What You Need For A Home Office
Lots of you are looking at starting a home office, especially with the latest recession. We’ll look at the three main components of a home office – the space, the furniture and the technology.
You can start small and expand later or outfit your home office with the latest and greatest – the main idea is a functional and comfortable work environment.
Home Office Space
Unless you live alone, you really want your home office to be in a separate room – with a door that can be closed. It keeps out noise and distractions, allows for privacy and is easier to write off on your taxes.
A spare bedroom or small den should work fine. It should also be well lit with several lamps (one for the desk) rather than a bright overhead light. The consensus today is a light and airy decor rather than the dark oak paneling of yore.
If you don’t have a spare room, at least try to outline an office space. Use a corner of the family room. Have a couple of lamps to light the space. Consider a folding screen to block off the area.
Home Office Furniture
Office supply stores will have “office suites”, often for $1000 or more. They’re worth checking out even if you can’t afford one just to see how they’re laid out. If you have to piecemeal your office here’s what you need.
To start with the obvious you need a desk and a chair. The desk should be rather large, since your computer monitor and phone will be taking up a significant portion of the space. You may need a larger desk or separate desk/credenza for your printer, scanner, modem/router, etc. If your computer is set up on your desk you’ll need a slide out drawer for the computer keyboard.
The chair is also important, especially if you are running an online business. On average I spend 10-12 hours a day at my desk. Most office supply stores have reasonably comfortable desk chairs for $100 or so. If you can afford it, an ergonomically designed desk chair is a plus.
You should also provide at least one other chair for clients or visitors that drop by. It can be a ‘client’ chair, like banks use, or a more comfortable arm chair.
If a file drawer isn’t built into your desk, you’ll need a separate filing cabinet. A sturdy 2-drawer file cabinet with hanging folders should suffice, but try and avoid the flimsy ones that seem to be made out of tin. Check out used office supply stores or local auctions.
A bookcase is a definite advantage. There will always be manuals, reference books, etc. that you need close by and your home office should have plenty of open wall space to place it. Often desks purchased from office supply stores will have a bookcase that sits on top of the desk.
Unless it’s necessary to your home business I try and avoid boxes or storage bins cluttering up the area. If you need extra storage try and find an enclosed cabinet rather than use open shelving.
Home Office Technology
Let’s start with the computer. If you are running an online business your computer should be no more than 3-4 years old. Heck, a client of ours just bought a quad-core computer with a Terabyte hard drive for less than $600. These days you can get by just using a laptop for business as long as you’re not using it for high-end stuff like video editing.
If a PC, Windows should be fully updated, a security suite installed, a backup program in effect and have an office suite, whether Microsoft Office or a free substitute such OpenOffice.org or Google Apps.
For peripherals you need a printer and should have a scanner. I keep them separate, but if space is limited you can look at an all-in-one printer/scanner/fax. If you are printing lots of text pages a laserjet printer may be preferable to an inkjet printer.
You also need a separate business phone. It can be a landline or cell phone, but you have to answer it with your business name and have a separate answering machine or system to record business voice mail.
You also need a connection to the Internet. These days it almost has to be broadband, either a cable or DSL connection.
One additional option is a headset with a microphone that either plugs into your computer’s sound card or USB port.
So that’s pretty much it… a few photos and an inbox on the desk and you’re ready to go. Again, the main idea is comfort and functionality, but it’s whatever works for you.