Whether you’ve just started working from home or you’ve been working from home for years and want to work from a different space in your home, there are a few things to consider.
1. Evaluate every room and ask yourself a few questions:
- Will you actually work in this area?
- Are there too many distractions that will keep you from working?
- Is there enough lighting?
- Is there room for your equipment, files, and supplies?
- Are there enough electrical outlets?
- Could you run a phone line and Internet access wiring into this space? (If you use a cordless phone or your cell phone for business, and you have wireless access, disregard this question.)
2. Invest in functional furniture that fits the style of your home. Whether you want a simple writing desk (ideal for a laptop computer) with a lap drawer for supplies, or a large desk with drawers for supplies and files, focus on function, and then decide whether the desk matches your décor. Use an ergonomically correct chair, instead of a kitchen table chair, to keep you from straining your back and neck.
3. Decide which of the five basic furniture arrangements for your home office is best for your space: L-shape, Parallel, U-shape, corner, or reverse corner arrangement. The arrangement you choose depends primarily on the size of your office, the type of furniture you have, and how much work surface you will need.
- The L-shaped work area provides a secondary surface.
- The U-shaped work area allows you to keep everything within reach on three surfaces.
- The parallel layout positions your desk facing into the room with your secondary surface behind you.
- The corner arrangement and the reverse corner arrangement include a desk with returns on each side.
4. Be creative with file storage. Instead of using a grey, metal file cabinet to store your files, consider other options. You could store files in a wooden or wicker ottoman, below a window seat with file frames inside the drawers, or inside a decorative wooden trunk. A good way to keep files you use often nearby is by using a desk with at least two deep file drawers.
5. Save space within your home office by using multifunction or “all-in-one” equipment that prints, copies, scans and faxes documents in color. The smaller footprint (and often low price) of these machines makes them ideal for most space-challenged home offices.
6. Add a simple bookcase or install shelves to get books and information off the floor. You can also use shelves to hold magazines and office supplies in decorative containers.
7. Design your office to reflect your taste, interests and style. Your home office doesn’t have to resemble your old corporate office. One of my clients, an avid sports fan, framed signed jerseys from various players and hung them throughout his home office.
8. Before you share a home office with your spouse, consider whether you have compatible working styles. One of my clients likes to keep all of his papers out on the desk, while his spouse likes to file everything. By adding another desk for his spouse to use, we’ve made sharing an office easier for both of them.
9. If you are going to meet with clients at your home, set up a space within your home office or next to your office to meet. One of my clients, an accountant, used the dining room next to his home office for client meetings. His family used the dining room twice a year, so the space was clutter-free and available anytime.
10. Set a specific time to work in your home office each day. It’s easy to get sidetracked on your way to work, even if your commute lasts only a few seconds. Be flexible, but have an idea of when you want to work in your home office every day. Otherwise, before you know it, it will be noon and you’ll still be doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher or handling other personal tasks.