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homeoffice2.jpgWhen 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

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  • http://www.officedeskreviews.com Lloyd from OfficeDeskReviews

    Being as I work from home mainly, my office is the room where I spend the majority of my time in my house. You have to put the time and effort into getting your set up right,you dont want your productivity to suffer.
    You’ve given some great advice Sharlyn!

  • http://www.hrbartender.com Sharlyn Lauby

    Thanks for the comment Lloyd! I couldn’t have said it better.

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    Will you get paid money for writing this post – or will you do the writing without getting paid?

  • http://www.AllThingsPrivatePractice.com Tamara G Suttle

    Sharon, thanks so much for this post. As a coach and licensed professional counselor, you touch on several things that I didn’t think about when I started working from home. Location is a good example . . . . Although I have an office that is immediately accessible as you walk in the front door of my home, I did not consider what I would do with my dogs, other areas of the home that are visible to all who enter, etc. Sounds and smells also relate to location. . . . Think about the smell of foods you may have prepared last night and the sound of the washing machine, other residents in the house, and even exterior noises from traffic, neighbor’s dogs, etc.

    I’m happy to link back to your post, Sharon. Thanks again for posting such useful info!

    Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC

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    So when I refer to where I work – it’s called the office.

  • http://carpediemwebs.com Alain Gauthier

    I have been “working from home” for over a decade and I would only add that you must setup a schedule of hours of work. It is so easy to get carried away by the many distractions at home, or to work all the time. I found that setting business hours have helped me keep a balance between my family, my home and my business.


  • Lou Valdini

    I agree with everything you say, and am having difficulty convincing my partner that she needs to focus on our (her) home office working environment since she was made redundant 5 months ago.

    The office has so much accumulated junk from her past employment, where she worked from home for 3 days per week, that I find it hard to navigate from one side to the other without knocking over a pile of paper. There are old bags, shoes, pictures, laptop cases, piles of business cards, notebooks going back 10 years, the contents of her old office, bags full of supplier collateral …and when I ask why she needs to keep all this stuff, all she says is “I’ll have a clear out”. She did that 4 weeks ago, and there seems to be more rubbish now than there was before!

    I think she has problems letting go of the past. She is keeping stuff ‘just in case…’, but doesn’t know what the ‘just in case’ could be. Those of us who have worked from home for some time know you rarely need old stuff.

    She has procrastinated for the past 2 months since she ended her garden leave. The dog gets plenty of exercise, the local Age Concern charity gets lots of help at lunchtimes, she’s always there to help her family at every possible opportunity, she says the Chiswick Auction house has some lovely stuff but you must spend 4 hours there to wait for your bid item (her last visit lost her business worth £500 for 90 minutes work …not her fault of course!).

    Is this common scenario?

    What can you say that will help me to help her, without coming across as Mr Nasty?

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  • GDC

    could not help but notice a typo here. –> (also known as a UPS – Unlimited Power Supply).
    the UPS is actually an uninterrupted Power Supply that allows you to safely save your work and TURN OFF your pc/laptop. The battery will not last forever depending on the load that is is drawing.
    I don’t mean to sound preachy, but there is a lot of confusion over UPS useage where I work and this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.