by Jeff Wuorio
As the number of people starting home-based businesses has increased, more business owners are putting effort into making their home office a more functional place to work. It doesn’t take much to make a home office today. Just clear some space, hook up a computer and phone, and — presto — you have your home office. That may make for a decent home office — even a perfectly good one. But it won’t make a great office, one that’s as comfortable and productive as you can make it.
Here are six ideas to help you make your home office great:
1. Invest in your office. As mentioned before, it’s no great chore to piece together a workable home office. But to make it a place where you can excel, you need to put thought into it. For example:
● Invest in a chair that’s ergonomically correct and comfortable and a desk that’s big enough but not oversized.
● Give thought to the best physical arrangement possible. Tip: Kathleen Alessandro, president of Energized Solutions, a Michigan company that specializes in office arrangement, suggests a “U” shaped setup to promote efficient flow: Keep material coming into the office on the left of the office, keep ongoing work in the middle, and keep items headed out the door on the right.
2.Leverage technology to the max. Use various kinds of technology to make work more efficient and productive. Some suggestions:
● Go wireless. When possible, maintain wireless connections with all computers, printers, and other gear to afford as much flexibility as possible. “Wireless un-tethers the home officer. I really do work from bed, the kitchen table, the patio, even the hammock,” says Florida writer and speaker Jeff Zbar.
● Consider digital storage. One of the great challenges of a home office is adequate space to store records, notes and other material. Consider digital storage. This allows off-site storage in a separate location that can be accessed via the Internet. It’s not only convenient, but also is an added measure of safety if your home office or computer is damaged.
3. Keep things light. People with home offices consistently emphasize the importance of abundant, focused lighting that keeps your office bright and functional. For many, that means more than just a desktop lamp. Notes Stacey Udell, a New York public relations consultant: “I work from home and could not survive without an abundance of natural daylight.”
4. Make it an inspirational space. Anyone who works from home can occasionally become discouraged by the natural ups and downs of business. Combat frustration by decorating your office with reminders of why you’re there in the first place — awards, certificates of achievement and other upbeat mementos.
5. Got dead space? Use it! Home offices should make use of every square inch to be as productive as possible. Yanik Silver of SurefireMarketing.com in Maryland installed a large whiteboard on one wall of his office. “I can brainstorm and plan my projects where I can see them right in front of me.”
6. Use great work habits. Making a home office exceptional isn’t simply a matter of a great layout and all the latest technical gizmos. Also think about how you work within that space. Along those lines:
● Be ruthless with paper. Even the best laid out office can malfunction if you don’t maintain efficient paperwork procedures. Try to think carefully about how to handle paperwork in an orderly and, if necessary, cutthroat fashion, says Utah-based Christi Youd, author of Organize Your Office for Success. “As you handle each piece of paper,” ask yourself: Can I discard this yet? Can I delegate this? Can I handle this in 60 seconds or less? What heading do I want this filed under in my files?”
●Set rules for others. Your beautiful, clean, up-todate office, arranged in the most optimal fashion, is likely not the place for a Schnauzer gnawing on computer paper or your five-year-old screaming about Dora the Explorer. So, one final element to a truly great office is a firm set of guidelines that delineate when you’re available and when access is verboten.
Draft those guidelines and share them with family members and others. This lets you enjoy the best of both worlds: a productive workspace and a proximity to your loved ones — but on your terms.
Jeff Wuorio is a writer, author and speaker based in southern Maine. He writes about small business management, marketing and technology issues. You can find Jeff ’s business and finance tips by following him on Twitter @jeffwuo.
*As seen in Lifestyle magazine.