People who work from home commonly talk about upgrading their home office setup. However, I’ve found general home upgrades to have an even bigger positive impact on my work from home experience.
Here are three significant, uncommon home upgrades I’ve made over the years that have been more than worth it:
1. Whole-House Air Humidifier - $1,300
We don’t usually think about air. But it has a large effect on our comfort, health, and even brain function. I live in the exceptionally dry climate of Colorado. Moving to this area from Florida (an incredibly humid state) was quite a system shock. Sinus issues, scratchy throat, and dry skin were common. I attempted to combat these problems with handheld humidifiers, but it always felt like putting an extra small band-aid on a large wound.
When we bought our first home in 2019, we decided to invest in a whole-house humidifier - the Aprilaire 800 (price above includes unit + installation and electrical work). This system is built into our HVAC system and keeps the indoor humidity in our entire home at 40+% year-round. As a result, all our dry air problems were immediately resolved. It’s made such a difference that I wouldn’t consider living in a house in Colorado without one. Next on my list is looking into air purifiers. If you’ve completed any home improvements around air, I would love to hear about it!
2. Adjustable Bed - $1,775 (King)
I love working from multiple zones in my house, and one of those zones is my bed. Comfortable places tend to be the best zones for me to do creative and strategic work, which is a big part of my job. When I first went remote, I quickly learned that if I make my bed and sit up, then working from bed does not affect my sleep, which made working comfortably (and to the advantage of creative work) possible.
Putting together my bed each morning was easy, but sitting up posed a problem involving excessive pillows with no support. So when I learned about adjustable beds, I knew I had to try one. We bought our first in 2015. With a click of a button, I could adjust my bed to be in sitting up work mode. I programmed the remote to have three main modes: sleep, chill (for watching movies), and work.
The work mode provides the support, comfort, and transition that I was looking for effortlessly. It’s also been helpful when I’m sick with a head cold and can’t sleep lying flat, plus when I needed to prop up my injured foot last summer. In 2019, when we upgraded our queen to a king-size bed, we again chose an adjustable bed frame without question. Unfortunately, I can’t find the specific models, but both frames are from Serta. If you like working from your bed sometimes, I highly recommend upgrading to an adjustable bed frame.
3. Automated Shutters - $2,600
One of the first lifestyle improvements I made when switching to remote work was getting rid of the alarm clock. Using light to wake up made me a far less cranky morning person. Initially, I used a sunrise alarm clock. They work great, but I prefer using natural light and not tying to a specific time. But I live in a suburban zone, so just leaving the curtains open was not an option.
In 2021, we chose to upgrade to automated shutters in the primary bedroom. We were already installing new plantation shutter window treatments and figured why not make the primary bedroom ones automated? They’re programmed to auto-open at sunrise and auto-close at sunset. They’re quiet and gorgeous. Keep in mind, our windows are large, so this price might be much lower for you.
Are automated shutters a necessity? Absolutely not. Like any smart home feature, they’re more of a nice-to-have, but I appreciate the functionality and convenience. I’d purchase them again.
I’ve made these (and many other home upgrades) over years, not all at once. Notice that each of these upgrades stemmed from a problem rather than just because I liked the idea of them. My best tip for you is to focus on what’s causing the most friction first.
Also, remember that home upgrades to improve your work-from-home life don’t have to be as big and expensive as the ones I listed above. Small upgrades can have just as big of an impact.
I recently asked my audience on Twitter what their favorite home upgrades were. They came through with some fantastic answers that ranged from:
- Free tips like moving your desk close to a window for natural light to improve your mood. Bonus, add bird feeders outside of your window for entertainment.
- Adding plants around your home (also check out this great tip from Vic on plant life without the bugs)
- Lots of tips on upgrading your coffee game (though beware, this will make it hard to drink coffee anywhere outside your perfect home setup)
- Changing wifi frequency so you don’t have to compete with apartment neighbors and adding mesh networks so you can work from anywhere in the house (even outside)
Here are some of my other favorite answers:
Remember, if you're just using the freedom of remote work to change how you work, you're only taking advantage of half the benefits.
People working remotely commonly forget to think beyond their home office setup.
Don’t forget home improvements both big and small can have a significant impact on your work from home experience. Invest accordingly.
Quote of the Week
“Too many people bring the best of themselves to work and bring the leftovers home.”
- Esther Perel
In Other News
Is Remote Work Burning You Out? (with podcast guest Marissa Goldberg)
I recently did a podcast interview for 'Engineering Advice You Didn't Ask For' and thought you might enjoy it. We chatted about everything from whether cameras should be on in Zoom meetings to the advantages of people-first work to how to avoid burnout while working remotely. Check it out!
My Remote work Journey of 25 years
“That is why when I read about companies -with mostly knowledge workers- debating whether to allow their employees to work from home more permanently, and questioning whether value can be created remotely, I tend to ponder the thought and effort those companies have put into making their culture remote-friendly. Is it because they have not yet figured out how to measure their productivity? Then THAT is the real problem they need to fix.”
This Is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings
‘We need a deeper theory of work and time. When we say “That meeting should have been an email,” we’re not just saying “My boss wouldn’t stop talking.” We’re also saying “I think the information from that synchronous event would have been more productively shared as an asynchronous communication, so that an hour of necessary work wasn’t shifted later into the workday.”’
In Case You Missed It
Thinking about starting a new series called "Ask a Remote Work Expert" where you share your struggles and questions anonymously. Then I'll share my best advice (with occasional guest experts). Like a Dear Abby for remote work. Would you be interested in this?
April 19th 2022
What did you think of this issue? What do you hope you'll see in the next one? Feel free to reply to this message or DM me on Twitter @mar15sa.
I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. Hope you have a lovely day!
Founder, Remote Work Prep