Organizing Your Home Office

Make your home office as efficient and pleasing as you can

By FamilyTime


Have you dreamed of working at home? Not having to commute to the office, battle traffic, bus schedules, and parking lots? Do you envision shuffling into the office in your jammies and slippers? A mug of home-brewed coffee in your hand?

Sound too good to be true? Maybe not. More and more Americans are telecommuting full time or one or two days a week. And some of us "work for ourselves" and so need a home office as the center of our work day.

If you fall into one of these categories, or simply want a home office to write the next great American novel, we have some ideas to make the space as efficient, convenient and comfortable as possible.

First, consider the configuration of the room you plan to transform into an office. Decide how best to use the space, taking into account your needs for surface area, storage, and equipment.

Assess Your Needs

To help you plan, answer the following questions:

  • What kind of work will I be doing?
  • How many days a week will I work in this space?
  • How many hours a day will I work? Will they primarily be daytime or nighttime hours?
  • Will the office be used for personal or family use as well as business?
  • What special equipment, supplies, and furniture will I need?
  • Will I  be working alone or with another person or persons?
  • Will clients or customers visit the office?
  • What will traffic patterns be?
  • What are my storage needs?
  • What is my preferred work surface? A traditional desk? Wide table? Countertop?

Space Planning

When you plan the space think about improving the lighting, ventilation, heating and cooling. Does the electric system need an upgrade? Will you install bookcases? Do you need to build a closet? Should the closet have shelves? A rod for hanging coats? Will you need to purchase an air conditioner or dehumidifier? Do you need to lay carpeting? Install blinds?

Consider the day-to-day operation of the office. Will clients visit? If so, decide how best to get them from the front door to the office. If possible, provide a separate entrance. Make sure you have seating for a visitor and perhaps a workspace to take the place of a conference table.

Budget and Supplies

With your budget in mind, either purchase or lease furniture, equipment, and supplies. Use what you already own only if it's practical, in good repair, and attractive. Don't "make do" with faulty or antiquated things. These will hold you up and make you appear unprofessional.

Most likely, you will need the following:

  • Desk - This should have adequate storage. The most functional configurations are U and L shapes.
  • Chair - Make sure you buy a quality chair that is comfortable. It should roll and be adjustable.
  • Telephone -- Install a separate line. Buy a telephone with a hold button, speaker phone capability, and speed-dial buttons. Unless you are rarely on the phone, rely on a land line for the best reception. Otherwise, a cell phone will work, but consider a separate number from your personal phone.
  • All in one printer -- These incorporate a printer, copier, scanner, and fax all in one. For most home offices, this is all you need. On the other hand, if you make a lot of copies, need a high-resolution copier, or frequently fax long documents, you might need a separate and powerful copier and/or fax machine.
  • Voicemail and caller ID-- Most phone systems include voicemail, which is a must for a home office. You want the phone to "pick up" even if you are on it. You also need to see who is calling, regardless of whether you are on the phone.
  • High-speed Internet -- Use a provider with the best Internet service you can afford. It pays in today's business climate to be as up-to-the-minute as possible.
  • Computer -- Buy or lease the best computer you can afford. Equip yourself with a good laptop, too, so that you can take your office on the road. If you work for a company, your soft- and hardware might be provided by the company.
  • Filing cabinets - Buy the style that best fits your needs.
  • Lighting - Invest in a good desk lamp. Improve overhead lighting.
  • Stationery - Order letterhead, printed envelopes, and business cards.
  • Supplies - Stock up on these at a local office store or online purveyor. Buy in bulk when you can, but consider your storage space before you do.

Floor Layout
An office should be designed so that you can stay in one place and concentrate on the work at hand. Items you need often should be close by; store those you seldom use in a closet or on shelves.

Consider putting computer equipment in a hutch or stand near the desk to free up surface area for paper work.

Make the Office Your Own
Be creative with your layout. If you want your desk in front of a window, put it there. Make the office comfortable as well as functional. Add plants, framed artwork, flowers, photographs, area rugs, even a small sofa as well as a few cherished items. These personal touches make the room come alive.

On the other hand, don't go overboard. This is a place of business and you want to keep it professional and clutter-free. This is especially true if you plan to invite clients or customers to the office, but it's also better for your own work if you are in a well organized and tidy space.

Find those slippers and get to work!