It's getting more and more common to work from home. It's not just freelancers, but small business owners these days choose to save money on renting a office and its associated overheads. There are also many people who telecommute either full time or a few days a week. And there are job sharers, people who share their job with other colleague and they sometimes have to deal with work issues on their 'off' days.
If you work from home, here's some essential tips and tricks for setting up a home office including design and planning, home office furniture, computers and some really useful gadgets, software and other productivity tools you may not have even considered.
Things You Will Need
PLAN OUT YOUR HOME OFFICE
First you will need to do some planning. Here's what you need to think about:
HOME OFFICE INITIAL CHECKLIST1. What room am I considering?
2. Why is this room good?
3. What part of this room and why?
4. Do I have enough space for all my stuff?
5. Come to think of it...what is my stuff?
6. Is it quiet enough for me to take work calls and concentrate without distraction?
7. Am I able to separate my work life from my home life in this space?
8. What do I need ?
9. What do I want?
10. What do I already have that I want to keep and make use of?
11. What do I need that I don't have and will have to buy, borrow, beg or steal!
12. How much money do I have to spend on this home office?
13. Is anyone else going to using this space, or any of these home office items (such as my computer)? What do they need/want? For example, will any clients or work partners be visiting from time to time. If so, perhaps a little coffee table and chair must be useful.
PICKING THE RIGHT ROOM/SPACE FOR YOUR HOME OFFICE
Generally speaking it is better of course to have a separate room that you can turn into a modern home office filled with all the right equipment that you need and enough space to store everything related to your work including files, reference materials, stationery, business card holders etc. If you don't have a separate room that immediately comes to mind, is it possible that you can split an existing room into two? You don't necessarily have to get an interior designer to come in and put up a solid wall.
For example, you might create a home office within a room by putting up a wall divider. A large bookshelf makes a great divider as it can also serve as useful storage and it is a good sound dampener. Or a trendy screen might work too.
Using a corner of a room and putting a home office corner desk can be an excellent use of space. A corner home office desk creates more work area for you, and the corner of rooms is often under-utilized.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A SPARE ROOM
If you do not have a spare room, use your imagination. Could your attic or loft be converted? What about the space under the stairs? Or could you open up a small closet area and have a pull down desk? There are companies who specialized in bespoke home office designs who can create practical and stylish built in home offices for you.
IDENTIFY WHAT YOUR HOME OFFICE NEEDS
Write down a list of what your home office design needs. Don't forget all the admin and storage you might require and also items that will help make your office more comfortable or will help you to concentrate.
The home office furniture basics are:A desk
A comfortable desk chair
Some drawers (lockable)
Home Office Workstations require:A computer and related equipment (computer mouse, mouse pad)
A reliable internet connection (perhaps with wireless router)
Or better yet: a printer, fax and photocopier all-in-one. These all-in-one printer/copier/fax machines used to be temperamental and a compromise in all areas, but these days, they have become much more reliable and are a great choice. Ricoh and HP are good brands.
A home office phone. Ideally you would have a separate business phone number. Try to get a business phone line with conference call / call waiting / built in answering or message service, call forwarding and call transfer.
As for the home office phone itself, the actual phone unit that is, it would be useful to get a cordless one, one with capability for more than one phone line, name directory, speakerphone, music on hold, a mute button (very important if your dog or even loved one starts barking, or if you have Oprah switched on a little too loudly!), recorded greetings on your voice mail, call logs, last caller quick button, call forwarding and screening. That sounds a lot, but you can get surprisingly cheap ones that have most of those functions and can probably make a good cup of tea while you are at it.
Office Stationery: the essentials
Spare printer cartridges
Data storage: CD or DVD Roms, thumb/flash drives, portable hard drives
Envelopes and stamps
Books and magazine racks
Business card holders
Desk tidy or pen pots
Letter tray or "in and out tray"
Paper clips, fasteners and pins and clips
Sticky tape and tape dispenser
Blank white stickers
Box of tissues
Date stamp and other useful stamps. It's worth making stamps for things you are always writing such as your business name and address.
