When I started my consulting business eight years ago, I heard tons of advice about setting up a home office. Everything from – “don’t do it” to “it will take two years to get used to it.” While on the surface, hearing the words “work from home” might conjure up the somewhat blissful vision of a person working in their sweats all day, having a home office does take some getting used to. And in order to be successful, you have to plan the environment for your needs.
If you think about it, when companies design work spaces they do it for maximum efficiency and productivity. When you make the decision to work at home, you want to focus on the same things. Create a space that allows you to be comfortable, efficient and productive.
7 Considerations for Setting Up a Home Office
- Location, Location, Location – Think about the best place in your home to designate as work space. Not only should you think about how much space you will need, but whether or not the space needs to have a door or window. For instance, having a window doesn’t matter to me. But having a door does. I need to be able to separate myself from work. And, the best way to do that…is by closing the door.
I also considered the temperature of my house. My home has an east-west facing. Meaning the back of the house is warmer toward the end of the day. So I intentionally have my office at the front of the house. It stays cooler and I don’t have to deal with too much sunlight.
- Ergonomics – In order to do your best work, you have to be comfortable. And, that comfy sofa in front of the plasma TV starts looking real good after a couple hours in a poorly designed workspace. Your office chair needs to properly support your back. If you’ll be working on a computer from home, make sure you have proper lighting and wrist rests.
I know this might sound elementary, but you’d be amazed at the people who don’t consider taking good care of their posture in designing a home office. It’s one thing to jump in a chair and send off a few bills from a desk. That takes minutes. It’s another thing to work for hours. Reading a few articles on how to take good care of your movements will make you healthier and more productive.
- Communication Musts – One of the keys to working from home is being accessible. I’ve always found my clients didn’t care where I was as long as (a) they could reach me and (b) I delivered on time. This means how you communicate is key, because you are establishing your credibility and creating trust.
Many people use their cell phones as primary communication devices. Which is great. I love my iPhone and use it all the time. But I also know there are a couple of places in my home that the coverage is spotty and I could drop a call. So I have a landline backup. Nothing is worse than being on an important conference call and getting dropped off the line. I’m not endorsing one way over another…just keep in mind how you need to communicate when setting up your office.
Also when it comes to phone coverage, think about whether voicemail, forwarding services and applications like Google Voice make sense to keep you connected to your customers.
My last two-cents about phones – one of the best investments I made was a wireless headset. If you spend a lot of time on conference calls, this could be a lifesaver for you. It’s also great when you’re on a call and someone wants you to sign for a package. Multitasking at its best.
In planning your communication needs, consider other electronics. I know faxing can seem old-fashioned, but some places still use it. A lot.
- Technology – Talking about communication leads to discussions about the internet. If you have multiple computers in your home, a wireless network might be necessary. I’ve had plenty of occasions where the Ethernet cable wasn’t working but the wireless network kept me up and running until a repair was made.
Ever lost a document you spent hours creating because the electricity blinked? Well, don’t let that happen. Get a battery back-up (also known as a UPS – Unlimited Power Supply) for your computer. Trust me. It’s money well spent.
I also can’t resist sharing my technology indulgence. Dual monitors. Years ago, the graphic designer who worked on my website suggested it. If you spend a lot of time on computers, it will completely change the way you work and your productivity.
- Storage – As you finish projects and/or accumulate resources, you’ll have to find someplace to keep all of this “stuff.” First, I’d suggest contacting an attorney who can offer some advice on how many years you need to store projects.
After you know how long to store files, consider how you’ll maintain both electronic files and hard copy. And how you’ll dispose of them as well. I’ve found a wonderful service that brings a truck to my door, destroys files on-site and provides a certificate they’ve been destroyed. So I can rest assured that any confidential info that has been entrusted to me by my customers is safe.
It goes without saying that I use a personal shredder for everyday items.
- Find Your Zone – Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. Need to take 5 minutes to make a personal phone call – no problem. Want to work in your pajamas, no worries. But it also means that work is staring you in the face all the time.
While you might enjoy what you do…you still need time to disconnect. Figure out a routine that works for you. When I first started working at home, I was so concerned about falling into the trap of being undisciplined that I made myself miserable. After settling into a schedule that allowed me to do some things that were important to me – like working out – I was happier and more productive.
- Marketing your office – Even though you work at home, you still want to send the message that you’re a professional. So when I refer to where I work – it’s called the office. Not home.
And since it’s not feasible to hold meetings in my home, I also think about where to hold meetings. Lucky for me, most of my clients want me to meet them at their site. Or they want to meet over coffee or lunch. But find good places to have meetings so you’re always prepared when a customer wants to see you face-to-face.
With more people considering freelancing and consulting, working from home has plenty of advantages. A well-thought-out plan to establishing a home office can offer you a casual, comfortable, flexible place to work that’s also easy to set up and relatively inexpensive to maintain. Best of all, it’s a place where you can really get things done!
Photo Credit: Paladin27