It’s a castle, a sanctuary and a place to rest. It’s where meals are shared and memories are made. Home is a place to sleep, eat and play, but for many, home is also a place to work. According to a survey done by Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people working from home has grown 91% in the last 10 years.
As work-from-home jobs become more common, many people are looking for ways to turn their homes into functional working spaces. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of money or a lot of space to create an effective home office.
Check your company’s policies
Before you set up your home office, check to see what costs your company will cover. Depending on the company, you could get everything from the furniture to the internet covered. Keep receipts for anything that you purchase yourself. The federal government allows taxpayers to take deductions for home offices, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter.
Start with the basics
When putting together a home office, you’ll want to start with a desk or a table. This is where you’ll spend the majority of your day, so you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable. Invest in an ergonomic chair that offers proper lumbar support, or use pillows to create your own lumbar support. Take plenty of breaks during the day to stand up, walk around and stretch your muscles.
Employees who see clients or colleagues at home should provide comfortable seating for those visitors. Check out Facebook, Craigslist and other web sites for inexpensive options for desks, chairs and office decor.
For an even healthier option, purchase a standing desk and avoid sitting altogether. Studies have found that sitting too long during the day can increase your risk of dementia, diabetes and anxiety, among other issues. If a standing desk isn’t in your budget, you can make your own using books, or build a simple one with inexpensive plywood.
Organize your space
Be sure your desk has enough room for your computer, as well as your mouse and keyboard if you use those. You’ll also want a spot for pens, pencils, notepads and whatever other office supplies you use on a regular basis. Store these in a desk drawer to keep everything organized. You can also use decorative baskets or boxes to keep things handy and tidy if you don’t have drawers.
To tame all those computer cables, phone chargers and other cords, purchase fabric cord covers or cord storage boxes to keep everything hidden but accessible. Bookshelves provide plenty of additional storage, or use floating shelves if you’re tight on space. Bulletin boards and dry-erase boards don’t take up a lot of space, and give you a spot for notes and important documents.
Pick the right spot
If you don’t already have a dedicated home office or extra bedroom in your home, find a spot away from traffic and noise if you’re easily distracted. If you thrive on noise and activity, nearly anywhere in your home will make a good home office space. Either way, you’ll want to be sure your office space affords you enough privacy for phone calls or online meetings.
Working on a computer without proper lighting can cause eye strain and headaches. If the space is dark or doesn’t have any windows, find a lamp or two for soft, natural light. It doesn’t hurt to have a window that gives you some natural light, fresh air and a view of something other than your computer screen.
Invest in a quality phone and reliable internet connection
Sometimes your company will cover phone and internet costs for your home. If not, check your current packages to be sure you have enough bandwidth to be able to do your job effectively.
Personalize your space
Make your office space your own with pictures, art and other decorations that inspire you, make you happy and remind you why you’re working in the first place. Put up family photos, paint the room a color you love, or bring in a little of your personal style with window coverings, pillows and rugs.
Once your space is all set up and you’re ready to work from home, set expectations for yourself, your employer and your family. Just because you’re able to work from home doesn’t mean you should be on the clock 24/7. Make time for breaks during the day and set office hours, just as you would when working in an office. Let your family know if your home office is off limits during the workday or if you’ll just need specific times for peace, quiet and privacy.
Sharing a space
Sometimes more than one person in the household has the opportunity to work from home. You can create two separate work spaces, or create one space that two people can utilize. When sharing an office space, think creatively to maximize space. Instead of two desks, share a large table. Have designated storage areas for each person’s work items and office supplies. If possible, share a printer, fax machine and any other bulky items to save on space.
Your home office is where you get business done, but it should also be comfortable so that you actually want to spend time there working. Regardless of your budget or space constraints, you can create a functional home office space with a little creativity and planning.