Whether you’re making the move to full-time telecommuting or simply need to set up a space in your home to manage your professional and personal business during your off time, successful functionality of a home office depends largely upon your preparation and planning efforts. By following these ten tips, you’ll be on the road to a practical and pleasant home work space in less time than you might think.
- Choose Your Space – Before you begin your home office project, you’ll need to determine what you need from the space and what area of your home can best provide those things. If you live in a home with roommates, a spouse or small children, for instance, you’ll almost certainly need a space that has a door you can close to minimize distractions. Take the time to carefully consider each available room or alcove in your home before settling on the space that you’ll turn into a professional island.
- Make a List of Essentials – The essentials on your list will vary from someone else’s, based upon the work that you plan to do there and the tools that those jobs require. Decide which items are non-negotiable, separating those items from ones that would simply be nice to have and those that would be luxury items that are ultimately superfluous.
- Determine Your Budget for the Project – Unless you have an unlimited line of credit and a healthy enough income for money to be no object, you’ll need to plan out a budget for your home office project. Determining how much you can afford to spend will also help you decide what items are essential, as space is likely to be at a high premium in a home office.
- Plan to Have More Storage Than You Think You’ll Need – When you choose your storage options and begin planning for their placement, it’s best to opt for more than you think you’ll ever need. Paperwork, expense reports and pertinent documents have a way of multiplying over time, and you’ll need a place to keep them all.
- Think Vertically – Don’t be hemmed in at eye level. Shelves that reach from the floor to the ceiling can be your best friend when it comes to storage in a small space, which should be one of your highest home office priorities. Look for ways to maximize space by moving things upwards.
- Invest in a High-Quality Chair – If you plan to spend any time at all sitting at your desk, it’s imperative that you have the right chair. Improper height and support levels will leave you with neck and back pain, and can also lead to repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Don’t Skimp on Equipment – It’s perfectly natural to want to decorate your home office in a way that showcases your style and makes you feel at ease, but it’s best to sacrifice some of the decorating budget in order to ensure that your essential equipment is of high-quality. Replacing a twenty dollar printer every two months, for instance, may save you money in the short term, but it’ll really cost you in the long term. Buy sturdy, good-quality equipment whenever possible to keep frequent replacements at a minimum.
- Keep Essentials Easily Within Reach – Figure out which items you’ll be using the most, and make sure that they’re easily reached from your desk. Being forced to get up every five minutes to rummage through bins and drawers for an item you need to complete a task will kill your productivity, and probably leave you frustrated as well.
- Don’t Underestimate the Value of Good Lighting – Eyestrain can lead to headaches, and is more than uncomfortable all by itself. Make sure that your office is well lit, investing in desk lamps if overhead lighting doesn’t seem sufficient. This is an absolute essential if you’ll be working at night.
- Separate Work Business and Personal Business – If you plan to use your home office as a place of business, you’ll need to make sure that your personal and household documents have their own space. Even if those items only have one shoebox dedicated to their storage, keeping them separate from your professional paperwork will help you when tax time rolls around.
Though it’s certainly more comfortable to work in a well-decorated, aesthetically-pleasing space, you should focus more on the functionality of your home office over style. A beautiful desk that isn’t big enough to hold all of your supplies, or a dainty shelf that can’t handle the burden of your books might be better suited for more decorative rooms, rather than the space where you plan to complete business and personal finance-related tasks.