When Kelly Merten started her career as a professional wedding coordinator working out of her home, her focus was solely on how to get her business off the ground. She hardly gave any thoughts on where what part of the house she will work. She started working in the den, then moved to the dining room. In some days, she worked in her bedroom. Then it was back to the den. Even if she spent more than half of her time outside of the house, all the shuffling back and forth eventually forced her to seriously consider finding a spot in her house that would become her permanent home office. She had one problem, though: she had no clue how to turn a room into a workspace.
Despite the growing number of people who work at home, the field of home office design is still in its infancy. There are no guidelines on how to set-up and organize a home office: the equipments needed, where to put these equipments, how long the worktables and cabinets should be. Creating a home office becomes even more of a challenge if you are working at home with your spouse: there are hardly any his-and-hers modular office furniture systems out there. Homes are usually not designed with business in mind, so you will have to do some creating thinking to make your home office work for you. Still, there are proven principles to keep in mind when putting together a home office that works.
1. The choice of the location of your home office is crucial to the success of your business.
Many home business owners assume that all they need is a little corner of a room, yet they end up being all over the place. Having a central place of work will allow you to conduct your business efficiently and function more productively. No more “where did I put that receipt?” complaints or running across the hall when the phone rings. It should be spacious enough to allow you to conduct all your work — from preparing your report, organizing records, paying the bills, and making business calls. Architects recommend that a home office should at least measure 10 by 10 feet.
2. The size and set-up of your home office will depend on the nature of your work and the number of people using the office.
The ideal home office should contain adequate space for a desk, chair, and computer; as well as storage and shelf space for files and books. But its actual size will depend on your business and how you will use it. If your business requires assembly or manufacturing of products, you may need a long table in your office. If you have clients visiting your office for meetings or work sessions, then you will need a couch or meeting area. A separate entrance to your office is also recommended, as well as an access to a guest bathroom. You do not want your business clients tripping on your children’s toys, and compromising the air of professionalism that you need to project.
3. Your budget will determine the kind of work surfaces and storage of your home office.
An efficient workspace is not cluttered, so make sure you have plenty of storage space. It is not safe or visually appealing to maneuver around stacks of papers piled on the floor.
- Look for furnishings that serve dual functions like an armoire that can store files and house the media equipment at the same time.
- Stackable wire or wicker file baskets are good alternatives to boring, metal file cabinet, or consider painting old file cabinets a color that coordinates with the room.
- Think vertically by adding shelving, cabinets and bookcases over your work area to increase space and accessibility for frequently used items.
- Place all things that are essential to your work within easy reach of your office chair. Store less frequently used materials and equipment in a nearby location.
Many new home owners are incorporating a home office into the construction plans of their houses. However, if built-ins are too expensive for you, modular office furniture systems are your most affordable option. Modular systems — which typically include desks, computer tables, bookshelves and cabinets – are flexible and can be expanded as your requirements grow. If budget is a problem, look around your home and find pieces of furniture that you can use for your business.
4. Lighting, both natural and artificial, is an important part of the equation.
Corporate offices put great emphasis on the quality of lighting – and with good reason. Poor lighting causes eyestrain, and your home office should be situated in a place where good lighting exists.
If you are fortunate to have a window in your home office, try to place your desk facing the window. A view of the outside may seem like a distraction, but sunlight has been proven to increase brain activity and efficiency. If you are working with a computer most of the time, avoid putting your monitor in areas that produces glare such as the back of the window or skylight. If your office is near a window, be sure to put draperies or blinds to cut down glare.
If you have to situate your home office in an underused area of the house, consider investing a several light sources: ambient, multiple task lights and anti-glare fixtures for computer work. You can place either fluorescent, incandescent lights, or recessed lights to brighten the room. Use smaller task lights to illuminate specific work areas.
5. Your home office should be scalable and ready for expansion.
At the start of your home business, you may be operating with the barest of equipment and facilities. As your business grows, your office needs to have additional outlets to accommodate electronic equipment such as faxes, copiers, and shredders. 6. Proper planning can minimize conflicts between your business and your family. When operating a business out of your home, chances are high that conflicts may arise between your business and your family. You cannot expect your children to tiptoe quietly across the room just because you are on the phone with a client or supplier. Expect your family to run around the house, interrupt you, and demand your attention when you are trying to work. Your best bet is to use a separate room as your home office, as it structurally separates your business from the rest of the house and you can close the door.
6. Add personal touches to your home office.
Whether you opt to decorate your office in the same style as the rest of your home or choose a totally different look (using a few simple home staging tactics), your home office should reflect your personality and interests, while being both functional and attractive.
There are plenty of personal touches you can add to make your office a fun, inviting and productive space.
Here are some to try:
- Paint the walls a color that makes you feel good and also enhances the space. Consider using fabric for curtains or decorative pillows.
- Match your office accessories to your décor by using similar colors, finishes and accessories.
- Cork boards, white boards and blackboards are perfect for posting reminders, calendars and motivational messages and an easy way to track important appointments and ‘to-do’ lists.
- Have a basket or container with crayons, paper and games on hand to keep children occupied while you finish work.
- If pets are a part of your life, designate a comfortable spot for them.
- Use flowers or green plants to create ambiance and add color to the room.
- Incorporate a table top or wall mounted fountain for the soothing sound of water.
- Hang artwork that you love and creatively display collectibles.
- Include personal photos or a favorite poster, or frame a child’s artwork and hang it on the wall.
- Add seating (space permitting) for visitors and for meetings.
- If you are working in a basement or room that is lacking architectural character, create interest by adding a colorful area rug.
7. Think comfort!
Comfort is essential for doing a good job if you work at home.
- Make certain you have a comfortable office chair.
- Ensure your keyboard is at a comfortable height.
- Attach a headset to your office phone to free up your hands and avoid a stiff neck.
Putting your personal imprint on your home office sparks creativity, prevents you from feeling isolated and makes you feel comfortable. Remember, you’re the boss! You should have fun decorating your home office by implementing a few of the above home staging techniques.
Recommended Books on Setting Up Your Home Office:
- The Smarter Home Office: 8 simple steps to increase your income, inspiration and comfort
- Building the Custom Home Office: Projects for the Complete Home Work Space
- At Work At Home: Design Ideas for Your Home Workplace
- A Space of My Own: Inspirational Ideas for Home Offices, Craft Rooms Studies
- Taunton’s Home Workspace Idea Book (Taunton Home Idea Books)