Your home office checklist: getting started
You’ve found your ideal remote job – now you need somewhere to work. Our checklist will help you put together a home office workspace that lets you focus on getting stuff done.
Find your space
Your first step is to decide where you’re going to be based when working from home. If you share space with family or housemates, you’ll need access to a private space where you can work and take conference calls without distraction.
If you’re going to be spending lots of time video conferencing, you’ll need a setup that you can keep clear of household clutter. (It’s a pain having to hide the laundry basket every time you want to chat to clients on Skype!) A clear wall, free of family photos and personal items, makes a good backdrop for video conferencing.
If space is in short supply at home, you might want to rent a hotdesk at a local coworking space (try Near Desk or Office Genie for space near you.)
The following may seem over the top, but a few quick phone calls or emails at the start can help make sure you are covered for all eventualities.
- A copy of your employer’s Remote Working policy. Pin it up somewhere, so you are clear about what you need to pay for, how to keep your work safe, and what to do if the technology lets you down.
- Details of your household insurance. Make sure that you’ve let your insurers know that you are working from home. Check with them and your employer to make sure you are covered if a) you damage equipment belonging to your employer and b) your employer’s equipment damages your home! (So, if the printer owned by your employer ever bursts into flames, you’re still covered.)
- Check with your mortgage provider or landlord. Let them know you are working from home, and check that there are no clauses restricting this.
- Confirm whether or not you need to pay business rates, or ask your accountant. You generally don’t need to pay business rates if you use part of your home as an office space, and that space is also used for other activities – but it’s definitely worth checking at the start. Create a paper trail of any advice you receive.
- Sort out your expenses and tax. Try checking here and here and, ideally, talk to an accountant. Set up a file for things like household bills and stationary if you’re going to be claiming expenses from work and/or offsetting anything against tax.
- Check what to do about purchasing stationary and supplies. Do you buy directly, or collect from your office? Are there certain suppliers that your company expects you to use? What is your company policy on things like printers – are there restrictions on their use by other members of your family? Set up a system for filing receipts for anything you’ll be claiming.
IT emergency? Know who you’re gonna call!
- Otherwise known as the Ghostbusters Clause. We can’t stress this enough: Check that you know what to do if you have an IT disaster. If your employer is too small to have its own IT department, or is too far away to help you, ask if they can help you select a suitable local IT help service before you have a crisis (and check that they will pay for the costs.) Get to know your IT Heroes – check the hours they cover, and give them any details they need so that they are ready to come to the rescue when your laptop has melted down thirty minutes before an important video conference with a new client.
The Kit List
- Laptop or PC (plus a mouse, which can be better ergonomically than using track pads for long periods.)
- Webcam, if you’re going to be video conferencing (your laptop may already have a webcam built in.)
- Reliable broadband (online tools such as Speed Test let you check your download and upload speeds).
- Phone headset. Not necessary, but it can be worth it if you spend a lot of time on long video and conference calls, as some people find headsets more comfortable, with clearer sound quality.
- Consider if you’ll need a printer or scanner, plus supplies of paper and ink.
- Height-adjustable chair (your back will thank you; IKEA has some low-cost options.)
- Stationary – plus simple storage for office basics.
- Anything needed to meet your employer’s Health and Safety assessment. For example, you might be asked to keep a small fire extinguisher in your home office space.
Online security. Stay safe out there, kids.
- Check that you have good virus protection software. Talk with your IT department or agreed IT service to make sure this is set up and installed correctly, and you know how to use it. Make sure you know what to do or who to call if you think you have a problem. If you’re not sure about online safety basics, ask for some training – better safe than sorry.
- Get in the habit of making very regular backups. You can back up your home computer onto a hard drive, make backups to services in ‘the cloud’, and also save really important documents onto a shared drive such as Drop Box. Make sure you check your employer’s policy on making backups. How, how often, who’s responsibility is it, and (if it’s a hard copy) where should it be kept? Are there any data protection or privacy issues you need to be aware of?
- Check your employer’s policy on data protection and privacy. Particularly if you work with confidential data, make sure you understand your company’s policy on this and what you are personally expected to do to keep data safe. For example, your employer may not be OK with you taking your laptop to public places and working on public wifi. What about protecting data and privacy if you share a computer with family members?
If you put these pieces in place at the start, you can relax and enjoy working from home. Happy homeworking, everyone!