Here's how to set up a functional at-home office—without buying anything new. 

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated March 17, 2020
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As COVID-19 continues to spread, more and more of us are now working from home, many for the first time. One of the first orders of business: setting up a work-from-home space that's as functional and comfortable (and calming!) as possible. And since we're all trying to avoid going out to stores and many shops are currently closed, you'll ideally want to create this makeshift work station using things you have around your house. The good news: You likely already have everything you need, as long as you get creative.

Below are some guidelines for picking out the most productive WFH spot, lighting it properly, and finding a desk and chair combo that will keep you comfortable in the upcoming weeks. Keep these four tips—and two common mistakes—in mind to build a better workspace.

1
Do: Pick the right spot.

The first step: locate the WFH spot where you'll be the most productive. If you live in a tiny apartment, you may not have many options, but in a larger home, you'll want to choose an area that's out of the way. Ideally, you'll want to select a spot that's both away from potential distractions (whether that's a TV or all the snacks) and that receives good natural light.

If you have kids at home: depending upon their ages and the level of supervision they need, you may have to coordinate your workspace so it's near where they'll be doing "distance learning." For example, you may want to set up at the kitchen counter, while your kids work at the dining table nearby.

2
Do: Set up proper lighting.

To reduce eyestrain, you'll want to set up sufficient lighting in your workspace. Choosing a sunny spot near a window helps. If you need to supplement overhead lighting, consider borrowing a floor lamp or table lamp from another room to create a well-lit desk.

If after the first day working in your new space your eyes feel overly tired, it's a sign to update the lighting. Try adding another source of light or adjust the position of the current lighting.

3
Do: Make it as ergonomic as possible.

If suddenly working from home came as a surprise to you, you may not be set up with an ergonomic office chair, but you can still find the next best solution. Shop your home to try to match up a chair and table or other surface that lets you work at your computer or laptop without hunching over. A chair that's comfortable yet provides back support is ideal. A cushion or draped blanket can help with the comfy factor.

Another option: consider devising your own "standing desk" out of a kitchen counter. You may need to prop your laptop up on books to create the right height. Whether you're sitting or standing, attempt to create a setup that keeps your back in alignment, so you're not bending down to see the screen.

4
Do: Get connected.

Make sure your workspace is conveniently located near a power outlet, or look for a multi-plug extension cord so you can plug in everything you'll need—computer, phone, printer—at the same time.

If you're going to be doing a lot of video calls, test out a mock call in your new workspace to see how it looks. A plain wall that isn't too distracting is a good backdrop, and proper lighting (see above) will make the video quality better. While you're at it, test out the WiFi signal in that area of the house to make sure it is strong.

5
Don't: Work from your bed or the couch.

It may sound cozy, but if at all possible, it's best to avoid working in your bed. Otherwise, you'll begin to associate your bed with work and may have trouble falling asleep at night.

And if you work from your sofa, sitting in the same spot after work for a Netflix binge-watching session will feel less relaxing. Even in a small home, try to create a workspace that's separate from your relaxation zone to create some mental distance.

6
Don't: Forget to decorate it.

Sure, this may just be a temporary solution, but adding a little personality to your work area will make it a more pleasant spot to spend time. Pull in a houseplant from another room or borrow a favorite piece of art from another space.

Trying to create calm vibes? Add an aromatherapy diffuser to your desk or try playing some soft, non-distracting music—embrace those work-from-home perks.