When I left the corporate world in 2005 to enter the world of self employment, I was excited and a touch nervous to launch Accredited Virtual Assistance (AVA) from the guest bedroom of our Chicago area home. At that time, technology and communication advancements turned the concept of being a home-based entrepreneur into a workable reality for many.
Fast forward 8 years, with relocation to the Boston area for my husband’s job, and I find myself setting up that home-based business office once again. I’d love to share with you some thoughts, ideas and tips on how to create an efficient and effective home office. Whether you’re a home-based entrepreneur, small business owner, or company employee who works part of the week out of your home, I hope you’ll find a tip or two to help you work from home.
Tip #1 Location
Before you decide on the location for your office, take an inventory of what equipment, supplies, products etc. you’ll need to have available. How much space will you need? If your business requires you to keep a supply of materials on hand, would the best storage place be your home office, or would a garage or basement work.
Once you determine the physical space requirements for the home office, take a look at what you’ll actually be doing, and what hours you’ll be working in this space. For example, if you require a quiet space to make phone calls to customers and clients when other household members are at home, you’ll need an office with a door, so you can shut out any noise or distractions.
On the other hand, if you require very limited space, perhaps just a computer and some office supplies, a computer armoire, in a little used formal dining room, might be the answer. Before setting up your home office, it’s a good idea to ask your spouse, or significant other for their input, after all you’ll be taking away some of their residential real estate. You want your office space to be harmonious not acrimonious, so be sure to get their buy-in before you proceed.
Tip #2 Furniture
If you’re going to be spending any time working on a computer, it’s well worth investing in ergonomically correct furniture, i.e. a desk chair with lumbar support, an ergonomic keyboard, wrist rest and mouse. Consider what lighting is required, are you able to work with natural light from a window, or does your basement office require task lighting.
Tip #3 Communication
While I do love my iPhone, when sitting at my desk, I prefer to make business calls from a landline, that’s just my personal preference. If you prefer to run your business from your mobile phone, just make sure that the reception in your office is good, and that clients/customers can hear your phone conversations clearly. For heavy phone use you may want to consider investing in a wireless headset, which will enable you to move around and stretch periodically; taking regular stretch breaks, away from the computer screen is a good idea.
Tip #4 Technology
For businesses requiring regular internet access, it’s worth investing in a high speed internet connection and up-to-date equipment. You don’t want to be wasting time waiting for downloads, or for documents to print. Do make sure you have an offsite backup system in place for all your computer files; if a fire, flood or other disaster struck, you want to be able to access those files, not lose everything. Many home insurance policies will add coverage for office equipment, check with your agent to see if you have that option available.
Tip #5 Organization
To work as efficiently and effectively as possible your office space needs to be organized with everything in its’ place. You need to be able to access items easily and quickly, without spending valuable time searching through piles of papers, causing frustration and negatively impacting your productivity. Take the time to create an effective filing system, whether that’s labeled file folders stored in a filing cabinet, or online folders for your e-documents, or a combination of both.
Tip #6 Schedule Your Office Hours
You’ll find yourself being more productive and achieving greater work-life balance, if you schedule your home office hours. Keep in mind the schedules of your household, 10:00am on a quiet weekday morning might be the perfect time to host a webinar, but 2:30pm that same afternoon, when your kids come home from school, might not be so good.
Tip #7 Personalize it
Take advantage of that perk you didn’t get in the corporate world and completely personalize your office, from wall color to an assistant chair/bed for your pet dog or cat. Get creative with your office accessories, use a china mug as a pen holder, an antique curio for your paperclips, add a shelf for family photos. Make your new home office comfortable and make it your own.
I would love to hear what home based entrepreneurs and business owners have done to make their office space efficient, effective and most importantly, their own. Won’t you please share with me in the comments below.