Working from home offers many unique advantages to working from an office. From the flexibility of setting your own schedule to eliminating the daily commute, working from home is a trend that is on the rise. However, working from home successfully requires creating an office space that will promote efficiency in the midst of a non-traditional work environment. Consider the following when setting up a professional work space:
Make a detailed list
Before designating a space in your home for an office, make a list of the most basic needs for your office. Your list will need to include items such as a desk, office chair, computer, fax machine, telephone, etc. Don’t forget the smaller items including pens, pencils, calculator, stapler, and sticky notes. For those small businesses that will be in the business of shipping and receiving, a simple utility knife box cutter designed to pierce cardboard without damaging carton contents is also important.
Those who offer consulting services should consider additional storage in the form of fire-proof file cabinets that can be locked and perhaps space to meet with clientele. As you create your list, think about all the ways in which you are going to use your new home office.
Choose a Dedicated Area for Your Office
With list in hand, you now have a better idea of how much space you’re going to need for your home office which will assist you in dedicating an area of your home for that purpose. Ideally, the home office should retain some level of privacy and quiet – especially if you share the house with a spouse, children, pets, or a roommate. If possible, choose a room that has a door which can be closed to filter out noise from the rest of the house. If you will be welcoming clients into your home office, think perhaps of setting up near the front entrance of the house.
Most people don’t have unlimited amounts of space to set up a home office, so a bit of creativity is in order. Good organization is going to be a requirement in this case to maintain the professional space you need. Consider, does your room have enough space for both storage (files and supplies) and to spread out your work? To create more work and storage space, could you build a laminate countertop over file cabinets as the base? Think through your plan carefully as the goal is to create an organized office that meets your basic needs.
Install Proper Lighting
Natural light is a welcome addition to any home office. When possible, choose a room or space that lends itself to natural light. A work space with good natural lighting is easily enhanced with more direct lighting. For offices with little or no natural lighting, direct lighting is key – from general, overhead lighting to task lighting such as desk lamps and floor lamps. Be mindful of creating a space (including the position of your computer) that will provide balanced lighting to minimize eye strain.
Install a Dedicated Business Phone Line
Reduced overhead is one of the biggest benefits of working from home. But in pursuit of savings, don’t overlook items that could cost you in the long run. A common pitfall of home businesses is using the home phone line to conduct business, which includes sharing voicemail for both home and professional use. The less professional home line may cause your clients to question your professionalism. Make sure to have a dedicated phone line installed for your home office, which may also include using a cell phone.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in working from home is separating your personal life from your professional life. First and foremost, set up a bank account for your business that will keep you from mixing personal and professional expenses. Try to store personal checks, records and mail in another place in your home. When it comes to tax time, keeping things separate will also aide you in the area of tax deductions, which are increasingly scrutinized. The more you can prove that your office is completely separate, the easier time you will have in meeting IRS requirements for a home office.
Establish Office Hours
Another way to differentiate your personal and professional lives is to establish office hours by setting typical hours for your work week. Keeping standard hours helps your clients to know that you can be easily reached. Setting office hours can also help in minimizing distractions and drop-in visits from friends and family.
Adding a clock in your office is also a good idea. It will help you keep track of your business hours and from consistently going over time, which is often a real challenge for those working from home. While it certainly is up to you if you choose to work a 14-hour day, there comes a time when you need to call it a day and shut the door to your office until tomorrow.