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7 Tips for Creating an Efficient and Effective Home Office

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.

Home Office - Chicago, Boston Before, Boston After

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.

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Jackie de Boer founded Accredited Virtual Assistance to help the busy entrepreneur, solopreneur and small business owner with business tasks they have no time, patience or skills to perform. As a Virtual Assistant (VA) Jackie takes care of administrative, executive & social media marketing strategy, setup & management for coaches, consultants, speakers, voiceover talent and business professionals remotely from her home office based in Massachusetts, USA.

{ 22 comments… add one }

  • These are all great tips, especially #5 Organization. Since my office space is small at the moment, I’ve added some of my favorite paintings to make it a happy place. I keep it as neat as possible. I find that when everything is in its’ place, I feel better and it reflects on my work as well. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

    • Jackie

      Love that you’ve added some favorite paintings Alexandra to make it your own happy place, thanks so much for sharing.

  • I love the tips and the information you provided. It’s a great guide to making, as you included in the title of your post, an Efficient and Effective Home Office!!

  • Kelly

    I was a pharmaceutical rep for 10 years and always worked out of my house. I found that I had to create an working atmosphere in a room that I could shut the door and away from the rest of the house. Otherwise I found myself always in there trying to get things done. It definitely had it perks but downfalls at the same time..

    • Jackie

      I agree Kelly, there are perks and downfalls for working from home, thankfully for me I’ve found those perks to outweigh the downfalls though it did take some time for that to be the case, thanks so much for commenting.

  • This is great information!! I need to get into my office and so some sorting and straightening. Would you like to come and help??? haha!

    • Jackie

      Thanks Tina, if we weren’t quite so geographically incompatible Tina, I’d love to stop by and help 🙂

  • I like to personalize my space.. the rest i allow my wife to pick out..

    • Jackie

      It’s great to be able to personalize our work space isn’t it Robert, I’m guessing that your office space is your man cave 🙂

  • Very good tips! You have motivated me to take another look at my home office space
    and make it more efficient!

    • Jackie

      Love to hear that Ernestine 🙂

  • #6 is my challenge. Since I also work out of my home, I sometimes work way too long and way too late. My goal now is to quit by 7 PM, but I don’t always do it.

    • Jackie

      It’s very tempting to just to pop into your home office for “a few minutes” isn’t Meryl, and before you know it those few minutes have stretched into an hour. Thanks for your comments, wishing you all the best with your 7:00pm quitting time goal.

  • Jackie this is a great post thanks. I’m with you about using my land-line for business and I LOVE my big comfy office chair. I’m looking to revamp my office so the first thing I invested in was a comfy office chair as I spend so much time in it. Thanks for the post

    • Jackie

      Thanks Gaynor, I think the comfy chair is vital for those of us who spend a lot of time at our home office desks.

  • I am fortunate to have a lovely home office, which I’ve had for many years. Your suggestions are spot on, especially about having ergonomically correct chair (I spend lots of time here), updated technology, good organization and things that make it truly personal and comfortable. I don’t always schedule my office hours, but I’m working on it. I’m sure your tips will be helpful to anyone who is still in the planning stage of their new home office. Great post Jackie – thanks!

    • Jackie

      Thanks for your comments Dawn, the ergonomic chair seems to be a must for many of us.

  • Great Tips and ideas.

  • Great tips! Keeping your home office clean and organized will make an efficient and effective home office indeed. Which tip do you consider the most challenging?

    • Jackie

      Thanks Lorii, I think for me the biggest challenge initially at least, was setting office hours. It’s all too easy to just “stop by the office” when it’s so conveniently situated in your own home.

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