As many people are returning to work after the pandemic, still others are learning that their jobs are going to partially or entirely work-from-home. My job looks like it’s going from full time in the office to less than half-time in the office. Many people have been working from the kitchen table, but it now may be time to consider whether or not you want to set up a home office.
The most important thing you need for your home office is the technology to stay connected. Your job may provide you with a laptop, but you need to consider what else you might want. For a proper setup, I highly recommend a standalone monitor and keyboard to help you with proper ergonomic positioning. It’s much too easy to slouch at your desk and end up with a sore back or injured wrists when only working from a laptop.
You will also want to be sure you have a stable internet connection, and I recommend also having a backup, such as the ability to use your cell phone as a hot spot to connect. If you need to be on your work network and your internet goes down, without a backup, you may be unable to work. This can use up quite a bit of data on your cell phone, so this is where unlimited data really works in your favor when you setup a home office. It will likely be slower than your normal internet, but you won’t be completely disconnected.
Will you need a printer? While I have printer access at the office, sometimes I need to print things from my home office, and I don’t have a work-provided printer, so I do need to own my own printer. It doesn’t get used terribly often, but is certainly nice to have when I need it.
What about phone access? Does your job provide you with a cell phone? Will you need to be able to make calls?
If you spend any amount of time on voice or video chat, I definitely recommend a good set of headphones or earbuds with a good microphone. I don’t know about you, but it seems like anytime I have an important call, that’s when someone starts mowing the lawn outside. Being able to block out some of that noise really helps me focus.
For a dedicated home office, you will want a desk or other surface to work on. A table will also work well – you just want to be sure to have a surface to place your computer and any other supplies you might need. Make sure you have enough room to work comfortably – and if possible, to have some extra space for personalization. After all, you will be spending plenty of time there.
You’ll also want a good office chair. Anyone who has spent the last year working from a kitchen chair will be able to tell you how important that is. You don’t need something super high end, but you do want to make sure that you have a chair with proper support.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can get the equipment to set up a standing desk. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not great to stand all day, so something that allows you to convert from sitting to standing is a great option. If you want to try it out for a while, you can always use a cardboard box or a stack of books, but that’s probably not great for the long term.
What about tax breaks when you set up a home office? As of 2018, you can no longer deduct the cost of your home office if you work for an employer. Self-employed people can still take this deduction, but for the rest of us, it’s no longer an option.
So Why Set Up a Home Office?
While it can be easy to work from the kitchen table, it’s not always the best option. By identifying a room in your home or a corner of a room as your office, you have a better chance of achieving balance. When your work happens at your kitchen table, it can be hard to get away. Sure, we all say we’ll clean up the work stuff at 5pm every day, but after a while, you start leaving your computer set up and find that work is on your mind more than normal because it’s always in sight. Being able to create a specific work space can help you start your day and more importantly, end it at closing time.
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Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.