With flexible hours and a lot of independence, working from home can be a great luxury, especially when your home office is comfortable and efficient. Here are five simple steps you can take to make your office the most productive space in your house.
* Make it work Assess what you really need from your office. If you are transitioning from a job outside the home, consider what worked best about your old workspace. Was everything in one place? Do you like to spread out your papers to work? Are your files on your hard drive or in a filing cabinet? Do you expect to share the space (for kids to do homework, or as a guestroom), or will your office be a place for you alone? Don’t set up your office based on how you think you should work. Set it up based on how you are already working.
* Think outside the box Are you planning to build a new space for your office, or convert a garage or attic? If it’s a simple conversion of existing space, you should be able to make these changes yourself or enlist the help of a friend. If your budget is lean, you can still create a useful working space in your home. Get creative: Do you have a guest-room that rarely hosts guests? A playroom your kids have outgrown? Extra space in the kitchen? Designate office space using low-cost solutions such as screens, bookcases and storage units to preserve privacy.
* The essentials Figure out what the finished room will look like. Take measurements and sketch how furniture will fit in the room. List the office equipment you will be using to determine if you have enough electrical outlets. For me, one of the most crucial things in a workspace is lighting. If your room lacks windows, make sure you have enough fixtures. You’ll also want a desk lamp. Consider what other wiring you will need. Do you do all your business on a cellphone? Or do you require a land line? And should you invest in a wireless router for Internet access?
* Find your comfort zone Your home office should be a pleasant place you look forward to going to — not somewhere you’re eager to escape! Arrange your work area in an L or U shape; this way you’ll have all your important items within easy reach. If you plan to spend lots of hours at your desk, make sure you own a comfortable chair with back support. Place your keyboard and monitor at the proper height. Also consider how you will heat and cool your space. Ceiling fans and programmable thermostats are proven energy savers.
* Storage solutions Install wall shelving or use free-standing shelves. (I’ve got instructions on my Web site for how to build a nifty shelving system on wheels.) Or, invest in stackable modular storage pieces. Consider hiding your office equipment in a computer armoire. Bookshelves or fabric panels can double as room dividers, creating a separate area for client meetings.
Finally, remember that working at home is not just a lifestyle decision — it’s your business. Review your productivity at six-month intervals and be prepared to make necessary adjustments. With a smoothly running home office, you can take your home-based career to the next level.
Do it Barbara’s Way!