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As March has turned into December, it is looking ever more likely that many workplaces will simply never open back up. Thanks to the COVID crisis, businesses have discovered that they can trust their workforces to be productive from home, and it is difficult to ignore the cost savings of eliminating office utilities and allowing employees to supply their own tech tools.

Unfortunately, if you are a worker who is on the verge of becoming remote full-time, you might be starting to worry about the state of your “home office.” The kitchen table is hardly a high-quality workstation; you need an area of the house where you can focus and finish work projects, where you feel comfortable, confident and in-control.

Because building a home office might have come as somewhat of a surprise, you probably don’t have a remarkably high budget for your new home workspace. Here are a few tips for getting what you need without spending too much:

The Characteristics of a Quality Home Office

Before you start buying things for your office, you need to take some time to conceptualize your perfect office space. If money were no object and you could make the home office of your dreams, what would it look like? How would it function? Which furniture and tools would you buy, and where would you place them? How would your office make you feel?

You ultimately get to control the look and the feeling of your space, but there are certain elements that every home office needs. Though you should retain some creative control over the finishings of your space, you will ultimately need to acquire items such as:

  • A work surface. You need a table, a desk or a lap stand on which to work.
  • Seating. Ideally, your seating will be ergonomic, improving your posture and productivity.
  • Equipment. Most remote workers need a computer, but you should have all the tools you need, like a printer, copier, scanner and more.
  • Supplies. It is good to have a home office stocked with notepads, pens, highlighters and the like.
  • Internet and phone services. Without these, remote work is essentially impossible.

You might put together a vision board (or a Pinterest board) of ideas for your home office.

Money-saving Tips for a Functional Home Office

Though doing something “on a budget” often means finding the least expensive options, the truth is that if you see yourself working remotely for more than the short-term, you shouldn’t bother investing in cheap fixes. Instead, you should find other ways to be able to afford higher-quality office items — and some alternative methods include:

Ask your employer to chip in. Employers are saving money by maintaining a remote workforce, and some are devote some of those savings to outfitting their workers with appropriate home office spaces. It doesn’t hurt to ask your employer to expense some of your larger, more necessary office supplies, like a desk, chair and computer.

Ask friends/family for help. If you have any friends or family who have returned to their normal office space, they might have items they no longer need or want. You can offer to pay them for their gently used office supplies, but they will probably give them to you free of charge.

Buy used or refurbished. Instead of going straight to the bargain bin, you should scour used furniture stores and websites for higher quality offerings available at a discount. You might also contact the manufacturers of your most sought-after office items and ask if they have refurbished items on offer.

If none of these solutions work, you might try budgeting for a better office. Budget planning software can help you identify expenses to cut in the next few months to help you save up for the office of your dreams. In the meantime, you can continue working with the setup you have maintained since the beginning of lockdown.

In the event you need a fully functioning home office now, and you have no time to bother with satisfying your vision, you can succumb to lower-quality home office goods. Flat-pack furniture from big box stores like Ikea and Target might not stand the test of time, but they will provide a work surface and a place to sit in as much time as it takes to put them together. Typically, you don’t need the most expensive, powerful computing system; you should be able to make do with a Chromebook or even a tablet.

December could easily become March once again, and you don’t want to face the New Year without a plan for a better home office. With the right budget — and the right office hacks — you can enjoy a high-quality home office space for less.