Last Updated 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.


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.

Last Updated July 16th, 2012

What Are the Advantages of a Standing Computer Desk?

There’s been a lot of talk online lately about the risks of sitting too much, something many of us with online businesses do. Sitting in front of the computer is the simplest way to get work done, after all. But it might be time to reconsider, and use a standing desk at least part of the day.

This article on WebMD discusses the problem. Sitting less than three hours a day may help you to add two years to your life… or to look at it the other way, sitting more than that may take those years off. It’s a risk factor, not a disease, so you aren’t guaranteed to have the problems mentioned, but it’s worth some thought. An article from CBS mentions that sitting more than 11 hours a day doubles your chance of dying from any cause. There’s plenty more information out there for those who are interested, even the study itself from the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Enter the Standing Desk

A standing desk is one of the simplest ways to quit sitting so much without cutting down on your productivity. But you don’t necessarily have to rush out now and buy one. I recommend finding a way to stand and work first, to give it a try. It will take some time to get used to standing all day, after all. It’s not a comfortable thing to do if you’re used to sitting a lot. I remember how easy it was to stand all day when I worked retail, but now it’s difficult.

Some people say they’re more productive with a standing desk too. They say they don’t feel so tired in the middle of the afternoon when they stand more. That sounds like a great benefit to me, as mid-afternoon is often a problem time for me.

You may be able to rig a trial standing desk on your own. Consider ergonomics as best you can. This isn’t an easy thing to do with laptops, where the screen and keyboard are together, but with a desktop you should try to have both the screen and the keyboard at comfortable working heights. There’s no point in getting carpal tunnel, neck strain or another repetitive stress injury just because you didn’t set things up right. That’s why in the long run I’d suggest buying a standing desk… it’s better to have something that’s designed correctly. That said, I’m still at the trying it out stage myself. I haven’t bought one yet.

You don’t have to buy a complete desk. There are setups that can go on top of your current desk rather than replacing the whole thing. There are plenty of complete standing desks available as well, and some have wheels so you can move around easily. The Safco Adjustable Workstation is a good choice, as you can adjust it to your own height and preferences. There are desks designed for laptops as well.

The Risks of Standing

Of course, no one option is perfect. There are risks to standing all day, although perhaps not so bad as sitting all day. That’s life, isn’t it? This article in Time Magazine notes that standing incorrectly all day may increase the chances of carotid atherosclerosis and varicose veins. There’s a balance you should keep to in the work you do in each position.

Another Alternative

The article in Time makes a good suggestion if you don’t want a standing desk but want to avoid the health risks of sitting so much. Get up more often! About every 20 minutes, just move around a little. Heavy exercise not required.

With kids around, this can be easy. I know I have days where my kids barely let me sit at all. Then again, you may also feel more like just sitting when they’re leaving you to work because you need to be productive. You’ll have to really make an effort to make this work.

Of course, I can’t promise you any health benefits or issues at all, standing, sitting, getting up regularly or doing the samba. I’ll leave that to the doctors. Just the same, it’s well worth figuring out what’s going to make the difference in your lifestyle.

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.

Last Updated May 20th, 2012

The Trouble With New Computers

Well, I did get my new computer as planned. Great deal on it too. But it’s quite a jump going from an old Windows XP to Windows 7. It’s the little changes that make life so difficult some ways, and that’s certainly true in the differences between Windows XP and 7.

We decided to officially call my laptop my main work computer. That’s because it’s true. I only use the desktops when I’m doing work that is simply more comfortable on a bigger computer… or rather a full size mouse and keyboard. There are times when I still prefer those.

The new computer went to my husband’s desk, not mine. His old computer will soon be set up on my desk for the kids to use when they want to play games… once I make the time to clean it off, and the dying computer…, well, it’s pretty near dead. Once I’m utterly positive I didn’t forget anything on it I’ll work on wiping the hard drive. Sadly, it’s not as simple as running a couple of neodymium magnets across it. I could have had fun with that, as we have a couple boxes of BuckyBalls Magnetic Building Spheres sitting on the shelf.

Nope, it’s safer to write random data over and over on the old drive.

The new computer is of course way more powerful than the old. That amuses me because it’s definitely a lower end model we bought this time, but not too low, while the old was a pretty good midrange in its day.

