How to Set Up a Workable Home Office

Plan Your Home Office for Greatest Efficiency

Marty Nelson/Flickr

Home offices are no longer relegated to a corner of the basement or inside a small closet. With more and more people working from home, the home office has become an important space in the largest home or the smallest apartment.

With the average home office using a computer, fax machine, copier, shipping facilities, and internet connections, a small desk and chair in a corner just don't work. 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.

When I started writing this website, my computer sat in a space on a stair landing. It still does. But the space has been adapted to my needs and my comfort. So how do we begin? Read on.

To begin planning, let's look at the top five needs and solutions for a great home office:

Identify the Space for Your Home Office

If your space is limited, you won't have as many choices. By removing the clothes pole and installing electrical connections, you can easily convert a closet of any size into a workspace. I installed a working desk at the top of some stairs in my home.

If you'll be 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, the entire workspace can be behind closed doors. Your working space will be able to extend into a larger area.

Plan Your Work Area

Think of all the things that you'll need to work comfortably and efficiently in your home office. 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. Select window coverings (if you're fortunate to have a window nearby) that will allow you to control the light in your area.

A Place to Write

Probably the most important piece of furniture you'll have will be your desk or work surface. Whether you select custom-designed cabinets and writing surface or use two file cabinets with a door stretched across them, this is where you'll spend the most time, and it should be large enough and the right height to most 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. 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.

I like to put my feet up, so I have a small footstool (about 10" high) under my desk. Find resources and information about ergonomic office furniture before you go shopping.

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.

Find out how to Set Up a Home Office on a Budget.

As you're planning your new home office, 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.

Light the Way and Save Your Eyes

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 in a Home Office

Of course, you want everything you'll need at hand, but you'd be surprised what you can live without--such as 6 pairs of scissors or 10 pens. Sort through your supplies and get rid of anything extra. Clutter is very distracting and reduces efficiency. Get your schedule, your routine, and your workspace organized and you'll work better.

Identify a space for printer paper, computer program manuals, and reference books. Place the mail in the same place every day and have the telephone within arm's reach.

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. Store back-up disks in another part of the home.

Plan for Visitors

If you will be having clients into your home office, be sure that they don't have to walk past a sleeping baby or dirty kitchen to get to you.

Keep things as professional as possible. And 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 Some Pizzazz for Fun

A home office doesn't have to be serious even if the work you do there is. 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. Or use this space to escape to some style you'd not want for your whole home, but love anyway.

Add organizational accessories such as baskets for papers and mail. Cover boxes with interesting fabrics to store CD's, tapes, and office supplies.

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.

Read on for information on Setting Up a Home Office on a Shoestring.