July 13th, 2016

My New Home Office Is Up And Running! SmartDesk Review

My New Home Office Is Up And Running! SmartDesk Review

It took longer than planned, but my home office is finally set up. Things took longer than planned due to a delay of shipment on my desk, but now I’ve got it! It’s so nice finally having a room where I can work and not be surrounded by the kids.

My desk is a sit-stand SmartDesk from Autonomous. So far I love it. The controls are easy to use and the desk goes up and down smoothly and quietly. There are programmable settings so that I can choose a height for it at the touch of a button. I like the way the desk looks, too.

smartdesk controls

I could wish for some desk drawers, but in my office they aren’t all that necessary – I have a wall of cabinets and drawers in here. Something right at the desk would be nice, but I can always get a file cabinet for that purpose.

standing deskThe desk is stable even though it’s on carpet. My carpet has excellent padding under it, which is nice when I stand. No matter the height I put the desk at, it doesn’t wobble at all. I’ve heard wobble is a problem with some standing desks, but that’s not a problem I have with mine.

Setup was a bit challenging but not all that difficult. The directions were almost entirely in picture form and it was sometimes a little hard to see what to do next. About all you have to do is put the screws in the right place, so it’s not that hard to figure out.. The desk is very heavy, so I had to have my husband help with parts.

The really neat part for me was that I was able to go out and pick up my desk directly from Autonomous. They’re currently located less than 10 miles from me in a town called Mentone. That saved me the shipping fee, which was a nice price break. That wasn’t an actual deciding factor for me in the purchase, as I had already decided on this desk, but it was a wonderful bonus.

I bought the most basic desk, but Autonomous offers some interesting upgrades for those who want more features. One accessory kit offers things such as a speaker, USB charger and wireless charger, while the other offers an AI Personal Assistant, Smart Home Controls and more. The top is real wood – mine is just painted black but you can have white, oak or walnut, or even a bamboo top. The price was only $299, which is much cheaper than other sit-stand desks of similar quality. Some options will increase the price.

My cats aren’t certain what to think of my SmartDesk. They’ve each had a ride on it, which didn’t frighten either very much but I don’t think they liked it either. I’ve put a folded blanket on one corner of the desk so that a cat can nap on my desk without being much in the way – we’ll see if that works or not. As my cats follow me everywhere in the house (I can’t even use the bathroom alone), I wanted to have a spot for them.

I will be adding a monitor to my current setup. I use a laptop right now, and while I can put my SmartDesk into an ergonomic typing position, that leaves the screen lower than is ideal. It should be easy enough to find a monitor and monitor arm to add to my setup. Eventually I’m thinking desktop computer and dual monitors but my husband isn’t yet convinced that I need to upgrade that much. We’re trying to go easy on spending (still getting used to the expenses of home ownership), but it will eventually come to the “this is a business expense, not a personal purchase” point, when I know it will be easier to afford.

My office chair is nice too. Comfortable and a bargain I couldn’t resist – $5 at a garage sale. It was a little dusty but works perfectly and is in great condition now that I’ve cleaned it up.

All in all, I love my new home office setup. I may decide to add a cat door so I can close the door without the cats scratching at it, but otherwise it’s working well.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 21st, 2016

I Can Finally Use My New Home Office

New Home Office

When we bought our new house last October, one of the things I adored about it was the space for a home office. It’s a nice size room in an awkward space for any other use – that is to say, pretty much the perfect space for a home office. Just a little private from the main flow of the house. Naturally, its first use was to store all the stuff we didn’t have a place for right away when we moved in. But no more. I have it pretty much cleaned out, and the first piece of furniture in.

The first piece of furniture isn’t office furniture as such, however. It’s a futon, because this room will also be a guest room. Not often, but family circumstances dictated that I make it ready as a guest room even before I buy a desk and get it in there, because it may be needed for a guest soon. But the futon folds up into a rather nice couch, and so I can use the room itself as intended while we don’t have company.

Yesterday was the first day I was able to do that, and it was wonderful! My husband wasn’t feeling well after a blood draw at a doctor appointment, so he left work early and came home. I arrived home from grocery shopping, and there he was in the living room, sitting on the couch watching a movie. He offered to turn it off, but I pointed out that my office was now a perfectly good option for me.

The futon isn’t the perfect solution for my office, but I have plans to buy a standing desk soon. I even think I know which one – the price is great, and the company even has an office less than 10 miles from me, which was a big shock. Usually nothing is close to me except maybe the grocery store.

Still, I was able to work pretty well in there. A door to close really does help with distractions, which I have known for a long time. Before, the bedroom was my only choice if I needed to close my door, and that’s just not as good as a dedicated office space.

