Eight Simple Tips to Create the Ideal Home Office

Whether you work from home full time or after hours, it’s important to create a space that works for you and meets your needs. If you’re wasting time each day trying to find supplies, client files and other important information, it may be time for a home office overhaul.

There are a few simple ways to get started.

1. Location, location, location.

The old realtor term still rings true. Where you set up your home office can affect your productivity. Before you decide where in your home to set up your home office, carefully evaluate every room and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Will you actually work in this space? You may set up the perfect office but still work in your kitchen or on your bed.
  • Will you be distracted often? If you decide to set up your home office in the kitchen, how much privacy will you have?
  • Is there enough lighting?
  • Is there enough room for all of your equipment, files, and supplies? A room with a closet or space for a storage cabinet or furniture that can hide supplies is ideal.
  • Are there enough electrical outlets?
  • If you don’t have wireless Internet, how difficult would it be to get Internet access in this space?

The answers to these questions can help you find the best space for a home office.

2. Forget flimsy furniture.

Instead, invest in functional furniture that gives you plenty of storage space for files and supplies. Whether you want to use a simple writing desk (ideal for a laptop computer) with a lap drawer for supplies or a large desk with drawers for supplies and files, decide whether the piece is functional.  Also, look for an ergonomically correct desk and chair as well as a bookcase to store reference and business books.

3. Use the right arrangement:

Decide whether you want to set up your office using one of these arrangements: L-shape, Parallel, U-shape, corner, or reverse corner arrangement.  The arrangement you choose depends primarily on the size of your office, the type of furniture you have, and how much work surface you will need.

  • The L-shaped work area offers the important advantage of getting equipment off your desk and onto a secondary surface.
  • The U-shaped work area allows you to keep everything within reach on three surfaces. All you have to do is swivel your chair one way or the other while you work.
  • The parallel layout generally positions your desk facing into the room and your secondary surface behind you. Although the two surfaces aren’t next to each other, you can easily access everything you need.
  • The corner arrangement and reverse corner arrangement include a desk with returns on each side. The desk either faces into the corner or out into the room.

4. Be creative with file storage.

Instead of using a grey, metal file cabinet to store your files, think outside of the file box.  You could store files in a wooden or wicker ottoman, below a window seat with file frames inside the drawers, or inside a decorative wooden trunk.  A good way to keep files you use often nearby is by using a desk with at least two deep file drawers. Set up an easy-to-use filing system using hanging folders for main categories with interior folders (they’re cut lower than manila folders) inside.

5. Save space within your home office by using all-in-one equipment that prints, copies, scans and faxes documents.

The Brother MFC-J615W is a great example because it has a compact, modern design that doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it looks great in any home office. The smaller footprint (and often low price) of these machines makes them ideal for most space-challenged home offices. Keep storage space on your computer to a minimum by storing information online through a virtual filing system, and eliminate the need for a special photo printer by using an online photo processing service.

6. Avoid the corporate office look.

Let your home office reflect your hobbies and interests, whether they include photography, golf or anything else. Hanging photos you’ve taken or photos of gorgeous golf resorts can add interest and color to your home office. A well-designed home office can make working in that space more enjoyable. For privacy and to minimize the effects of direct sunlight, add window treatments.

7. Think twice before you share your home office.

You may be a stacker and keep papers stacked all over your desk and floor, while your spouse or an assistant needs his or her work area completely clean.  Designate one part of your home office for you and the other part for anyone who shares your home office and if possible, don’t share a desk.

8. If you’re going to meet with clients in your office, set up a space within your home office that includes guest chairs and a meeting table or coffee table.

A dining room is ideal for client meetings mostly because most people rarely use them, the space usually is clutter-free and it’s readily available at all times.

Take a close look at your home and decide whether it’s time to move your home office or take steps to make it more productive.

Lisa Kanarek is one of the nation’s leading home office experts and the author of several books including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life. She is the founder of HomeOfficeLife, a firm that advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and is founder of the blog Working Naked (www.workingnaked.com).

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