Working from home usually calls for a lot of adjustments from a person who is used to working in a formal office environment. Being your own boss is great, but remember that you are also going to be your own bottle washer. A home office that puts you in the mood to work and which is easy to use and maintain is the best way to be productive. And don’t forget your comfort. The more physically and mentally at ease you are in your home office, the more productive and creative you become.
1.Locating Your Home Office
Your office needs to be as far away as possible from the distractions and activities of the home. If your work does not require people to visit you, the basement or attic are ideal locations. If you do have visitors, the garage offers direct access to your office without the need to enter the house. If none of these options area available, find the room that offers the most privacy and ease of access for visitor (the family won’t be happy to have unknown people entering the home all the time). It must be a space that is used for nothing else – you can’t concentrate if the kids keep coming in to pick up their school books or if your spouse is in and out for domestic work.
2.Arranging and Decorating the Office
Keep it simple. A clean simple office with lots of space to move around will not leave you feeling cramped. Also, the cleaning and dusting will be minimized. As for décor, don’t think you don’t need any. Working in a barren cell like atmosphere can be depressing and slow you down. Try to find a balance between the serious aura that a workplace should have with the brightness of decorations you like. It is your office and it should reflect your personality.
3.The Equipment You Need
It’s tempting to splurge on lots of fancy equipment, but focus on the essentials (you do not want to sink into debt or certainly too much debt when setting up your home office). You will need a phone and an answering machine (or just your cell phone with the charger nearby). A computer or laptop (depending on how much you travel) is essential. So too is a multi-function printer that also copies, faxes, and scans. A coffee maker is a good idea – you don’t want to keep stepping in the home or walking to the kitchen each time you want a cup. Unless you need to stay on top of the news and keep an eye on business channels, avoid having a TV in the office. It can be a distraction and a temptation when something really interesting is being aired. A radio or a music system playing softly in the background can have a soothing effect and boost your productivity.
On the contrary, some things that you do in the office may not require work-like concentration but if you have a TV in your office, you can still accomplish many tasks while being entertained. This is accomplishing two feats at the same time. It is perfectly OK to watch a movie, Fox News, ESPN, Discovery Channel, for instance in the evening while you take care of some business that is vital but does not require silence and a full professional focus.
If you are planning on setting up a home office you will find information on office equipment and furniture suppliers in your area online. If you need professional help, details of interior decorators and remodeling contractors can also be found using the computer in your living room or anywhere in your house or perhaps at your office. That is correct, you are about to make a transition from working outside your home to inside it.
4.It’s an Office, Not a Den
Your home office will typically be used between 8 to 12 hours a day. It can be tempting to use the space for something else at other times and on weekends. Avoid the trap of putting in a few chairs and tables to make it an extension of your entertainment area or using it to chat with friends and neighbors who may drop in for a visit. Once you start doing this, it’s easy to compromise on the use of the room at other times and then two things happen. Firstly you lose out on work time and secondly the office like atmosphere of the space is lost. And if some documents or equipment gets lost or damaged because of the people in the room, who do you blame? Why would you want people near your professional materials, thumb drives, computers anyhow?
5.Managing Your Time
Stay disciplined and try to keep a fixed work routine. Keep specific times of day for checking your email, making phone calls, monitoring your accounts, and so forth. When you are on your own, it’s easy to lose track of time and become disorganized. Having a home office means you can be flexible with your work schedule when there is a reason for it, but to allow home time and work time to get mixed up means that both will suffer. Explain how you need to focus on you work to you family, especially the small kids in it, and emphasize the need for them to remember that even if you are in the attic or garage you are at work and that you cannot be disturbed.
Electronic record keeping has made life much easier. But if your computer is not properly organized, you will soon find yourself lost in a jumble of emails, spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents. Place every document you create or receive in the appropriate folder as soon as you finish dealing with it and you will be organized. Have a well-organized filing cabinet for all your papers – never allow them to accumulate in a drawer. That’s the easiest way to lose important documents.
You can’t work every minute without a break. Keep magazines and newspapers in the office for when you need to take a few minutes off. Do not give in to the temptation to step out of your home office – you will get caught up in domestic issues and your 10 minute break could become one that lasts for an hour or more. Have fixed times for going into the home – for example for lunch or when the kids come home for school. These periods in the home must be of a fixed duration and you need to return to your office on schedule.
8.Getting the Right Software
Stick to well-known software from reputed companies. And buy only from reliable sources so you can be sure that you are buying licensed products that offer service support if needed. If you feel that new software from an unknown vendor could be of use to you, try it out on some other computer in the home so that if it causes a system crash or does some other damage all your work records will be safe. And of course, back up all your data at the end of each day. Keep track of your thumb drives!
9.Maintenance Starts Today
Your office is a place of work and that means that there will be wear and tear on the equipment as well as the furniture and fittings. Preventive maintenance is the key to keeping office equipment functioning smoothly. Have maintenance contracts for the equipment in the office and keep track of the schedule service and inspection dates so that nothing is missed. There’s nothing worse that needing to send off an urgent email and finding that the computer is not working.
10.Planning for Growth
Every business starts with the expectation of growth. Your office should be capable of expansion to meet your increasing needs in the near future. If you think you will need an assistant after your business takes off, where will he or she work from? Have you made provision for another person in the room? Or if you expect that you will need to store large quantities publicity or business promotion materials in the office, have you provided for space for this? You can’t dump it in the house. Just as you don’t want the home to intrude in your office, your family won’t want the office coming in to the home.
Working from home has huge benefits. You save on commuting time and expenses. You work in an environment that you have created. You can, within limits, be flexible with your timings to fit in other important aspects of your life. And of course, you are your own boss. But without discipline and planning all these benefits will be lost because your productivity will suffer and your business will lose its focus and direction.