Home office essentials that you probably haven't thought about
A business continuity plan. In short: what will you do if there's a fire or accident in your home office?
It is essential that you have a proper business continuity or emergency plan.
First: make sure you are regularly backing up your computer files and making copies of other essential documents. Just ask yourself: if there was a fire, flood or other major accident in my home, what do I need to have a copy of in order to keep my business running? Do not store your essential back-ups in your home. That does not make it a back-up plan! Store it at a trusted friends or relatives, or invest in a safety deposit box at a bank.
HOME OFFICE SAFEI think it is definitely worth investing in a high quality home office safe. One that is fire and flood proof (note: that does not cancel out the point made above about making back up copies of your home office essentials and keeping them in a separate location). Not only does it need to be fire and flood proof but it should be heavy enough or secured so that it cannot be easily stolen by thieves. And sometimes you are not only protecting your office from thieves buy from curious little family members who might accidentally use your important documents to construct their next doll house.
HOME OFFICE / BUSINESS INSURANCEYour home insurance may not be enough to cover your home office business. Surveys suggest that 5 to 60% of home offices are uninsured or worse still, not insured properly at all. Office insurance may cover business liabilities, damages caused by business interruptions, damages to business functions caused by cyber criminals, data loss or damage and others. It's absolutely vital that you invest in business insurance for your home office.
A MINI-FRIDGEDoes a mini-fridge sound like a home office essential? Nope? Think about it. You want to avoid the tempting distraction of popping into your kitchen every time you want a drink or snack. The kitchen may be the worse distraction for you and your home office business. Having a mini fridge or at the very least a water jug and snack tin will save you from a potentially time-wasting trip to the kitchen every time.
A discussion with the other members of your family about the lines of work vs play
It is another essential when creating your home office that you tell the other members of your household where the lines are drawn between your work life and your home life. Tell them at what times you may be interrupted (unless it's an emergency) and what is your home office equipment and furniture which may not be touched, and what is ok to be shared and/or what time it can be shared. An understanding family is a key part of a successfully run home office set up.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to 'how to set up a home office'. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions on how this article might be improved. And if you want to show case photos of your particular home office set up, please get in touch and I will try to add them in.
Here's to your efficient, practical and comfortable home office!
Tips & WarningsHere are some bonus tips for you when it comes to setting up your home office.
Find out the price of PRINTER TONER CARTRIDGES for your printer-copier-fax all-in-one machine
Did you know that many printer / photocopier companies do not make much that make profit margin on the machine itself? The serious profits come from the replacement toner ink cartridges. Make sure you find out the price for toner cartridges before you invest in a machine. They can be very expensive and prices vary widely from model to model.
Invest in an additional computer monitor.Dual computer monitors can increase your efficiency by over 50%. It's hard to believe until you get one, but it makes so much difference when you can see more of your work and when you are able to have several computer functions up at once without having to re-size windows or move them around. I like to have my emails on one screen and my working document in hand on the other screen. It makes a HUGE difference to your overall productivity.
Buy a wireless bluetooth headset with built-in microphoneThis is another gadget which can really increase your productivity and comfort. You can conduct phonecalls and be typing on your computer comfortably and still be heard and be able to hear clearly and without the other person on the line being able to hear your loud typing!
Consider in advance your place and time to take a breakAs mentioned, I think the kitchen can be a dangerous distraction for any home office worker. So you might want to consider which areas of the house you can go to when you are on a break and which remain out-of-bounds. And think about when you can take a break and try to schedule and keep to those times.
Finally: dress for work. Don't work in your pajamas!
Try to get yourself mentally to create a divide between work and home. Dress up for your work just as you would if you were working in a proper office. Don't slouch around in pajamas and unbrushed hair. Dress like you mean it and you will instantly get into work mindset.