Easy and Inexpensive Home Office Workstation Ideas
So you’ve been working from home for a while and the upside-down cardboard boxes that are your table fell apart. It’s time to get off those milk crates and upgrade your remote workstation into a bonafide home office.
You spend at least eight hours a day at work, and a proper workstation — whether it’s an entire home office or a bedroom corner — can improve workflow and make the whole workday easier.
To spark some inspiration, we asked over a dozen business owners, professional organizers and work-from-home experts for their best home workstation tips. Check out these amazing home workstations and offices.
There's a workstation and home office idea here for everyone.
Work With What You Have
Not everyone has a spare room available for a home office. That’s OK. Choose a spot and work with it.
Use what you have at the beginning, like a spare table and chair, but plan on upgrading.
Personalize Your Space
"Add a few items that make the space you," says Molly Koernke, a marketing director at USAA, who works out of the corner of her master bedroom. "I'm a girly girl. There's no point in hiding it. On top of a pink filing cabinet, I also have a pink velvet office chair. I added a few wall mirrors from At Home to give the corner some flavor and to open up my little nook."
Adding plants to your workspace is one of the cheapest ways to spruce up your workstation. Studies have shown that having indoor plants reduce anxiety, improve mood and boost productivity.
Some plant suppliers, like Proven Winners and Plants by Mail, will deliver greenery right to your door.
Keep Something Beautiful Close
"Keep something beautiful or inspiring near you," says Elsa Elbert, founder of Composed Living. "I love fresh flowers and a nice candle, but leadership books, a potted plant, or a framed photo of your family may do the trick."
Bring What You Need
"Make sure you have all the tools you'll need in one space," says Elbert. "You don't want to go searching for things and interrupt your workflow."
Get a Second Monitor
A second monitor is a game changer even if you can zip back and forth between virtual desktops on your laptop.
It's much easier to have research on one screen and another screen in front of you for typing.
Use a Laptop Stand
Michael Scarpignato, who owns RVblogger (which he runs from his RV), advises for laptop users to purchase a laptop stand.
"It serves two purposes for me," he says. "When the stand is in the down position, my laptop keyboard is at a perfect angle for typing. And most importantly, I can raise the laptop stand so I can stand up while I work."
Laptop stands are inexpensive, with most models available on Amazon going for $20 to $50.
Put Your Screen at Eye Level
It's important to put a monitor at eye-level to reduce neck strain. Monitors with adjustable stands are recommended, although they're not necessary.
For the more technically inclined worker, a mounted monitor arm can replace a stock monitor stand and provide much more flexibility.
No Monitor? Use a TV
If you don't have a second monitor but you do have a TV, use that. Any modern TV can be used as a second monitor with an HDMI cable.
"In my line of work (marketing), I am often working on PowerPoint or Excel, and there's never enough room to create on a normal laptop screen," says Koernke. "Without that TV screen, I found myself often hunched over and frustrated over my inability to see the full set of work at hand."
Use a High-Resolution Monitor
A 55-inch TV will certainly have more screen real estate than a 22-inch monitor, but not everyone has access to an extra TV.
For those that are looking to upgrade their remote work station, a larger monitor with a high resolution — 1440p or 4K — can show more pixels and therefore more stuff.
Buy a Keyboard You Love
If you're typing all day, you may as well get a keyboard that clicks with you.
"I know a few people that use either retro keyboards, or those steampunk keyboards," says Morgan Taylor, CMO of the lender-finding resource LetMeBank. "They seem to help them take pride in what they are doing, which is the opposite of a distraction. If you like any of those interesting keyboards, and you think one would help you feel better about what you are doing, get one."
Invest In a Good Chair
A good chair is just as important as a good bed. Most people spend the majority of their workday sitting down, so finding a comfy, ergonomic chair is essential.
"[I]nvesting in a proper work chair is something I’d highly recommend," says Mira Rakicevic, co-founder of ComfyLiving. "First, it will support your posture and provide the necessary comfort, [which is] good for your productivity. Second, it will 'invite' you to work from your workstation."
Get a Docking Station
"The most important thing for me was to invest in a docking station,' says Dan Gower, owner of Buddy Gardner Advertising. "As soon as I connect my laptop to the docking station, it becomes a desktop setup complete with keyboard, mouse, speakers and a 34-inch TV with four-way screen split."
Docking stations typically are inexpensive, from $40 to $100 and up.
Have a Large Work Surface
"If possible, have a big enough desk or workspace so that you don't feel cramped," says Gaynor Paynter, a transcription typist, who works from home in South Africa.
A large workspace is essential for those who like to spread out, and it also allows for personal effects.
Sitting all day is horribly unhealthy. That’s why standing desks have become so popular.
Standing desks, particularly adjustable height desks, are a wonderful solution to the problem of sedentary sitting for hours on end. Adjustable standing desks change positions, so you don’t have to stand all day, either, and allow for sitting time when you’re tired and just want to take a seat.
Standing desks come in a variety of options, including converters, which go on top of your regular desk.
