These days, more and more people are taking the bold step of doing at least part of their job at home. A 30-second commute has a lot of appeal, but increasingly, people are opting to work at home in order to create a more humane schedule that allows for more flexibility to attend to family joys and responsibilities. As anyone who has been down this road can tell you, however, working at home has its down side as well. By planning wisely and upgrading appropriately, you can make your home office an excellent work environment where you will be comfortable as well as motivated.
Home Offices that Fit Your Lifestyle and Work Habits
Many people prefer to locate their offices away from the rest of their living space. Attics, basements, and rooms over detached garages are ideal places to locate your residential office. Parents, however, may be in the unenviable position of needing to work in their office while monitoring the kids. Moreover, not all home offices are for at-home employment. Many people use office spaces for writing, reading, musical composition, etc. Hiring an interior designer with specific experience with residential office spaces—and rates to match this minimalist space—can be invaluable in designing the right space for your needs.
Custom Desks, Chairs and Furniture
You might be able to find “acceptable” office desks and chairs from your local furniture store, but your home office is an investment. Many people use their offices every day, or nearly every day. To maximize productivity and minimize stress, joint pain, and poor posture, you may want to splurge on a custom-built desk and ergonomic office chair. Indeed, a finish carpenter can deliver all sorts of custom amenities that aren’t symptoms of indulgence but smart investments for one of the most productive areas of your home and your work life.
Design a Home Office Environment for Visitors
If there is any chance that you will have visits from colleagues, your boss, vendors, subordinates, partners, clients, or others, you must pay special attention to the kind of statement your work environment makes. Whenever possible, have a separate outside entrance so that visitors don’t have to traipse through private family spaces to get to your office. It is very difficult to project a sense of professionalism when you have to pick up toys or laundry en route to your meeting. In most traditional office environments, you have the use of a conference room for meetings. But if your work area stays neat and has room for another table, you may be able to create your own mini-conference area.
Ideally, the office area should have its own bathroom that is off limits to family members. This makes it easy to keep it especially clean and free of the clutter that inhabits the typical domestic bathroom. If you can’t swing a separate bathroom, consider designating one of the family bathrooms for office use. You might want to add additional storage in the bathroom to minimize clutter and make it easier to keep clean.
Wiring and Communication Needs
It usually makes sense to have at least one separate phone line exclusively for your office. If you use the Internet, faxes, or e-mail extensively, additional lines are a good idea. A separate business line allows you to use a professional voicemail or answering machine message. It also gives you the option of using call-forwarding if you occasionally work from another location. A designated business line also makes it easier to keep youngsters from intercepting your important business calls. And, at the end of the day, you can leave the business line to the answering machine or voicemail without missing calls from friends and family.
Another common issue with home offices is electrical power. Copiers, laser printers, and computers use a lot of juice. Check with an electrician about adding a couple of circuits so that you don’t have to worry about tripping the circuit-breaker every time you make a photocopy. More than convenience, you also need to hire a qualified electrician for safety. Many office spaces weren’t originally designed to handle any sizable load-bearing circuits and advanced electrical devices.
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Don’t Forget Home Office Ground Rules!
No matter how well designed your workspace is, you will have to establish basic ground rules for you, your family, and even visitors. If you find yourself making continual raids on the refrigerator, you may need to establish a rule for yourself that limits trips to the kitchen to meal times. A separate business phone line isn’t much use if family members routinely turn to it when the main family line is tied up, and your “conference room” won’t serve its purpose if it becomes a hide-away for empty boxes, half-finished puzzles and spare camping equipment!