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Opening the Door to Home Working

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I’ve noticed that articles giving advice on working from home frequently claim it’s essential to have a separate room so you can close a door on distractions during the working day and then shut work behind you at night. They imply that if you don’t have a spare room you shouldn’t really be thinking about working from home. Is this true?

Whereas some people may prefer this as the ideal way of working, experience and many home workers tell me it most certainly is not essential. Which is fortunate, as the price of property means many family homes are already full to bursting and the cost of acquiring an extra room or two is prohibitive.

Think Differently about Your Workspace

So what to do when you want to start working from home? A new home worker told me it was a case of thinking differently about the space she did have. Sharing a London flat with a flatmate, she didn’t want to work in either the kitchen or living room, as those were the rooms for relaxation after work. Nor did she like the idea of working in her bedroom, as business and sleep are such mutually exclusive activities! But then… a brainwave.

She had the brilliant idea to put a desk in front of her bedroom window, to take advantage of the view and keep her back to the rest of the room. Even more cleverly, she chose a glass desk and clears her work away into a wardrobe, newly fitted out with shelves, at the end of the day. The simple see-through desk now ‘disappears’ into the pink curtains at night and she gets her bedroom back.

Another option is to find a space that’s currently wasted and put it to good use. A freelance writer has created her own research and writing zone by putting a desk under the stairs and pinning pictures and cuttings on the wall. Neat and out of the way, but it instantly spells work-time when she settles down there.

Understand Your Personal Workspace Needs

The kind of work you do means you might not need a permanent base at home anyway. I know a photographer who sets up her laptop on the living room table when she needs to do some editing, and the rest of the time is out and about taking pictures. Similarly, you may spend a lot of time at meetings, travelling or on clients’ premises.

I’d hate to think that people might be put off working from home just because they don’t have a dedicated office. Even if you do, it may not be the answer for everyone. I’ve met home workers who have spent time and money setting up a nice home office, only to find they hate being there because they feel too cut off from the rest of the family! As with any other aspect of workshifting, you get the best results if you understand your own needs, even if that goes against the conventional wisdom.

Photo Credit: Citrix Online

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  • Homeworker

    Having worked from home for 12 years, I started out in a former walk-in closet but that was just a bit too confining. Then I used a portion of the master bedroom for a few years, but my spouse tends to sleep later than then start of my work day which led to issues with conference calls and the turning on of lights. Eventually we doubled the kids up in a bedroom and took over one of them and it is really ideal. I can close the door for conference calls but leave it open when I want to hear the sounds of the family. If you have a dog, make sure you have a door so you can keep them out of the office during calls; nothing sounds as unprofessional as a dog barking or a kid crying in the background.

  • http://www.onourbikes.com/ Jon Stow

    Having a separate room means our work time is respected and not interrupted. If you live with anyone else there will otherwise be distractions even if it’s only the TV on in the background.

  • http://www.dogsafe.ca Michelle Sevigny

    I used to have a large work desk and shelving unit in the middle of my living room. My one-bedroom apartment became my office and I found it difficult to maintain work/life boundaries — not good! I de-cluttered my office and moved all work related materials into one closed-door cabinet that is in a nook in my hallway. I dedicated my kitchen table as my office desk and at the end of my “work day”, everything (laptop, monitor, paperwork) gets moved off the table and onto a very small trolley that sits in a corner. The table returns to a dining table with two candles in the middle. This signals to me that my work day is over and family life resumes.

  • http://jivaldi.com/ Digital Diva

    I work from home at one of my jobs and away at the other. I also go to school from home, so I am pretty accustom to mentally kicking it into gear. I have an office and a spare room and I dont use either. I get more done with my laptop on my coffee table because it is always there and in my face. I rarely have put it down if it is front and center nagging me to get things done !

  • http://www.marketingelf.com Shannon

    I recently turned a closet into my home office. Definitely beats working at the kitchen table for me. You can check it out here along with my inspiration for doing so: http://marketingelf.com/work-at-home/presenting-my-new-home-office/

  • cpgpeople

    Wow! So beautifully timed! I have been working from home for 3 years in an office space in a nook in my bedroom. It has turned into a major point of conflict n my household. I need a door! I’ve been putting off moving to the spare bedroom, but this post has reinvigorated me! I’ll be moving shortly! Thanks!

  • http://www.workfromhomewisdom.com Judy Heminsley

    Thanks for the great comments!
    cpgpeople, I’m glad the post has got you moving and hope you enjoy your new home office. Do send me a photo if you’d like to share – the home office pages on my website are very popular.
    Shannon, I’ve had a look at your closet turned office and it’s ingenious.
    Lots of stuff here to encourage workshifters and home workers to find their own solutions. What a creative bunch :-)