One of the things I look forward to most in my new home is setting up my own home office. I haven’t had a space other than my bedroom to work where I can close the door if necessary before. The new house has a lovely room for an office with lots of cabinets and space. It will take some time before it’s fully functional as a home office – I don’t want to spend a ton of money so soon after buying a house. Still, it’s fun to plan ways to make my home office productive and comfortable.
Your office equipment is the most important part of a good home office. Consider what you need for the work you do.
For me, the big thing is a good computer. I have a nice laptop, although with a home office I may eventually look into a good desktop system with dual monitors. There are times when it would be nice to have a second screen to work on.
Take the time to set up your equipment neatly. One of the most frustrating parts of my recent move was untangling all of the cords behind the entertainment center and at the computers. A few zip ties or velcro straps can get these under control. It also looks nicer.
A decent desk and chair are also important. These are things I would need to look for – the way things have been rearranged at the new house, there isn’t a spare desk for me, or an office chair. Kitchen chairs can be moved around, but they really aren’t comfortable for a work day and I do not want that as a long term solution. Short term, sure, I can handle that. Long term, ergonomics are important. The sooner your desk and chair are ergonomic, the better.
Consider ergonomics with your keyboard and mouse as well. The wrong setup will cut into your productivity and may cause physical pain.
You should also consider if you need a dedicated office phone line, video or audio recording equipment, a printer, and so forth. A carpet protection floor mat is important if your office chair is on carpet – it also makes rolling your office chair around more comfortable.
Lighting is important. Windows are great for natural light and maybe even a nice view, but you may need more, depending on the time of day. My office has a ceiling fan, so I’ll have gentle cooling and light in one, which is nice. It’s pretty, too. You may need task lighting for particular activities.
Sufficient storage matters in your home office. If you work almost entirely online, your storage needs may be minimal. On the other hand, you may have significant storage needs.
My office has storage that far outstrips my needs. There’s an entire wall of cabinets and shelves. These will be used for other things, not just my business needs. Pretty much the only thing it lacks is a file cabinet… good thing I already have one of those. Doesn’t match the cabinets, but I have one.
Think about the supplies you need daily, weekly, and so forth. Are they accessible? Will it interrupt your work to get supplies when you need them? Are they in the way when you aren’t using them? The organization and storage of your work supplies depends on your needs, and your setup should reflect that.
Not everyone can have a home office that is 100% a home office. Many use the space for multiple purposes – often a guest room. So long as you can use it exclusively most of the time, it can help you be more productive. Be aware of IRS rules for the home office deduction if you take it.
My new office will probably also be part library and part guest room. That mean bookshelves and a futon or sofa bed. We’ll see what we find. The big thing is that I will be able to work without being interrupted when I want.
Solid rules for when your family can come into your office are very important if you want to be productive in there. You don’t want to be interrupted for every little thing, yet you may want to be readily available to your family for the right reasons.
Talk about your expectations with your family. How much are you hoping to work each day? What hours? When can you be interrupted? What are your expectations of the other adults in the home?
These rules may vary by the ages of your children. An infant may well be in the office with you, a toddler may come and go fairly freely if you’re the only ones home, but as children get older they should be able to manage quite a bit without your help, and come in only for emergencies.
Don’t forget about friends and neighbors who might drop by during the day or call on the phone. Will you accept personal calls or drop in visits? The more you treat your home office as a professional working space, the more professional others will view you. That means you should expect your working hours to be respected just as they would if you worked outside the home.
Common Home Office Setup Mistakes
Setting up your home office wrong can limit your productivity. Try not to make these basic mistakes.
Having too many distractions in your home office is a big mistake. Don’t put a TV in there if you can help it. It’s much too easy to watch TV when you should be working.
Don’t let your kids’ stuff clutter your office. I’ve done this one, allowing my kids to put papers from school on my work desk. Big mistake – it’s better to have a place where children can put things that need your attention but won’t distract you while you’re working. Our new house has a small built-in desk that I’m using for mail and papers from the kids. I need to organize it better yet, but it’s an improvement over putting it all on my work desk.
Do personalize your space and make it pleasant to be in. Office plants, photos and basic decor can make your home office a much more pleasant place to work.
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