Selecting and Preparing Office Space

Follow this advice to avoid a substandard home office space.
well designed workspace will enhance efficiency

well designed workspace will enhance efficiency

Figure F

Statistics indicate that about two out of every 10 adults regularly work out of their home, and about three out of 10 do so on at least a part-time basis. Statistical projections suggest that those percentages are expected to grow by about 10 percent annually for the next few years.

When conducting business from home, a common mistake is to attempt to work from a poorly arranged makeshift work space -- such as the dining-room table or in the corner of a dark basement. Such informal arrangements generally don't work for the long term and don't usually facilitate productive work. A well-designed workspace will help enhance your work efficiency as well as your overall work experience.

Because you'll be spending a lot of time there, it pays to consider some critical factors before beginning the process of setting up a home office. Among initial considerations are the location of the workspace, furniture selection and placement, good lighting, coordinating the appearance of your office with your home's decor and acquiring some tools and skills for getting and staying organized. Look at the process of setting up a home office as an opportunity to custom-design your own personal work environment to your own standards and ideals.

Often a spare bedroom makes a suitable location for a home office. If you have such a space that you'd like to consider converting to an office, begin by taking some measurements and making a rough sketch of the room's layout.

Make a list of your equipment needs (desk, computer, fax, phone, copier, file cabinets, etc.) so that you can begin thinking about placement of these items in the office layout. Concentrate on limiting yourself to items you actually need or will use very frequently.

Make note of the availability and placement of existing electrical and phone outlets in the room. You may want to take measurements with respect to the outlets to further help you plan the layout. Unless you're planning to add a phone line or additional outlets, the location of your existing outlets may partially dictate the placement of some of your furniture and equipment.

Think about how the office will function with respect to your family and your lifestyle. For example, will the office be essentially private and used only by the home professional, or is it likely also to be used by other family members for phone calls, computer access, etc.?

Make a budget before you begin selecting and purchasing items for your home office. Think about how much you can afford to spend on furniture, equipment and other costs that may be associated with converting the space for office use. As far as is possible, know what you want before you go shopping for office accessories so that you aren't vulnerable to sales pitches that might talk you into purchasing items you don't really need.

Think "vertically." If you're limited to a tight workspace, look for creative uses of wall space and shelving for storing and arranging office items.

Office Furniture and Lighting

When it's time to begin shopping for home-office furniture, you may want to start with an office-supply store. Most major office-supply retailers will have a section of the store devoted to desks, desk-chairs, lighting, etc. Office-supply stores often cater predominantly to individuals outfitting a home office or home business. The selection in those stores is tailored to those types of customers, and most of the furniture found there is made to fit suitably in a home environment.

In almost all cases, this type of furniture is purchased boxed and unassembled. Remember that you'll either have to assemble the furniture yourself or hire someone to do it.

Don't skimp when it comes to purchasing the office chair that you plan to work in. Expect to pay around $150 to $180 for a good, ergonomically designed chair.

In addition to office-specialty stores, you may also want to check the selection available at furniture stores. Some carry an extensive inventory of office furniture and office decor in a variety of styles. Depending on the store, these furnishings may be more stylized than what you'll find at a typical office store. Office furniture -- especially since the advent of the personal computer -- has become available in a broad array of styles, from retro to traditional to contemporary. Your options may include surfaces of metal-and-glass, marble or wood, and desks that come in traditional rectangular shapes, L-shapes, U-shapes and curved designs. Modular furniture is also popular since it consists of individual parts that can be added as your budget allows and arranged to suit your work needs. Whichever style you are considering, think of your desk as "home base," and select one that will be compatible with the manner in which you work.

Lighting is another consideration that is critical in setting up your office. Improper lighting makes work tiresome and difficult and can cause eye-strain. In most circumstances the best work lighting -- whether natural or artificial -- comes from behind you so that it illuminates your work area without causing glare. Position light sources so that they don't result in glare on your computer monitor. Office and furniture stores carry desk-lamps and other lighting accessories in a variety of styles.

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