How to Set Up a Workable Home Office

An example of a functional home office
Marty Nelson/Flickr

Working at home is routine for many adults. Whether you use your home office for paying bills or running a company, there are some basic things that are needed. Get some solutions for setting up your home office so that it works just how you need it. To begin planning, let's look at the top five needs and solutions for a great home office:

Choosing the Space

If your space is limited, you may need to get creative. By removing the clothes pole and installing electrical connections, you can easily convert a closet of any size into a workspace. You could even install a working desk at the top of some stairs.

If you are spending a lot of time in your home office, you might prefer a better view and more room. Identify space that is infrequently used, such as a guest room or dining area. Using an armoire for papers, a computer, and printer allows the entire workspace to be behind closed doors, for instance. Your working space will be able to extend into a larger area.

Plan What You Need

Plan ahead for all the things that you'll need to work comfortably and efficiently in your home office and keep your project within budget. Start with proper temperature control and lighting. Have a telephone installed in the space or be sure to have a portable phone available. Your desk chair will be moving around in the space, so flooring should be a hard surface, at least near the desk. If you're fortunate to have a window nearby, select window coverings that will allow you to control the light in your area.

Writing Surface

Probably the most important piece of furniture you'll have will be your desk or work surface. Whether you select a custom-designed desk or use two file cabinets with a door stretched across them, it should be large enough and the right height to comfortably do your work. If your space is limited, draw out a floor plan on graph paper and move the shapes around until you find a workable space. To make the most of the limited space, have shelving installed behind your desk so books and supplies will be easy to reach.

Sit in Comfort

Select a chair that is comfortable, the right height, and provides proper back and arm support for the type of work you will be doing. If you like to put your feet up, have a small footstool (about 10" high) under your desk. Install a slide-out keyboard holder so that your computer keyboard is the right height for easy and comfortable use. Place your computer mouse in a place that is accessible and provide cushioning for your wrists.

Look for resources and information about ergonomic office furniture before you go shopping—don't just go out and buy a desk and chair. If you plan ahead, you'll be able to work comfortably and efficiently and enjoy your work-at-home lifestyle.

Lighting

It's extremely important to have proper lighting in a home office. To reduce eye strain, have lighting installed over your reading area, on the computer, and behind you so that there's no reflection off the computer monitor. Place the computer monitor a comfortable distance from your chair so that you don't need to squint or use reading glasses to read the screen. By reducing eye strain, you'll be able to work longer and more safely.

Less is More

Of course, you want everything you'll need at hand, but you'd be surprised what you can live without. Clutter is very distracting and reduces efficiency, so sort through your supplies and get rid of anything extra. Get your schedule, your routine, and your workspace organized, and you'll work better.

If your storage space is limited in your designated home office, find a place in another area of your home for items and supplies that you use less frequently. Include power surge protectors to protect your computer and information from electrical power outages. Make sure you store your backup disks in a different part of the home.

Plan for Visitors

If you have clients in your home office, keep things as professional as possible—be sure that they don't have to walk past a sleeping baby or dirty kitchen to get to you. Consider the privacy of your work. If clients will be waiting for an appointment with you, provide comfortable seating, a reading light, and interesting literature.

Add Color

Add personal touches and color to make the space more inviting. Select a decorating style and add patterns, window treatments, and furniture to express that style. You can even use this space to escape to some style you'd not want for your whole home, but love anyway. Store office supplies in style by using decorative baskets or cover boxes with interesting fabrics. If you have any wall space at all, be sure to include either artwork or photos that you love.

By planning your home office space, getting it organized, and decorating it to express who you are, you'll enjoy it more. Your work will be better, you'll appreciate being at home, and you'll have the perfect place to work—your home.