By Lissa Cupp, vice president, e-Commerce & Consumer Marketing, ACCO Brands

Are you ready to start your dream business right from your own home? Or have you been given the flexibility to work remotely for your job? Whichever the case, the establishment of a functional home office is needed. Following are several things to consider in making sure your home office works for you:

  1. Identify the best space for a home office. Carefully evaluate every room and ask yourself a few questions:
      • Will you actually work in this area?
      • Will distractions be kept to a minimum?
      • Is there ample lighting?
      • Is there enough room for all of your equipment, files and supplies?
      • Are there enough electrical outlets?
      • Would it be difficult to run a phone line and Internet access wiring into this space, if needed?
  2. Invest in functional furniture that fits the décor of your home. Whether you want a simple writing desk (ideal for a laptop computer) or a large desk with drawers for supplies and files, determine whether the piece is functional and decide if it matches your décor. When purchasing furniture, look for an ergonomically correct desk and chair as well as a bookcase to store reference and business books. If you have limited home office space or you need to “close your office doors” at the end of the day, an armoire with enough space to house your office equipment is ideal. Plan ahead by measuring your space before you buy any new furniture.
  3. Decide on a furniture arrangement that is best for your space. The arrangement you choose depends primarily on the size of your office, the type of furniture you have and how much work surface you will need.
      • The L-shaped work area offers the important advantage of getting equipment off your desk and onto a secondary surface.
      • The U-shaped work area allows you to keep everything within reach on three surfaces. All you have to do is swivel your chair one way or the other while you work.
      • The parallel layout generally positions your desk facing into the room and your secondary surface behind you. Although the two surfaces aren’t next to each other, you can easily access everything you need.
      • The corner arrangement and reverse corner arrangement include a desk with returns on each side. The desk either faces into the corner or out into the room.
  4. Be creative with file storage. Instead of using a grey, metal file cabinet to store your files, find other alternatives. You could store files in a wooden or wicker ottoman, below a window seat with file frames inside the drawers, or inside a decorative wooden trunk. A good way to keep files you use often nearby is by using a desk with at least two deep file drawers. Set up an easy-to-use filing system using hanging folders for main categories with interior folders.
  5. Don’t rely on your memory to plan your days. Whether you invest in some type of planning system that is paper-based, electronic or a combination of both, any method for tracking tasks and appointments is better than counting on your memory. The key to making any planning system work for you is to make it fit your needs. If a paper-based planner has any sections unrelated to your business or personal needs (all aspects of your life should be kept in one place), remove the sections. If your hand-held device has too many features or is too complicated to use, realize that it may be more than you need for your small, home-based business.
  6. Save space within your home office by using multifunction or “all-in-one” equipment. The smaller footprint (and often low price) of these machines makes them ideal for most space-challenged home offices. Keep storage space on your computer to a minimum by storing information online through a virtual filing system, and eliminate the need for a special photo printer by using an online photo processing service.
  7. Design your office to reflect your taste, interests and style. Your office needs to represent who you are—for example, if you’re an avid sports fan, hang and place sports memorabilia throughout your space. If your office isn’t carpeted, add an area rug to reduce echo. For privacy and to minimize the effects of direct sunlight, add window treatments. Don’t forget to provide enough light for your desk and overall office.
  8. If you are going to invite clients to your office, set up a meeting space with guest chairs and a table. If space is at a premium at your home, consider using a dining room for client meetings. Make sure the space is clutter-free and readily available at all times.
  9. Set a specific time to work in your home office each day. While the exact time may change daily, if you don’t target a certain start time, it may be the afternoon before you get to work. Common household distractions including chores, family members and personal calls make it easy to get sidetracked on your way to work, even if your commute lasts only a few seconds.

[Photo by Matthew Oliphant]

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