On the minus side, I have to consider whether to buy new software or go open source on some of my favorites. I don’t use it much now, but my old computer had Dreamweaver on it. The version I have doesn’t run on Windows 7, so the upgrade would not be optional if I want it on the new machine. Same for some of my other programs.

Then again, I can delay and use my husband’s old machine for such things. Such are the advantages of updating the house one computer at a time. I still have time to figure these things out and find a solution without being completely depriving myself of familiar programs.

The most difficult part with the new computer has been setting up individual user accounts. I had done that lightly with the older computers, and decided to do so for this one right from the start. Shared documents now go into a Public folder, and it took some time to figure that out. I’m still trying to decide how I want to make it so that it includes all my photos when the screensaver comes on. XP did that just fine, but because my photos are separated into subfolders, Windows 7 considers them to be in separate locations. It’s a small annoyance, but I’ve always loved having my photos rotate through the screensaver so they aren’t eternally hidden away on the hard drive.

Of course, one of the first things I did was install my preferred antivirus program on the computer, Avast. The free version works great. Sure, it came with a 6 months subscription to a different program, but Avast is far better rated.

Still, once I get things going, I know the newer computer is going to be a lot of fun to use. My old computer became so touchy in its old age that I barely used it because I would have to restart it before I could do anything. Be nice to not have to do that anymore.

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.

Last Updated July 20th, 2011

7 Steps to an Organized Home Office

A well organized home office is a big help when you’re trying to be productive. It doesn’t matter if everything you do is on your computer and you never have to dig through the clutter on your desk – clutter is a distraction. Most people are more productive with an organized home office.

I’ll be the first to admit that my own office isn’t perfect. The kids often drop off their schoolwork on my desk. Mail gets left there. Don’t even ask me  how the random toy parts got there; I probably don’t even know. But when I take the time to clean things up, I still notice that it’s easier to be productive without all the stuff all over my desk.

Step 1: Get rid of the stuff that shouldn’t be in your home office anyhow.

As I said above, my kids put their schoolwork on my desk, and the mail ends up there a lot. That’s because it’s the first flat surface you come to in my house. Makes it an easy target.

While it hasn’t completely stopped the constant flow of schoolwork, it helps that I bought each of my kids a bin to keep their school papers in. I take a look at how they’re doing, but aside from that, they get to choose when to dispose of their papers if they keep them in the bin. Anything left on my desk is fair game for me to handle as I choose. The kids are still young enough to be pretty possessive of their schoolwork, so it doesn’t take much to get them to move it.

Step 2: Consider declaring the area off limits.

If you have a home office area that is a completely separate room from the rest of the house, consider declaring it off limits. The fewer people come into your work area, they less they’ll mess it up for you.

Obviously, this won’t work for everyone. My office space doesn’t have a door, and it’s also where the kids do their homework and crafts. I have a separate desk in there for them, not that they put their papers there often. Since it’s the second largest room in the downstairs area, I can’t keep it just for me. Just wouldn’t work.

Step 3: Separate professional and personal.

It’s not at all unusual to have a lot of your personal papers in your home office, although if you’re going for the tax deduction you should be trying to keep more of a dedicated office space. But separating your personal and professional paperwork and life in general is important for more reasons than that. It helps you to keep a more professional frame of mind if you don’t have too much personal stuff in the way when you’re trying to work at home.

Step 4: Organize your papers.

My office also has the file cabinet where we keep all our important papers – that’s the other reason the mail ends up in there. Shredder is in there too, so I don’t much mind having the mail in there, so long as the “to be shredded” pile and the “needs filing” pile don’t get too out of control.

Set up a filing system so that you can immediately put new papers in their place. The closer you can get it to a “touch once” system, the better.

My system, for example, has a place for important things that need more handling, such as bills to be paid or checks to be deposited. I don’t want to lose those, so they get a special place away from other papers that may clutter up.

Step 5: Organize your computer work space.

Clutter impacts your computer too. How many downloads do you have that you just haven’t made the time to read yet? How full is your email inbox? If someone emails you, how hard is it to spot that email?

I’m a big fan of filtering my email. This makes it easier to find personal emails as well as professional ones from sources which have contacted me before. Sorting those out makes it a lot easier to scan through the rest, deciding what’s worth reading, what’s just spam and so forth.

