Whether you’re self-employed, a remote worker, or just work from home a lot, a perfectly connected home office space is a must. Here’s how to set yours up, and how to make sure it all works properly - desk, computer, broadband, and all.
1. Find the best spot for your desk
For a home office, your absolute essential item is a desk - plus a good chair to go with it. Find an area where your new office can comfortably live, preferably separate from the rest of your home - whether that's in a different room, behind a divider, or just in a space you don't use much. A spot near a window is always nice, but watch out for glare on your computer screen.
Importantly, choose a place where you'll have access to a power socket, a phone socket if you need one, and somewhere where you can connect to the internet easily (see below for more on how to get your office online). And be sure to get an extension lead so you've got enough sockets to plug everything into. You could even consider a standing desk. Most office-based jobs involve too much sitting down; a standing desk can help reduce back and shoulder pain, and help you burn those unwanted calories.
Picking the right chair is just as vital as the desk, as it's what you'll be sitting on for long periods of time every day. It's well worth splashing out on a mega-comfy office chair with back support in all the right places.
Once you've got your desk set up, use it as a starting point to add all your other essentials. Get hold of some files, storage, stationery, and whatever else you may need, and place them in easy reach.
2. Get the right broadband package
You may find that your standard home broadband suits you just fine, but if working from home is your new normal, you could be better off with a dedicated business broadband package.
These bring all kinds of benefits, including:
- Priority tech support - so you won't be offline for too long if there's a problem with your connection, your Wi-Fi, or even your computer
- Extra security - to stop viruses, hackers, phishing, and other nasties
- Additional phone lines - so you can have one number for your business that won't affect the rest of the household
- Static IP addresses - which allow you to run a server, host a VPN, access your PC remotely, and more
- Faster upload speeds - for a better connection for video conferencing, Skype, and sending files
- More advanced services - such as web hosting, lots of cloud storage, Microsoft Office subscriptions, and email addresses
You'll usually get a far wider range of options too, such as leased lines (for mega speedy internet), VoIP (for better phone calls), and more complex phone systems.
Think about what kind of things your home office could use in an internet connection - look at speeds, unlimited downloads, the level of tech support you'll get, and any advanced extras that are vital for your business.
Take a look at our guide to choosing broadband for a small business for more info.
3. Set up your computer
Now you've got your broadband set up, it's time to get your computer online. This is where that plug socket comes in handy.
If you're using a laptop, you may find you're more comfortable with an external monitor, keyboard, or mouse - they're much better for your eyes and wrists if you'll be using it all day.
4. Get online
Most importantly, you'll want to connect your computer to the internet. You'll get the best connection if you plug it directly to the router using an ethernet cable, but if the router's too far away then you'll need to rely on Wi-Fi.
However, Wi-Fi isn't quite as fast or reliable as a wired connection - it can be blocked or slowed down by things like thick walls, interfering signals, and other electronics. If you find the Wi-Fi is struggling to get to your desk, take some steps to improve it - trying to get work done with dodgy internet will drive you nuts. Try installing a Wi-Fi extender, splashing out on a better router, or jiggling your Wi-Fi settings to get a better signal.
And, finally, set up all your other techie equipment - printer, scanner, shredder, old-fashioned fax machine, you name it. Remember that some things, like printers, can even be plugged in to your router or hooked up to the Wi-Fi. That means you can connect to them from any device on your home network without having to fiddle around with wires and cords.
Remember that you may also need to set up…
Static IP address
To get a static IP going, request one from your business broadband provider or get confirmation that it's live, then follow the instructions your provider gives you. This may be as simple as just rebooting your router.
The main thing you need for a home-grown VoIP system is the right equipment, whether that's a full phone adapter or just a better mic and webcam for your computer. The second main thing you need is to plug it in.
Running a server is essential for things like hosting a website, getting emails direct to your PC, or setting up an FTP. If you're running one at home, remember that you'll also need a static IP address and some beefed-up security.
You'll be spending hours every day in your office - it needs to look nice!
Simplicity is key when it comes to a working space, but your eyes will certainly appreciate a few nice-looking bits and bobs. That could mean sticking some prints up on the wall, investing in a plant, or painting your furniture a more pleasant colour.
Since you've set up a lot of electronics, make sure you keep those cables tucked away so they're not too unsightly too. For smaller gadgets that you don't use quite so often, like fancy microphones, find a drawer or box that they can go in to stop them cluttering up your space.