With today’s ever-growing opportunities to work outside the confines of a traditional office building, it could become a reality sooner than you think. Why not set up your home office to include all the “bells and whistles” so you can get the job done quickly and efficiently?
Try some of these 8 essential ideas to help you improve home office productivity while enjoying a little more freedom:
Before you do anything else, you’ve got to find the best spot in your home to work. While it might be convenient to have a desk in the corner of your family room, kitchen, or even next to a reading space for your kids it’s probably best to find a quieter place away from distractions.
If you don’t a have a dedicated den area, think about converting an existing space like a bedroom or little-used formal living room or dining room. Add French doors to separate the area from the rest of the home and create a quiet environment that’s more conducive to work.
No extra room available? How about setting up your office in the basement? This renovation project will require some extra time and money, especially if you’re going to partition off the area, but you’ll be able to create a much larger and more private workspace than you could in the upper living area.
If you’re a DIYer or need a building contractor to frame in your basement office, you’ll want to first make sure the space is dry and stable. If the area is damp or musty, you should run a dehumidifier to eliminate the excess moisture. Any water leaks should be repaired and concrete walls coated with waterproof sealer or paint.
You’ll want to insulate the walls to keep winter chills away. Also, consider building a bathroom and small kitchen nearby for convenience, to reduce distractions, and stay as productive as possible.
Check building codes before starting construction to make sure you’re in compliance. New codes may require an egress window in addition to the basement stairs for emergency exit. If you plan to meet with clients in your home, you should also consider adding a separate exterior entrance. This will definitely require the expertise of a contractor to safely cut an access door through the basement wall.
No matter where you locate your office, you should carefully layout the room for maximum utilization. Sketch out the floor plan on paper to determine the most efficient set-up. It may be helpful to note all the dimensions of furniture, filing cabinets, and equipment so you can be sure everything fits and is easily accessible.
You can’t be productive if you have to get up ten times a day to retrieve something from your printer or filing cabinet.
The Right Lighting
No matter where your office is located, lighting is the most important component of the room. You’ll want to create a warm, inviting space so combining smart functional lighting with good task lighting will be needed.
Natural lighting from windows, skylights, or solar tubes is best for mood and causes the least amount of eyestrain. Unfortunately, not every place in your home will always include enough natural illumination.
Recessed lighting works best if spaced properly. They don’t take up valuable desk space and don’t cause glare off your computer screen. Use compact fluorescent flood lights for maximum brightness and energy efficiency.
Add wall sconces, pendant lights, table lamps to create more ambience to the office space without compromising functionality.
Today’s office is a technological wonder. For the ultimate home office productivity, you’ll need seamless connectivity for all your equipment. This will mean extensive electrical wiring and adapters to connect a network router, email server, and telephone or VoIP service. Make sure you have high-performance equipment and high-speed internet service with sufficient bandwidth to manage all your work and home Wi-Fi, communication, and streaming requirements.
Don’t forget to protect your equipment from damaging electrical disturbances with surge protectors. Check with your local electricity provider for whole-house surge protection so all the appliances and other electrical components are safe from power spikes too.
If your home experiences frequent electrical interruptions, you may also want to consider installing a back-up generator. There’s nothing worse than working on a project for days only to have the time wasted when the power goes off.
While personalizing a typical office space is often limited, your home office comes with endless possibilities. You get to choose everything from the paint colour to the artwork to the flooring and everything in between. You shouldn’t be afraid to add your own style to the room, you should be careful that the decor doesn’t create a distraction. Stick with a neutral colour palette for a clean, visually pleasing area.
Flooring should be determined by the room location. Upper-level offices can use hardwood, laminate, or low-pile carpeting. Basement offices will require a little more research to make sure the flooring is moisture-resistant and won’t warp or cause mold and mildew to grow.
Although natural sunlight shining through the windows can lift the spirits, too much glare or heat in your office will make you lethargic and uncomfortable. Get the most out of your daytime work by adding blinds or shades to your windows that can be adjusted during the brightest hours.
Add some decorative artwork, accessories, and some plants or greenery to soften your environment. This is where you can let your personality shine through with a few accent pieces and bring your home office to life.
Furniture and Equipment
You’ll probably use a desk as your primary workspace, so you’ll want to give careful consideration to your needs. Depending on the type of work you’ll be doing, your desk should fit the tasks. Options include a traditional wooden or steel desk with a large top and drawers (with hanging files), a modern glass top with sleek legs, a standing desk with adjustable laptop surface for a healthier, less-sedentary option, an antique drop-leaf desk with cubbies, or a table with credenza. No matter what style you choose, consider one with enough workspace and separate storage cabinets. Keep your desk uncluttered for a clear mind, timely task completion, and for the most productive work environment.
Don’t skimp on your office chair. To reduce stress on your spine, invest in an ergonomic office chair. Select a chair that fits your body (not too big or too small), that swivels 360 degrees, and has casters to move easily. It should also have armrests and adjust easily up and down.
While your employer may provide equipment that you can use at home, you may also be responsible for purchasing a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet, a Smartphone, and a desk phone. Your type of business will dictate what capabilities are needed to be most productive.
If you use a keyboard or laptop for extended periods, invest in a wrist guard to protect again carpal tunnel syndrome. Purchase a raised laptop or monitor desk stand to position the screen at eye level. This will promote better posture and reduce neck strain from looking up or down for extended periods.
No home office is complete without a multipurpose printer. While you may do most of your work online, there are always going to be documents that need to be printed or scanned, or copied. Save time and money by investing in a wireless printer with Bluetooth capabilities. New units print, scan, fax, and copyright from the convenience of home.
Keep confidential information from prying eyes by including a paper shredder with your office equipment. They’re inexpensive and are the best option for disposing of sensitive data.
Don’t worry about losing important documents in case of a fire, purchase a fire-safe box. They come in various sizes and security levels (key or combination access) to protect from theft also.
Storage space for all your supplies, such as pens, paper, printer ink, business cards, paper clips, etc. can be as simple as a roll-around cart or built-in cabinets. Traditional filing cabinets with a key lock might be best for document storage, while open shelving may work fine for industry-related books or reference materials. Keep everything organized and easily accessible for the most efficiency.
The Last Word
Working from home can save time, money, and improve your quality of life. Careful planning of your home office location, layout, lighting, connectivity, decor, furniture, equipment, and storage can improve your home office productivity and might even inspire your boss to let your work from home more often. Wouldn’t that be nice?