- Remote work has become a fact of life for many people in the wake of COVID-19.
- Last year, I spent about $2,000 giving myself a dedicated home office space.
- Having a set place to work without distractions has meant greater productivity, tax savings, and more happiness in my job.
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One of the biggest changes to our world wrought by COVID-19 has been the rise of remote work. During the pandemic lockdowns in spring 2020, many people suddenly found themselves working from home. At the time, I was still a museum professional, and ended up writing and designing an entire exhibit about the history of the city I lived in, all from a laptop in my bedroom at home.
Just a year later, I changed careers and became a fully remote employee. I wasn't alone; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people working from home more than tripled (from around 9 million to 27.6 million) between 2019 and 2021. Not too long after that, I started freelancing as a writer and editor. But just as I was beginning to spread my freelance wings, I made a big change to my work setup that led to more money in my checking account.
Working from home comes with a lot of potential distractions
When I first started working remotely for good (rather than as a stop-gap at the beginning of COVID-19), I opted to set up my work station in my dining room. I don't live with any other humans, so I figured that I didn't actually need a home office, and a desk against the dining room wall (and in the middle of my apartment) was sufficient. As it turned out, I was wrong.
I might not share my home with humans, but I do share it with cats. And I had recently adopted a rambunctious kitten that enjoyed wreaking havoc in my apartment while I was trying to work. This meant interrupted Zoom meetings and pausing on my tasks while I went to fetch said kitten from a variety of distracting and potentially dangerous situations.
In addition to animal wrangling, working from my dining room meant listening to vehicles driving down my street, neighbors doing lawn care, and my washer and dryer running their cycles. It wasn't ideal. So I invested in that home office after all.
Money well spent
I was fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom that lacked a purpose, and when I decided to give it one, I had some work to do. The room had very dark wood paneling on the walls, so the first order of business was to dip into my savings account to pay for paint to brighten it up. My father is a professional painter and kindly lent his expertise to the process. I also bought rugs and curtains to give the room a more comfortable vibe. Finally, I made the biggest investment of this process: a computer for freelancing.
All told, I spent about $2,000 on everything (the bulk of that being the computer), and it was money well spent. Having this space has proved to be great for my productivity, my work-life balance, and more.
A home office offers multiple benefits
My office has a door that can be closed (with my three cats on the other side of it; my youngest has grown up a lot, but he still enjoys distracting me from my work when he can). I can effectively block out nearly all the sounds that used to be a nuisance. And if I have a crucial Zoom meeting or project that requires a lot of concentration, this is vital.
Having an office also means a better work-life balance for me. I enjoy my work, and do sometimes find it hard to take time off, but having my workspace in an area other than my dining room means that all I have to do is step out of the room when I'm done with work. I can sit on my living room couch without staring at my computer and feeling the pangs of guilt that come with not working.
Finally, a home office opens the door to a tax deduction for me as a freelancer. Remote workers can only claim the home office deduction if they are classified as self-employed (so if you are a W-2 employee and happen to work from home, you're not eligible). My office is overwhelmingly my main place of business, and work is the only activity I use it for, so it qualifies for this deduction, saving me money on my taxes.
I can't overstate the positive impact my office has had on my work and my personal finances. If you work from home and have the space and ability to do the same for yourself, I highly recommend it. It could be the ticket to greater productivity at work and a better financial outlook, too.
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