As work-from-home jobs become more ubiquitous, so do requirements for home offices.
We’ve noticed some trends in home-office requirements — some very reasonable and others… not so much. For example, some employers give thousands of dollars in stipends to deck out your home office while others require specific 17-inch dual-screen monitors without providing reimbursement.
Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office before it’s work-from-home ready.
This list of home office essentials is based on common remote job requirements and advice from remote employees. It will give you an idea of what items your home office might need and how much it will cost to transition into a work-from-home career, particularly in the sales, customer service or IT fields.
Typical Office Requirements for Work-From-Home Jobs
Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up in bed with your laptop on those lazy days. If that’s the case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.
Work-from-home reporter James Duren agreed.
“Spending more than $1,000 on a MacBook, for example, isn’t always feasible, even if we write them off [on taxes],” Duren said.
He uses a $170 Chromebook.
“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”
This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.
For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.
Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.
Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. The sweet spot seems to be 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.
To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay $30 to $50 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)
But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.
Landline and Phone
In the customer service and sales industries especially, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.
If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.
Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over, but some large companies like AT&T provide plans for less than $25 a month when bundled with internet services. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.
Headset and Microphone
Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, a noise-canceling headset can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or phone calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.
“For telecommuting, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the noises of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.
Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.
“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-cancelling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”
The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model.
If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.
It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require a desk. It’s kind of a given.
But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices.
So it’s good to consider your size and storage limitations when shopping around.
“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a stand-up desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.”
Schmidt recommended the xec-FIT desk, which runs for around $300, but you can find adjustable desks for half that price on Amazon.
What about portability?
“A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.
If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when it comes to sitting for hours at a time.
“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive.
His go-to chair is from Aeron. The model he suggested will cost you up to $500, but Kinports said it’s worth every penny.
For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.
“It’s the little things that can cause distractions and discomfort,” Kinports said. “Make sure you invest in exactly what you need to achieve your best focus everyday.”
Monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries. But as a writer, I find dual monitors extremely beneficial. They help me stay organized by separating tabs and tasks to certain screens.
“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”
PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2021, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use. And in most home offices, desk space is a luxury. Consider adding a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.
The Little Extras
Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable enough to work in every day may require a few more touches of comfort. You may not need any of the following items to get started, but you’ll likely want to incorporate some of these extras into your home office eventually:
- Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
- Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
- Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it.
- Shelving or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.
If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover home-office costs, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.
And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.
Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.