equation.
I’ve called my apartment both “home” and “office” for more than two years, and I’ve logged loads of time with my laptop while in bed, standing at the kitchen counter, and sprawled across the living room floor. I’m currently sitting on Chair Number Three after failed attempts with two other stylish-but-way-too-uncomfortable options. And recently, I had to have an intervention with myself after realizing that it was starting to become unclear where my workspace stopped and my living quarters began.
Whether you have a designated home office, a carved-out nook with a desk, or just a laptop that you type away on from the couch, it’s important to figure out how to set yourself up for success. That means streamlining your live/work space in a way that’s aesthetically uplifting, organized, and ripe for productivity. Here are five of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years—aside from, you guessed it, getting a comfortable chair.
Use the walls.
If you’re lucky enough to have a desk, you don’t want to clutter it up with papers, file folders, and catalogs (and if you don’t have a desk, this tip is especially helpful). That’s where the walls come in!
Use all your available vertical space by installing shelves, hanging baskets, putting up a wire grid, adding a cork board, and more. You’ll create loads of functional space, and you’ll also help make the area look a little more styled.
Pick office equipment that can go incognito.
A laptop, of course, is easily tucked in a drawer or on a shelf when not you’re not plugging away, but your typical printer? Not so much. In fact, for just this reason, I tried to get away without a printer, at first. I couldn’t do it! Even in the age of Google Docs and Asana, I found myself needing to print and scan files on a regular basis.
Enter: the HP Tango printer. This thing is a total step up from the printers of the past. It’s about the size of a book (4 inches high and 8 inches deep), and it’s the first printer I haven’t wanted to hide (though you can make it look like a book by wrapping it in the cover accessory). It’s also the first smart-home connected printer, which means you can simply command it to print using your Alexa-enabled device or Google Assistant speaker like the Google Home. It also prints wirelessly from anywhere using the HP Smart app. Plus, I never need to add “order ink,” to my to-do list, thanks to HP’s Instant Ink subscription plan (starting at $2.99 for 50 pages per month).
Hide away what you don’t need.
Some experts argue it’s important to have a designated room that’s just for work, but that’s not always possible, or even preferable (after all, many of us don’t work in an office so we don’t have to, you know, work in an office). For those who have to buckle down in a bedroom or living room, designated drawers and cabinets are essential for concealing files and supplies.
I got a desk with an extra compartment underneath, and I love being able to tuck my laptop inside when it’s time to call it quits. Workaholics will learn that it’s an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of thing.
Add some personal touches.
Just like you’d bring a few family photos and tchotchkes to an office job, it’s a good idea to add these sorts of momentos to your home office setup. Not only are they nice to glance at from time to time while you’re pouring over a spreadsheet, they also help to seamlessly blend your work space into your living quarters. Without them, your desk may look sterile—not the look you’re going for when your desk is in a corner of your bedroom.
Since I rarely manage to get to the drugstore to print pics, I love that I can print high-quality photos of my favorite people in a flash on the HP Tango—and it’s free on the subscription plan.
Invest in a good notebook.
A few months into my WFH job, I looked around and realized I had cultivated a Beautiful Mind-esque situation with sticky notes in every room. The ridiculously simple solution? I got a cute notebook that I could leave on my desk or bring with me to in-person meetings.
Now, any time I write something down, I do it in there. I always know where to look when I need to reference something. Every night before bed, I jot down any must-dos that threaten to keep me up that night, then promptly stash it in my desk. Just like that, I create some mental distance between my work life and my personal life, even when the physical distance is mere inches.