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How to Set Up a Remote Office (On the Fly) Classy Bare Bones Style

29th May 2020 –

So COVID-19 has you working from home, “for now”. It’s not advisable to shop in person, shopping online might be a priority only for medical supplies (and other essential items). And your company might not be paying for any of it. In reality, you don’t need to shop to get something set up. I’m going to show you how to set up a remote office on the fly.

Items needed:

  • Mug or cup
  • Tape
  • Batteries
  • Note paper
  • Pens
  • Hair elastic or twist tie
  • External keyboard sitting in the back of your closet
  • Wired headphones
  • A stack of (hardcover) books bigger than your laptop
  • Access to a plug or an extension cord or power bar

First, no matter how small your space, and no matter how many people you share it with, you need to define an area that’s yours (unless you have cats, in which case it’s their space you’re occupying).


Clearly the best option is a room, with a window and a desk. That’s not always possible, and for many it’s a dream.

This space should be defined as yours: one corner of a kitchen counter, the end of a dining table. Ideally it’s a surface that you can sit at, on a chair AND that has good access to light. If you can’t have both, my preference is good access to light is better as you can always move around to make your body forget the bad ergonomics. You’ll also want access to a plug or extension cord.

Now, this defined space doesn’t mean you MUST work from this space every hour. It’s simply a “home base”, within your living space. You may find yourself working from bed or the sofa too, but you should always have the base to return to. A place to charge your tech, leave important notes. More importantly, a place to walk away from at the end of a work day.

Mark it out with masking tape. We’re aiming for 3x the length of your laptop and 2x the depth. This is now your area. No one touches it.

Get a cup or mug that’s never used. A souvenir. Empty can of beans also works. Put your pens in it. Extra batteries for your mouse in the bottom. Use the hair tie to loop your headphones to the pen that doesn’t write. Or an orphaned chopstick.

Remote office on the fly

In this space you’ll also leave a notebook or stack of paper as jotting physical notes is sometimes just needed, even if it’s to someone to GET ME SOME COFFEE, please.

Now that you’ve got the area worked out, you need to hunt for some books. Preferably bigger than your laptop. Magazines can work too. The goal here is to raise the height of your screen so that the middle of it is aligned with your sight line.

With the height, you can now connect your external keyboard to your machine. Why an external? Well, it gives you a little more flexibility in your setup and also allows you to change your posture pretty easily. Always sitting hunched at your laptop isn’t a great way to maintain productivity.

… And there you have it!

A home office born from the stuff you had lying around. Now, the productivity and quality of work is up to you!

Originally published May 29, 2020 - Updated September 09, 2021

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