By Baruch Tenenbaum
With the increased availability of high-speed internet and the development of technologies that allow for instant remote collaboration, working from home has never been a better option. It saves companies money and time on travel and office space, and allows for a lot of flexibility, making it an especially attractive option for parents.
The biggest disadvantage, however, is the self-discipline necessary to stay on task and complete your work in the same environment where you go about your other daily activities. There are so many potential distractions—housekeeping tasks that need tending, your radio blaring in the background, or the snacks waiting in your kitchen—and there are no coworkers or supervisors to keep you focused. And that’s assuming you don’t have little kids tugging at you every three seconds during your workday or a spouse who also works from home hanging around.
One of the ways you can deal with this problem is to set up a good home office where you can access everything you need for work and stay organized without getting distracted. If you’re building or renovating a home and are planning to work out of it, it’s good to put some thought into the design so you can get the most out of the space you choose to designate as your office.
Choosing a Space
You want your office to be as far away from the “main traffic” of the house as possible—not only to avoid distractions, but to help yourself transition between “home mode” and “work mode.” If you’re planning a multi-story home and have the space for it, you may want to consider placing your office on its own floor or having it share a floor with other rooms that aren’t visited that frequently during the workday, such as the laundry room, guest room or storage room. Otherwise, choose a room that is as far from the main thoroughfares of the home as possible. If that’s not possible, perhaps you can convert a spare bedroom into a home office or enclose a portion of your patio.
Your home office should be designed in such a way that allows you to easily access, store and organize all the equipment and materials you need for work. Clutter is distracting and needing to dig through piles of papers to find what you need wastes time and causes unnecessary stress. The configuration depends a lot on your job and what sort of materials you need to access during your workday. Consider what you need to have on hand. Beyond a desk with room for a computer—do you have a work phone line and need a place to put a phone? Do you need a printer, scanner or fax machine? An additional large screen? A webcam or high-res camera? Make a list of all the items you need to have in your workspace and think about where you need those items to be stored so you can use them easily. If you don’t have much space, installing shelving on the walls or a filing cabinet beneath the desk can help you keep everything you need close at hand. You might want to install sound insulation in the walls to help isolate yourself from background noise of the family.
You’re not going to be able to focus very well if you’re uncomfortable. Invest in a supportive, ergonomic office chair. After some research came out suggesting that sitting idly for extended periods of time is damaging to your health, “standing desks” came into fashion—desks that adjust to transition between standing and seated positions. Whatever the position, make sure your computer screen is situated at a height that doesn’t strain your neck—just high enough to hold your head straight and look straight forward as you work. You should also consider the height of your keyboard: make sure that you can type in a healthy position with a straight back and relaxed shoulders and elbows.
Another factor to consider is lighting: you need enough light to work comfortably without straining your eyes. Note the position of the sun in the window when choosing the placement of your computer, because you don’t want the sun streaming into your face while you work (or into the webcam while you’re in a video conference). If the sun shines directly into the window, make sure to install some good blinds that can filter the light to just the right level.
Consider growth as well. If your business grows, you might need to hire an assistant, and it’s best to plan for possible increase in use of your office at the outset. While you’re doing the renovation now, add electrical and communication points for an additional workstation in the future.
Feeling good about the space you’re in increases productivity. Hang some pictures or inspirational quotes you like, and find other accents that make the room feel more welcoming to you.
Happy home office remodeling!
Baruch Tenenbaum, owner of Quality Home Improvements, is a professional local contractor, providing high-end jobs with proper Anglo service. He can be reached at 050-674-1976.