Denise Landers

Article Summary:

Things to consider when building a home office include location, comfort, and storage.

Building a Home Office Space That Works

"Wouldn't it be great to work from home!" That is a dream for many people who have to commute every day. However for those who have managed to create a home office situation, often over time that thought of how great it would be to work at home instead becomes, "Help! I can't work because... ...I can't concentrate. ...I'm not comfortable. ...I don't have any storage room. ...I don't know what systems I need."

Home offices have their unique set of challenges. They often start with a vision but not much concrete planning because you did not anticipate at the beginning how quickly you might grow and how rapidly things could accumulate.

I have worked with many home office situations. Some of them have their own rooms and some share just a corner of that room. The toughest one was an attorney who had recently had a baby and was working most of the time from home at that point. She had her desk inside her clothes closet, which had louvered doors. She faced the wall. Above and on both sides of her were hanging outfits, plus piles of shoes, etc., on the floor. That one embodied all four of the following points to deal with in getting started or in reevaluating your current situation.

When building a home office space, consider the following:

Choose an area that both fits you right now and that will allow you room to expand as your business increases and diversifies. Do you want to be close to where children play? Will clients and customers be coming in? Can you focus when you hear the television? Will having office materials in your bedroom disturb your sleep? Do you dislike climbing stairs to get to your workspace? How much space will you need for your type of work?

Do not choose something just because it is available, like a fold-up table and extra dining room chair. On the other hand, a beautiful antique piece may also be incorrect. Invest in something that will provide ergonomic relief. Does your chair provide good back and arm support? Do you have an adjustable keyboard tray? Is there enough space around your desk area so you do not feel closed in? What kind of view do you need? Is the lighting adequate?

This is one of the most difficult areas to handle because so often all available spaces within a house are already filled, and often overflowing. Then you try to bring in more materials, and you can end up with stack boxes and piles of papers everywhere because nothing else was added to accommodate the incoming items. Does your desk have drawers for small office supplies? Can some of your desk drawers support hanging file folders? If not, do you have a rolling cart to use for Daily Action items? Are there a sufficient number of file cabinets? Is there a closet available that you can convert for office use?

Once the above three focuses are determined, it is time to invest in learning. Very few people have ever been taught organizing strategies as part of their education. It may have been presumed that you just knew this, or that you would hire someone who did. That is why people struggle with organizing at every level. As their business progresses, they find themselves becoming less and less productive with their time because of a backlog. It can even get to the point, where you no longer want to work in that space and end up on the dining room table. Do you have a Daily Action file for all of your incoming work? Is your email program set up with folders and action files to clear your inbox? Do you have an effective filing system? Can you find anything within seconds that you file? What time management tools are you using?

Having the opportunity to work at home eliminates the time involved in commuting, gives you extra flexibility in your schedule, and can allow you more family time. On the other end of the equation, it can become a trap. Take steps now to make sure it is a dream situation, not a nightmare.

Denise Landers, productivity trainer, organizing specialist, author of Destination: Organization and owner of Key Organization Systems, Inc. has spent years speaking, training, consulting, and coaching on the topics of time management and effective workflow. To find easy ways to prioritize, focus and improve your team productivity, subscribe for free monthly articles on time management and organizing topics at:

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