Don't Face the Door
A key element of setting up an amazing home workstation is how you position your desk. At the office, facing the door is a good move. It's a bit different when you're working from home.
Matthew Ross, COO of The Slumber Yard, advises not to set up a workstation that faces the door because it can be a distraction.
"In most cases, you'll want to keep the door open for airflow purposes, so you'll want to ensure you're not distracted by your wife, kids or pet every time they walk by," says Ross.
Use Multiple Light Sources
"Plan your lighting," says Anne Colby, a Houzz editor. "Light needs to be diffused, and the fixtures well positioned to avoid creating computer screen glare, which can lead to eyestrain. Lighting designers on Houzz say a home office should have layers of light from multiple sources rather than a single light source."
Find a Window
"The best advice I have ever been given concerning your home workstation is to set your work station up near a window," says Ryan Anderson, founder of Bead the Change, a sustainable bracelet company.
"Natural sunlight can do wonders for your energy, and I find myself a more productive person when I have natural light in the room. If you can’t set up your station in direct sunlight, at least try to set it up in a room that receives sunlight and reflects it."
Get the Lighting Just Right
Of course, it might not be possible to work near a window. In rooms where there is little or no natural lighting, it’s smart to invest in some decent light bulbs.
"Instead of just buying the cheapest bulbs you can, pay attention to the color temperature of the bulbs you're using and pick one that replicates natural outdoor light for your office," says Mark Webster, co-founder of Authority Hacker. "Ideally, an adjustable bulb would work best so you can change it when work time is over, but if that's not possible, you want to find a bulb that is between the 4600K-6400K range."
Watch the Sun
"Keep an eye on where the sun is," says Anna Barer, founder of Logical Dollar. "If you put your workstation in direct sunlight, it may be too hot and uncomfortable to work there at certain points of the day."
Additionally, working with a window behind you can make you appear backlit during those Zoom meetings. Shutting the blinds should work fine, but if there is still a lot of light leakage, getting curtains will help.
Don't Depend on Ceiling Lighting
Working from home requires a lot of concentration, and you can find yourself making up hours in the evening after being distracted during the day. Rakicevic says ceiling lights are typically not in the best position to light up your work area properly, so grab a lamp.
"It’s worth investing in a proper lamp to ensure your workstation is well lit if you work when it’s dark," says Rakicevic. "A desk lamp will provide sufficient light while keeping the atmosphere around you pleasant."
Ditto goes for floor lamps.
Keep It Simple
For some, a clean, minimalist workstation can work wonders for concentration. Plus, it's not distracting for others if you're frequently on video calls or need to make videos.
"Don't over decorate your home workspace," says Kayla Sloan, who runs a virtual assistant business. "I have to be careful of this because I often record videos and post them online for my business. Too much stuff sitting around makes my office look messy and cluttered, which isn't a good look to promote to my audience."
A Chair Mat Is a Good Idea
Depending on the surface it rests on, a chair with wheels may need some extra help. You may find yourself drifting too much on hardwood flooring, or not at all if the floor is carpeted. It also can be a pain if your chair finds itself snagged on the lip of a rug.
Getting a chair mat can help with a chair’s mobility as well as prevent wear and tear to your floor. The cheapest floor mats are around $30, but many go for two to five times that amount.
Hang a Whiteboard
With so many productivity apps, whiteboards aren’t exactly necessary. But they do take your eyes away from the screen and may jog your brain into thinking about a problem differently.
"It's a great feeling when you write down the tasks and erase them once it's completed," says Pranay Anumla, product marketer at Keka, which provides payroll and HR software. "It will motivate you to work further and complete work on time."
Alternatively, you can get a whiteboard desk, as can be seen in this workstation photo found on Instagram. One company that manufactures them, WriteyDesk, sells dry-erase desks starting at $350.
Keep Snacks and Water Handy
"I always make sure I have a full pitcher of water, a small snack bowl and plenty of sunlight," says Kadeem Fyffe, founder of Muxe New York, a gender-fluid fashion label. 'I also find it really helpful to set designated snack times, or times to refresh your beverages. Otherwise, you'll find yourself wandering to the fridge at any pause you take."
Throw on a New Coat of Paint
A new coat of paint can make a world of difference. And, generally, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to make an old room feel new.
"Color has an influence on how we perceive and respond to our surroundings," says Basher.
We can’t tell you what color works best for you, but you probably don’t want to paint the room bright red.
Plan Your Station
Whether you’re first setting up or are looking for upgrades, visualize what kind of home office space you want to create.
"First, think about your space, the number of items you want to include, and the position of all the room outlets," says Marty Basher, organization specialist at Modular Closets. "Using a pencil and paper, draft a layout of your plan. Choose a desk that is appropriate for the space. L-shaped desks, curved corner desks, or sit/standing desks are perfect choices for small spaces."
Organize Your Wires
Speaking of wires, organize them! Monitors, computers, phones, lamps, speakers, cabled mice and keyboards — they all require something to plug into. With all of those wires in such a small space, it’s easy for a heap of tangled wires to turn into an ugly accessory.
