“Many hands make light work, or make the work lighter”. Many home business owners count on their spouses, family members, and third parties to help them run and manage the venture. As an indication of this trend, the International Data Corporation (IDC) projects that the number of home office households with multiple PCs will soar from 7.8 million in 1998 to 12.1 million by 2002.
Some couples work together on the business full-time. In other cases, the employed spouse help out during his or her spare time. A work-at-home dad may ask his wife to help in terms of keeping the books, invoicing and other accounting matters on a part-time basis. Or the husband can take on the responsibility of finding and managing distribution channels for their products.
Others tap their children and other family members to either be thoroughly involved or do specific chores for the home business – from creating and updating a Web site, to the actual manufacturing of their products. There are many instances where the entire family is involved in the home business.
There are also some who use their homes as the main workplace for themselves and their business partners, co-investors, contractors or even employees. During the start-up phase, business partners can decide to forego a classy office and instead work in the cramped basement or bedroom of one of the partners until the business can support office rental. If the entrepreneur
Creating a home office for multiple users is a matter of putting together several factors and coming up with the best possible location. Your home office must match the work style of your group and qualifies you for a home office tax deduction. The right office space must also promote efficiency and cohesiveness of operation, as well as meet the demands of your group’s and each member’s job.
1. Decide how much space you need.
Space becomes a very important consideration for a multiple-user home office. If you are working solo, a small nook can suffice as your office. However, with several users, you must have adequate space for desks and chairs, and working area for other equipment essential to your business. If your business involves production or assembly of materials, or mailing and shipping, you also need to reserve a large workspace for this activity. You should also have ample storage space for filing cabinets, books and reference materials. The home office should include some space where your group can discuss, brainstorm and hold business meetings.
2. Outfitting your home office.
The layout, kind of furniture and storage equipment will depend on your budget and the size of the home office. If you have enough space, you can opt to use work centers for each of your users, which you can configure into U-shape, L-shape or corner desks to provide more working area and even conference space. There are many space-saving home office equipment available in the market today. You can purchase office tables with hutches for increased storage or work surfaces that slide away when not required. Look for a desk that is equipped with either a keyboard platform (preferably adjustable), or legs that can be adjusted. Check also that the keyboard platform is large enough to support a mouse or other pointing device.
If you have limited space, check out some of the modular home office systems, which are basically combinations of various workcenters. According to BuyerZone, the main advantage of modular systems is that they can be easily installed and reconfigured. This makes them more convenient for companies that will often rearrange or move office space.
If cost is an issue, you can use ordinary but sturdy tables. Align these tables into a row, preferably against the wall, to serve as computer workstations. You can then use the center of the room as your conference and discussion area.
3. Networking your PCs.
In this age of computers, multiple home office users would most definitely need multiple computer systems. Implementing a networking solution is the most cost-effective way to have two or more PCs in a home share applications and files. Setting up a small network allows you to share peripheral equipment such as printers, even Internet access and email. Through networking, you don’t have to have a modem and phone line at every desk to access the Internet, online services, e-mail and desktop faxing. Choose networking products that are simple, easy to install, and easy to maintain. There are a number of low-cost networking solutions available in the market today.
The key in planning a home office for multiple users is to identify the functions of each member, and then design everything -layout, space, equipment, storage space, etc. – based on those tasks. If you are inviting other people to come into your house and work there, you might need a more formal arrangement for your home office, including proper lighting and ergonomic equipment. If it is your son who is helping you out, you can just ask him to work on the kitchen table.
Recommended Books on Setting Up Your Home Office:
- The Smarter Home Office: 8 simple steps to increase your income, inspiration and comfort
- At Work At Home: Design Ideas for Your Home Workplace
- Building the Custom Home Office: Projects for the Complete Home Work Space
- Taunton’s Home Workspace Idea Book (Taunton Home Idea Books)