from home offers many benefits, including minimal interruptions from
others, the lack of a commute, and the ability to work at any hour.
Whether your home office is in a spare bedroom, converted dining
room, or den, organization is the key to making your home office more productive.
When you work for
yourself, a loss of time due to an unproductive home office not only
means lost money, but potentially lost clients, slipping credibility,
and stunted business growth. Deciding which room will make the ideal
home office, how to furnish it, and how to keep information flowing
through it is easy if you take time to plan ahead. The following are
several ways to simplify this process.
As you consider
your options, keep in mind that you don't necessarily need to set up
a traditional office with a big, executive-style desk and an
old-fashioned, four-drawer filing cabinet. Function is better than
appearance. You can spend hundreds of dollars on furniture that looks
impressive, yet lacks enough storage and workspace. Think creatively.
Turn two, two-drawer filing cabinets into a simple desk. Place a
large piece of wood, laminate, or glass over them, and you will have
the top surface and filing room you need. An old kitchen
table-for-four can be converted into a workspace for compiling
marketing packets or press materials. If you need to keep your
workspace compact and unobtrusive, consider using an armoire with
enough space to house your computer equipment. Plan ahead by
measuring your space before you buy any new furniture. You might see
a desk or filing cabinet that fits your decor, yet is too large for
the room you have selected. Also, before you buy anything, check for
quality. "You get what you pay for" is the key phrase to remember.
The Right Arrangement
There are three
basic arrangements for your home office (excluding built-ins). The
arrangement you choose will depend primarily on the size of your home
office, the type of furniture you have, and how much work surface you need.
The L-shaped work
area offers the important advantage of getting equipment off your
desk and onto a secondary surface. For example, on a computer stand
perpendicular to your desk (or credenza that you could use as a
writing surface), you could place your monitor, keyboard, printer and
fax and place your CPU underneath.
If you have the
room, you may consider adding an extra surface to create a U-shape.
This arrangement is ideal because it allows you to keep everything
within reach on three surfaces. In a U-shape, to the left of your
desk you might have a computer workstation that houses all of your
electronic equipment. To the right you might have a credenza, table,
or lateral file cabinet with a fax machine and a phone/answering
machine. A stand-alone phone could be placed on your desk, if you
don't want to use your fax phone or if you have a separate line for
business. With this layout, all you have to do is swivel your chair
one way or the other while you work.
With this layout,
your desk faces into the room, and your secondary surface is behind
you. Although the two surfaces aren't next to each other, you can
easily access everything you need. One surface could be your computer
desk or table that holds all of your computer equipment and fax, and
the other a desk that holds your phone, files and supplies you use
daily or weekly. Another option is a traditional desk that holds the
items you use often and the other secondary surface a credenza
(either a standard credenza or one that doubles as a computer stand).
Keep in mind when
setting up our computer that the monitor should be at a right angle
to a window to avoid glare. If you have to place your monitor in
front of a window, use some type of window treatment to cut down on glare.
where your home office will be, carefully evaluate every room in your
home. Even if you've had the same home office for years, it's always
a good idea to reevaluate your current set up. There may be a better
place for your home office.
An extra room is
the ideal place for a home office, but not everyone has a room to
spare. If you don't, the next best choice is to use a portion of an
out-of-the-way room such as a guest bedroom or your dining room.
Before using a
particular room for your office, ask yourself a few questions:
By answering these
questions, you may find that there is a better alternative. If you
have selected a place where you won't work, it doesn't matter how
functional your office is.
You may have to
spend some money fixing up the right spot for your office. For
example, you might want phone lines installed or have an electrician
put in good lighting or electric heat. Think long term. It's better
to invest in the right location than to settle for a space that costs
less but will no longer suit your needs in a year or two.
"handle paper once" is unrealistic. Instead, do something
with each piece of paper to move it forward, by following the acronym P-A-P-E-R.
Put it in a
stacking bin. Stacking bins are a temporary place to put papers you
want to read or file (they're larger than stacking trays and sit on
the floor) and should be cleared out each week.
Act on it. Take
action on the piece of paper at that moment.
Put it in a file.
If you have the time, immediately put papers in the appropriate
current or reference files.
information from the paper on your to-do list and file it. For
papers that require action soon, make a note on your to-do list of
what needs to be done on the day you are going to take action. Then
file the paper in the appropriate current file until you are ready to
work on it.
Rid yourself of
means either recycle it or trash it. Keep hanging file folders to a
minimum. Rather than put only one manila folder inside a hanging
folder, group three to five related files inside, and label each
hanging folder with a main category. An optimal number of documents
within each manila file folder is about 20 sheets. Periodically go
through your files, and toss papers that you no longer use.
searching for the supplies you need by fighting the urge to stash
supplies wherever they will fit. Instead, designate a specific place
to store your extra supplies, stationery, and products. Store items
logically within a closet, or shelves or drawers within your office,
and group them by item. This leaves you with only one place to look
for one type of item.
Creating the ideal
home office is easy when you take the time to find the right location
and set-up for your home office. After designing a filing system that
reduces the time you spend searching for papers, you'll save time and
increase your productivity. After your office is organized, you'll
have more time to focus on your business and maybe have enough time
to start another business. HBM
Lisa Kanarek is a
nationally recognized home office expert and the author of Organizing
Your Home Office For Success, Everything's Organized and 101 Home
Office Success Secrets. She is the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com, a
firm that advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of
working from home.