With summer vacation not all that far off, I really have to get this office set up the rest of the way. My desk will take some time to arrive, but it looks as though I’ll be able to pick it up rather than pay for delivery, which is wonderful. Here’s hoping I can have a really productive summer in my new home office!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 18th, 2015

How to Set Up a Productive and Comfortable Home Office

How to Set Up a Productive and Comfortable Home Office

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.

Equipment

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.

Storage

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.

How Dedicated?

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.

Rules

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.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 22nd, 2014

Why Use a Battery Backup/UPS for Your Home Business Computer

Why Use a Battery Backup/UPS for Your Home Business Computer

A good computer is a vital part of your home business. There are few that don’t rely on a computer at least a little. It’s important to protect your home business computer from damage due to power surges and outages. A battery backup or UPS is the best way to do this.

Most people at least use a surge suppressor, but having battery backup is much better, as a surge protector won’t give you time to shut your equipment down correctly in the event of a power outage. This is less of an issue for laptop computers, of course, as they already have a battery, but it’s very important for desktop computers.

How Much Battery Life Do You Need With a Backup?

A backup battery system doesn’t have to have a long battery life when the power’s out. These aren’t necessarily about running your computer through the entire outage – it can be about giving you time to shut your computer down correctly. Most power outages aren’t that long – aside from storms or other natural disasters that knock it out for days – making a long batter life less important. If long term power loss is likely to be an issue for you, take a look at generators and make sure it’s something safe for your computer.

Number of Outlets

You will also want to consider how many outlets you need on your UPS. Most will have a combination of battery backup with surge suppression and just surge suppression outlets. That’s because you not all your electronics will need battery backup. Make sure you know how much you really need. You’ll probably want both your computer and monitor on battery, for example, so that you can handle the shutdown if your UPS doesn’t come with software to do that for you. Your printer probably won’t need the backup – you’ll just have to do any printing after the outage.

You should also be able to plug in the other cables your computer needs, such as Ethernet or coaxial cables.

Warranty

Take a look at the warranty offered with your UPS. It should cover not only the UPS itself but your equipment.

Models to Consider

A good backup battery or UPS is easy to find, but of course the models will change over the years. What I recommend here is good now, but do your own research to pick the right one for you.

Anything APCAPC is the most popular brand of UPS right now. Their BE550G is very popular and reasonably priced on Amazon. Prices change, so of course I won’t be quoting prices. The BE550G runs on battery power 3 minutes at full load, 13 at half load.

If you want to get something better so you can keep working rather than need to shut down completely during an outage, the APC Smart-UPS SMT1500 lasts longer. The product page on Amazon has a chart showing how long it lasts under different loads. This one is quite a bit more expensive than the BE550G, but it’s a very good choice if you need more power during outages. I don’t think most will need this much power, so I would personally stick to the lower price ranges.

There are of course APC models in between these two. Check a variety of models and think about what it is you need before you buy.

Cyberpower is another good choice. I think the Cyberpower CP1500AVRLCD
is a good choice. The price is reasonable and it’s a tower style, so it can fit in a thinner space.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

January 13th, 2014

Should You Add a Play Area to Your Home Office?

Should You Add a Play Area to Your Home Office?

When you work at home with small children, one big consideration is how you deal with the kids while you’re working. Smaller children need a lot more attention, and it’s not always easy to figure out how to make it all work. The temptation to add a play area to your home office can be enormous. But is it the right decision?

That depends on a few factors. We’ll start with the problems with adding a play area.

Tax Issues

Adding a play area for your kids may mess with your ability to take a home office deduction. If you aren’t taking that deduction, obviously this is not an issue, but it’s something to consider and bring up with a tax professional if you want the deduction. I can’t tell you for certain how it works if they only play while your work, but if the kids use your office for a play area or homework at other times, it’s absolutely not going to work. A home office must meet an exclusive use requirement, and letting the kids play in there is going to mess with that.

Distractions

Kids at play are distracting. Possibly less distracting than wondering what they’re up to in the other room, but still distracting.

This can be a huge issue if you’re on the phone a lot, whether as a customer service representative or talking to clients on your own. Kids playing can be anything from a minor distraction to the reason you lose your job. Know whether or not you can afford the distraction.

Child Safety

There are risks to having your child play in your home office too. Odds are there are a lot of power outlets with cords coming out, your chair may have wheels that can roll over small fingers or feet, kids may knock things down. If you want your kids in your home office, make sure you look at how you can make it safe for their age.

Of course, there are advantages as well.

Kids Are Right There

This can be a huge advantage with small children, if they let you work. No worries about what they’re getting into. They’re in easy reach if they need you. They get to spend time with you even though they aren’t your main focus when you’re working.

You’re Setting an Example

I believe that work at home parents can set a very good example for their kids. You’re showing them how to make work a part of their lives, how you help support your family. I like making sure my kids know that there’s more to life than being a mother, even when I’m prioritizing motherhood.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.