17 Office Essentials to Set up an Efficient Home Office

Image shows a home office fully stocked with supplies and furniture. Text reads: "Home office checklist: printer, file cabinet, computer, desk & chair, high-speed internet access, surge protector, paper shredder, fire-safe box""

Image by Jo Zixuan Zhou © The Balance 2019

One of two things can happen when you begin to set up an office setting in your home. You'll either underestimate what you'll need to get your office up and running, or you'll overestimate. You can quickly find yourself struggling in either case.

Use this checklist to develop a streamlined itemization of what you need in your home office and things to consider. Check the items you absolutely have to have, and circle those that you think you might eventually want to add.

Your Computer

A woman's hands on a laptop with a drink sitting on the table next to it.

@linashib via Twenty20 

Few if any small business owners who have the ability to work from home can complete their work without a computer. Do your research so you select one that meets your specific needs. Consider a laptop if you intend to create a mobile office in addition to your home office, or if your work often involves visiting clients' or customers' locations.

A Monitor

Computer monitor showing a Google search
Oleksiy Maksymenko/Getty Images

You'll definitely need a monitor if you have a desktop computer, but it can also be useful—and easier on your neck—to plug one into your laptop. You might also consider dual monitors, depending on the work you do.

High-Speed Internet Access

A computer monitor showing various internet accounts
Use Internet Accounts to set up Facebook Integration. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The days of being able to work with a dial-up connection are long gone. A broadband connection is essential if you're going to work efficiently online.

Your Desk

White minimalist desk situated up against a window
Minimalist desk. Meddio Design

Ideally, you'll have space for a traditional desk where you can create an ergonomically correct workstation. You can make a table, counter, or other flat surface work in a pinch if your space forces you to get creative.

A Good Chair

Man with back pain sitting on a small office chair
An ergonomically sound chair won't cause you back pain. Photo (c) londoneye/ Getty Images

A comfortable chair is one of the most important components of any office, so take time and care to select and invest in a good one. Again, ergonomics and comfort count, so make sure you test the chair before making a purchase.

Adequate Lighting

An upright desk lamp next to a monitor on a somewhat messy desk
Using a desk lamp at the office can help prevent headaches. Westend61/Getty Images

Adequate lighting levels are critical to productive and comfortable work space. You don't want to have to deal with headaches and eye strain from squinting in lighting that makes it difficult to read.

A Telephone and/or VoIP

Vintage black telephone
pbombaert / Getty Images

You might not need a traditional landline telephone with all the VoIP technology, internet-based phone services, and mobile phones that are available, but access to phone service is usually necessary when you're working from home. If nothing else, you should have it for backup.

Software

A woman in a red plaid shirt working at a laptop
mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

Some small business owners simply need access to word processing, spreadsheets, and email management applications, but others need additional software that's specific to their enterprise. Make a list of what you'll need to run your home office.

A Network Router

Closeup of the rear of a router
deepblue4you / Getty Images

Although it's not always required, a network router can be necessary if you have more than one computer that requires internet access. Consider a wireless router if you have a laptop and computers located in different parts of your home.

A Surge Protector

Closeup of a white and gray surge protector
Belkin Travel Surge Protector. Belki

A good surge protector is an often-overlooked item, but it should be a staple in any home office that uses computer equipment.

A Printer or Multipurpose Machine

Closeup of a printer holding an image of a multi-colored windsurfer
Epson Expression XP-630 Small-in-One Printer - small printer with big heart. Photograph courtesy of Epson

Depending on the nature of your business and even if you have a paperless office, you might be able to get away without having a printer. But there will probably be many occasions when you'll wish you had one to scan, fax, or make copies. Consider looking into multipurpose machines that can manage all these tasks.

Backup Drive or Personal Server

A laptop surrounded by stacks of external hard drives and discs
You can download files of any type from a computer to another device.

Peter Cade / Getty Images 

You'll need a plan for backing up and protecting your data once your home office is up and running. You can use cloud-based backup services to copy your files automatically, but it's also a good idea to have an in-house backup in place. External drives and personal servers are relatively affordable and can save your business in case of computer failure.

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Man holding a flashlight to his face during a power outage.

 Ali Berkin Sahin / EyeEm / Getty Images

A UPS provides backup power for a limited time in case your electricity goes out. It can give you some useful buffer time to save your work and safely shut down your equipment.

A File Cabinet

Closeup of hands searching multi-colored files in a cabinet
Tetra Images - Elena Elisseeva/ Brand X Picture/ Getty Images

Even if it's your aim to be paperless, there are always some hard copy documents you'll need to hang onto. The best place to store these documents so you're able to find them is in a well-organized file cabinet.

Storage Needs

Box shelves on a white wall
Namely Original via HomeTalk

Where will you keep your pens, sticky notes, paper, folders, ink, business cards, and other supplies? Consider purchasing a bookcase or shelving to store unused items in your home office.

A Fire-Safe Box

Black fire-safe box with key code and door slightly ajar

 

SentrySafe

Speaking of storage, you might consider using a fire-safe box to protect your most important business paperwork. Many small business owners also use these durable boxes to keep backup copies of their data.

A Paper Shredder

Closeup of a shredder with a hand pushing its button
Hup / Getty Images

A shredder is a must-have for destroying sensitive and confidential business information and documents. Consider getting a recycling bin for other non-sensitive papers.

There will certainly be other items you'll need in your home office, depending on the type of work you do and how much space you have available. But you'll be on your way to creating a streamlined and efficient home office if you use this checklist to get started thinking about the essentials.