Making the decision to work from home isn’t easy, and most people arrive at that decision after many torturous months of worrying and contemplating. Should you leave your current job? The money’s good, but you’re just not happy. Should you wait for a better opportunity? However, you arrive at the conclusion, once you actually take the plunge, it can feel like one of the most rewarding decisions you’ve ever made.

If you’re just starting out working from home, or if you’ve been doing it for some time but feel a change is needed, then there might be something amiss in your home office environment. If you don’t already have one, then that could be the problem – a home office is conducive to a productive and satisfying workflow. Here are 5 things every home office must have.

A personal touch

Many people neglect this essential element of a home office, but the truth is that any home working environment absolutely must have a personal touch. If you’re working in a bare, sparse environment that just doesn’t feel cozy or homely, then you’ll never feel productive, and you might end up just as depressed as you were in your 9 to 5. There are many ways you can go about making your home office feel like a personal place. One of the best ways to do this is to display a custom photo shoot of your family. Looking at pictures specifically created for you that show the people (or animals!) you love can really serve as an inspiration when you’re just not feeling the creative flow. Other personal touches include smaller accouterments like figurines, bookshelves full of your favorite books or a sound system to help you work.

Decent equipment

Again, this is an aspect of the home office that many people neglect. If you’ve been working at an office for some time, then you’re used to having tech supplied for you; you may have ignored your own laptop in favor of those in your family, so your tech is behind-the-times. Obviously, each person’s mileage will vary when it comes to how much up-to-the-minute tech is required. Online traders, for example, will want to make sure they buy themselves a powerful PC, dual monitors and a decent sound system for following trading news. Creative writers may not need quite so much modern tech, but it’s still important to buy a functional, reasonably powerful laptop that can handle everything you’re doing on a day-to-day basis.

Noise isolation (as far as possible)

It’s no good working from home if the noise around you is going to serve as a constant distraction. If you can hear sounds from other rooms and they’re driving you crazy, or if your office has a window that lets in noise from the outside world, you might want to consider moving rooms around so your office is somewhere a little more secluded. If that’s not possible, there are steps you can take to isolate yourself from excessive noise as much as possible. First of all, you could buy yourself a pair of high-quality headphones; if you like to listen to music while working, then doing so through headphones should negate most of the worst noisy offenders. Soundproofing is a slightly tougher proposition, but could still work for the dedicated (and the relatively well-off). However you do it, you need to make sure you’re not being bombarded with distracting noise.

Good Internet connection

This might go without saying for many, but the vast majority of work-from-home jobs these days will require a good Internet connection. Don’t set up your home office somewhere with a terrible Wi-Fi signal; similarly, if you’re running a wired Ethernet connection, don’t place your office miles away from the router, as the cable will be unsightly. If you can, try to set up your office as close to the router as possible to maximize the possibility of a strong Internet connection. Again, this will apply to some more than others, but there is nothing more frustrating than being halfway through a particularly grueling copywriting assignment only for the Internet to fail and all of your work to be for naught. Pre-empt that by making sure your office is within decent connection range.

Natural light

As far as possible, you should try to ensure that your home office is letting in natural light. Installing your office in the basement might initially sound like a great idea – good noise isolation, you’re not disturbing other members of the family – but eventually, you’ll grow tired of the lack of natural light and working will become a depressing chore. You don’t need to be surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, but having one or two small windows that let in enough natural light to remind you of the outside world is a great idea. In a world that’s more conscious of mental health issues, don’t let your desire to be isolated from distraction create a depressing or anxiety-inducing work environment for you.

image: Photo by bruce mars from Pexels