Setting up a home office
As vast numbers of British workers strive to create a more equal work/life balance, setting up shop at home has become an increasingly attractive and viable option. While more people are choosing to work from home as self-employed agents, seven in ten large employers and a growing proportion of smaller businesses are now also providing their staff with home working opportunities.
For those just starting out, setting up a home office can be a rather daunting prospect, particularly if you do not have an employer at hand to offer support and advice. There are few resources available on the internet for what, at first glance, could be considered a relatively straightforward process. However, this guide will navigate new and existing home workers around the various pitfalls that can beset even the most well intentioned workers without the proper planning and consideration.
Location, location, location
Companies put a lot of thought into choosing the ideal location for their offices, as a proper working environment can massively boost productivity. While people working from home won't have to worry about accommodating two hundred employees into one office, choosing the right space for their needs is still a vital process.
- Try and find a dedicated workspace - If possible, it is a good idea to set up a space permanently dedicated to business, such as a study, computer room, attic or spare room. This will minimise the risk of distractions from other people living in the house and other things shared rooms, such as the TV. You will also be able to keep your business affairs separated from your personal life at the end of the day.
- Consider how much space you will need - While an artist will need room for easels, canvases and supplies, a writer may only require enough space for a desk and chair. Make sure you have enough room to work at home. Don't cramp yourself in.
- Choose an area of the house that is well lit - Nothing is worse than working in gloomy conditions or under false light. Choose a space with windows that will provide natural light and keep the air circulating if it becomes too hot and stuffy.
- Avoid the noise - Try and set up away from noisy and distracting areas of the house such as the front door, kitchen or bathroom. If you have loud neighbours, try to work away from a shared wall.
- Project a professional image to visiting clients - If you will be holding meetings with customers, it is better not to have to give them a tour of your home to get to your office. A ground-floor working space is the best bet in this situation. Also, consider parking options, and access to your house.
Mapping out your home office
Once you have designated a space for a home office, it is a good idea to take measurements so you know exactly how much space you have to play with. Sketch a layout of the room and map out where all the furniture and equipment will go.
- Cast an eye over your kingdom – It is a good idea to place your desk so that you can see the entranceway to your work area and are not startled by visitors. This will also create a more professional environment for clients than if you have your back to them when they enter.
- Set out the space logically – If you will be making a lot of phone calls, it is a good idea to keep the phone close to your desk or primary work-area. Similarly, keep important documents close to hand. The aim is to create a layout that maximises efficiency and work flow. Most importantly, make sure you know where everything is kept. Labels can be priceless!
- Keep it tidy – Design the space in a way that will maintain an air of organisation and minimise clutter. It is a good idea to keep a rubbish bin handy so that unwanted mess does not build up. Put away supplies that you do not need every day.
- Use multi-purpose equipment to save space – If space is an issue, try to find furniture and equipment that can perform different purposes, such as an all-in-one printer, scanner and copier, or a storage cabinet that also provides a work surface. Furniture that can be rolled out of the way is also useful in a tight fix.
- Light the way – Think carefully about lighting your home office. Poor illumination can cause headaches, eyestrain and fatigue. If working for long periods, choose a light source that is both long-lasting and energy efficient. Lighting the wall behind a computer monitor can reduce eyestrain, while a quality adjustable desk lamp can provide the flexibility needed to ensure the best illumination in different situations.
- Don't forget storage – One thing often overlooked by people working from home is the need for storage space. Remember to use the whole area at your disposal. Shelves mounted on the wall provide useful storage for home office supplies and do not take up any floor space.
- Keep it lean – Your home office is a place of business and it is important to keep it as just that. Unless they are required for work, you don't need to include televisions, games consoles or other distractions that will only take up unnecessary space.