Do the same for your work computer files. Set up a system so you can find the files you need when you need them. If you run websites, keep separate files for each site, for example. If you have clients, set up a file for each, and subfiles as necessary for individual projects.

Step 6: Make sure your home office is a pleasant place to work.

Your home office doesn’t have to be a bland, colorless space. It’s yours, after all, and you don’t have to obey any corporate rules about how your office should look. Plants, pictures, whatever you like to make your space more comfortable, just so long as they don’t make the place too cluttered to work in.

I have an orchid I’ll be adding to my home office space just as soon as I get a little more clutter off my desk, a birthday present from my husband. A little green is always nice to have, and the blooms are lovely… I hope I can get it to bloom again in future years.

Step 7: Make sure it’s working for you.

Your organization system for your home office may not work for you the first time you try it. If it isn’t, try a new system after giving yourself enough time to have really tried out your first thoughts in the area. There’s no rule saying you can’t change things up.

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.

Last Updated August 26th, 2010

How Childproof Is Your Home Office?

One of the biggest disadvantages to working at home has to be coping with the kids. It’s one of the biggest advantages too, but that’s beside the point just now. I’m talking about the times that you just don’t want the kids underfoot.

Especially if toddlers are involved. Home offices and computers in particular need to be protected from toddlers! They may not be able to accidentally download a virus yet, but the damage they can do just by randomly pounding keys is nothing short of amazing.

A childproofed office makes it easier to be productive. You don’t have to worry as much if the kids come in while you’re working, and you may be able to keep them out entirely. The challenge is making it childproof in the first place.

Close the Door

If your home office has a door, closing it is one of the simplest steps you can take to childproofing your work area. Younger kids can’t open it and older kids can be taught not to go into your home office without permission or need.

If you don’t have a door, you’ll need to do a lot more childproofing. Realistically, even with a door you’ll probably want to take more childproofing steps for those times one of the kids gets in there.

Establish Rules About Your Working Hours

If you’re working when the kids are awake, you’re going to need some rules about when they can interrupt you. Younger kids will need simpler rules, and if you’re the only adult in the house when you’re working you need to expect some interruptions.

As kids get older they get better at entertaining themselves and can deal with stricter rules. Tell them they can only interrupt you for emergencies.

Protect Your Computer

The computer is a major asset to most home businesses. It’s not just the value of the machine. It’s all the information on it. You really don’t want the kids messing with it.

If you have toddlers around, make sure they can’t play with the buttons on the front of the computer itself. I’ve gone so far as to cover them with cardboard when I’ve had a computer in reach of a child. The power button in particular often has pretty lights on or near it that draw a toddler’s attention and makes the button irresistible.

You’ll also need to protect your mouse and keyboard. It’s amazing what a toddler can do by pounding on a keyboard, and sometimes it’s hard to undo what they’ve done.

You can also protect your computer from toddlers by setting a password so that you have to login when you’ve been away for a period of time. Choose the time wisely so it doesn’t drive you nuts when you’re using the computer.

If your kids are allowed to use your business computer, set up rules that will protect your computer. Require approval on downloads. Be in the room whenever possible when your kids are using the computer. Talk to them at age appropriate levels about the hazards of the internet.

Not just for kids, but to protect your computer from the hazards of being a computer you will need antivirus and antispyware software installed on it.

Keep Cords and Outlets Safe

Kids find cords fascinating. Outlets are pretty neat too. You don’t want them messing around with either.

Most times they won’t get hurt. I’ve had kids unplug things on me, and it’s just a distraction, not a danger. But you don’t want your kids messing with cords, wrapping them around their necks, chewing on them as they teethe, you get the idea.

Find a cord organizer that works for you. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just something to keep the bulk of the cords out of the reach of children.

As for outlets, simple outlet covers do a pretty good job. You can buy covers that protect outlets while still allowing items to remain plugged in.

Know Your Noise Limits

Sometimes the amount of noise your kids make while you’re working doesn’t matter. Other times it’s a big deal.

Buy a noise cancelling headset for your phone for those times that you can’t have background noise on a call. They’re affordable and a big help when you don’t want background noises to make it on the call. They may not get everything if the kids are being particularly loud, but they’re a big help.

Noise can also be a distraction that makes it harder to be productive. Talk to your family about how much noise you’re comfortable with when you’re working in your 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.

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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 I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.