More and more, people are finding it beneficial to work from home. Sometimes full time, sometimes part time, sometimes as just an area to get additional things done. But nothing can thwart productivity like trying to write a business report at your 5-year old’s Thomas the Tank Engine desk, or holding a business call while the dog is barking and the kids are having a belching contest in the next room. Setting up a home office requires thought, organization, and some grunt work, but it can have huge pay-offs in the end. Here are some things to consider when creating a home office space:
Location, Location, Location! – This is true for businesses, and it’s true for YOUR business. Think about how much space you will need, and consider whether or not the space needs to have a door or window. If you would feel the walls closing in around you without a window, then a window is obviously important. And a door can allow you to separate your “work you” from your “home you,” simply by closing it when necessary. Consider the temperature of the space as well as the amount of light . . . both natural and artificial.
You naturally want to be comfortable in your workspace. But not so comfortable that you’ll end up asleep on a couch in front of the TV. Make sure you have a comfortable, supportive chair. The metal folding one you’ve been using to play on Facebook or pay your bills may be all right for a short time, but not if you’re going to be trying to concentrate for hours at a time to get work done. Also be sure to give yourself good lighting, and ergonomically sound access to your computer keyboard, including wrist rests, if you will be using a computer for any length of time.
Communication and Technology
Communication is key to establishing credibility, business contacts, and trust.If you use your cell phone as your primary means of communication, be sure your office space is not in a place within the home where cell coverage is spotty. It may even be a good idea to have a landline backup. Nothing ruins a business call more than a dropped call. A wireless headset may make working and talking more comfortable for you, while cutting out the noise of your children screaming at each other in the background. Be sure you also have good internet connection, and a battery back-up is not a terrible idea. Have a printer, fax machine, or whatever else you could conceivably need for your business at hand. .And, especially if you are working within an older home, check out the available electrical outlets and capabilities before you start setting things up. Storage – Come on . . . this is a no brainer. And it’s an issue throughout ALL of the house, not just the office. You simply have to find someplace to keep all of the STUFF! Good organization can be the absolute end all and be all of your business. Know where everything is. Have a good . . . . no . . . have an OUTSTANDING filing system. Figure out how far back your files need to go, and how long you need to save things. Save them two ways – electronically, AND by hard copies. Binders often work better and are more accessible than folders. If it keeps middle schoolers organized, it can work for you, too. And invest in a personal shredder to get of the things you no longer need. No sense throwing caution to the wind.
This is perhaps the trickiest part of attempting to get work done from home. Strike a balance. Take breaks. Make personal calls, grab a cookie, check the weather. But don’t get onto Facebook for a “quick view” if you know you’ll end up being on there for an hour or more. If you can head into your home office in pajamas and be productive, great! But if you think that will mentally slow you down, get dressed. And even though it is in your house, do not think of the office as “home.” This is where that door, or at least doorway, can come in very handy. Mentally and physically designate the difference between work and home. Call it “the office.”
A home office can be a wonderful asset, be it for your full time work, or part time or extra work. It is as much a mental challenge as a physical one to build a home office. Just be smart, and be realistic. Make a comfortable, welcoming, inviting space, but separate it from your lounging space. And be sure everyone else in the home is on board with the same rules . . . . when you are in that area, you are AT WORK. Establish definite routines about this, even if it takes some time at first. It may not even be a terrible idea to let the kids use the area for some designated homework time to establish good routines for later life. Again, work is work, and it is important, and home is home, and just as important. But separate.
With a little planning, some family teamwork, and good mental and physical organization, a home office can be a wonderful asset. A little planning and forethought goes a long, long way! And who could beat the commute?!