Cheap and useful cable management systems like cable ties, cable clips, cable sleeves, and floor cord covers are all good ways to keep things nice and tidy.
A wireless keyboard and mouse are awesome upgrades for your remote workstation.
Some brands, like Logitech, sell unifying receivers, which can pair several devices but only take up one USB port (provided they’re from the same manufacturer).
Wireless mice and keyboards are easier to move around the desk, and there are no additional wires to worry about.
Consider a Folding Office Chair
For those without much space, an office chair that folds away can be a godsend.
"Mine swivels, has arms that fold up when I want to slide it under my desk at the end of the day, and the back is a breathable mesh so it doesn't get too hot," says Laura Handrick, an HR professional at Choosing Therapy.
Costs vary, but expect to pay anywhere from $80 to nearly $500.
Your Chair Doesn't Need to Be Conventional
Most people are happy with a solid office chair, but some people recommend a rocking chair. Anna Rider, a food writer and co-owner of Garlic Delight, says her rocking chair setup is good for her injured back.
"I work in a rocking recliner that opens up and allows me to lie almost flat," says Rider. "My monitor is attached to a monitor arm which allows me to adjust my screen angle so I can see it whether I'm sitting upright or lying down. I put my laptop on my desk that sits to my right, not in front of me."
Think Outside the (Storage) Box
You’re at home, not the office. Get creative when it comes to storage space.
"Seek unconventional and interesting ways to store the typical office supplies," says Basher. "Think wall storage, magazine type racks and bookshelves with storage baskets."
Check Your Router
Working from home means relying on a solid internet connection. That means having a router that’s not too dated and in a good location.
Alejandra Valeriano, a PR specialist for Best Buy, advises for routers to be placed in a "centralized location" and to minimize the number of walls and materials the signal needs to travel, as those will weaken the signal. Valeriano advises some homes can benefit from a WiFi repeater or mesh network.
Check the age and capabilities of your router, too. "With people working from home and connecting more items to a network — think smartphones, game systems and smart lights — consider upgrading to a new router for increased speed and performance," says Valeriano.
Cheer for Yourself
You know what motivates you, so why not add some custom-tailored positivity?
Solange Basseterre, a freelance digital marketing strategist, has a sheet behind her monitors plastered with good thoughts which "remind me of all the things that I have to be grateful for, but also with some thoughts that help me focus if I’ve been thrown off balance. If I’m stressed out or have received a negative email, I always read that list before acting."
Some examples from Basseterre’s cheer wall:
Take a deep breath, don’t react, it will pass.
You like your job.
You do great work.
Cheer for yourself.
Use the Closet
"If you’re taking over an extra bedroom in your home as your home office, convert the closet to storage by adding shelving," says Basher. "It minimizes the need for storage in the main office area."
And if you’re really out of space, you can convert the entire closet into a workstation, like so.
Put on Some White Noise
Some people like to work in total silence. Others don't. Music is great, but sometimes even that's too distracting (and forget about podcasts).
For those who need some background noise that won't distract, a white noise machine could be the ticket to an easier workday. Plus, it can mask other bothersome sounds.
"It helps drown out all the outside noise so you can concentrate on your work," says Ross. "I also find some of the sounds the machine produces like rain dropping and waves crashing quite soothing and relaxing, which in turn boosts my focus and productivity."
Searching for "white noise" or 'rain sounds" and similar search terms on YouTube also can work, provided you don't need your speakers for other tasks.
Check Out Alternative Chairs
There are other chairs out there, too.
Gaming chairs are designed for people who sit for long periods of time. Office ball chairs, or yoga ball chairs, strengthen your abs and improve your posture while you work. Some people prefer mesh-backed task chairs, while others like the feel and sturdiness of executive chairs.
It's worth putting in some time to see which one fits your needs.
Consider a Kneeling Chair
Other unconventional seating options include a kneeling chair.
"I couldn't believe how much better I felt at the end of the workday," says Natalie Rodrigues, marketing director at Net Lender. Rodrigues says her kneeling chair "reduced a lot of back and neck strain" and helped her posture.
"It takes some getting used to, but I like how it's improved my work life," she says.
Use a Vision Board
"I set up my workspace with a very basic vision board," says Fyffe. "It's literally a board I bought from Staples that I stuck images of anything I find stimulating or inspiring. For instance, as a fashion designer, I have pictures of Karl Largerfeld, Virgil Abloh, Anna Wintour, Beyonce, Rihanna, runways at New York Fashion Week, etc."
Consider a Moving Chair
Find the chair that works best for you and how you work.
Elizabeth Sedlock, founder of Sedlock Partners, a virtual PR firm, says she uses "a big upholstered rocking chair" because she can’t sit still.
"It helps keep from getting stir crazy," she says.
Remember, your remote workstation is yours, whether it's a whole office or a nook.
If something doesn't work, change it. Don't be afraid to add new things.
You'll be spending a lot of time here, so do what you need to do to make it work.