With Freelancers and Administrative Consultants (also referred to by some as Virtual Assistants) on the rise, home offices are becoming more common than ever before. Things have changed though and the typical home office is no longer relegated to a tiny area of your house to tinker around in. For many, it is now a key room in the home where many hours are spent.
For this reason, it is vital for your office space to be functional if you’re going to run a successful business from it so careful planning needs to be done. Prepare a check-list of the equipment and furniture you’ll need. We touched on this briefly in a previous article (see Planning Is Key, Part 8: Calculating the Costs) but equipment aside for a second, think about the following:
1.- Identify Office Space: What part of the house are you going to work from? Ideally it would be in a room separate from the rest of the house so that you can go into “work mode” when you enter your office and revert back to “chill out mode” when you’re done for the day and want to enjoy time with your family. Even if your house doesn’t allow for a separate room you can still make it work friendly. The most important thing is to find a permanent space so that you have the right mind-set when working whether it is in the corner of a room, under the stairs, in your bedroom… Perhaps you can use a screen or bookcases to create a divide between your office and the rest of the house. It would be convenient to set your office up away from busy areas of the house such as the living room or the kitchen so as to avoid unnecessary distractions.
2.- Plan the Area: You need to be able to work comfortably so if you can, choose a room with natural light and windows but if not, at least make sure there is sufficient lighting so you don’t strain your eyes. You will also need a phone line, ideally a separate business line. Draw up a plan if it helps you design the layout of your office and choose the right size furniture so that you have enough room to work at your desk and move around the office with ease. Also give some thought into filing and storage units.
3.- Bottoms Up!: If you are working on a tight budget, the one area you shouldn’t skimp on is choosing a chair. Since you’ll probably be spending hours at a time in it, ensure that it is adequate with your comfort in mind. You don’t want to end up with back problems one week in! Buy a chair that allows you to adjust its height, the back position and if it has arm rests all the better. You might also want to invest in a footstool so that your back is in the correct position as you go about your business.
4.- Desks Galore: There must be hundreds upon hundreds of different desks available depending on the type of business you operate so buy a desk to suit its purpose. Make sure there is enough room for all your equipment but don’t clutter it with unnecessary supplies as it will only make it more difficult for you to get work done. Minimize clutter, maximize efficiency.
5.- Visitors: Some people have to invite clients to their work space, if that’s true in your case you must make sure that your house as well as your office is neat and tidy. There’s nothing worse than having a client seeing a sink piled high with dishes or a messy house. If possible you may even invite the client in through a different entrance instead of the main one where he wouldn’t have to see the rest of the house at all. Remember though, a clean house gives a professional image but an untidy one will have the opposite effect.
6.- The Personal Touch: If all goes well, you are going to spend a lot of time in your home office so it would be great if it reflected your personality. You can make good use of colour, pictures etc because with just a few simple alterations you can have the perfect home office that is cozy and inviting.
7.- Let the Tax System Work for You: Check to see whether in your area/ country it is possible to gain some type of tax relief from having a home office. In many countries it’s not necessary to declare this type of set up so you’d be saving money with no effort at all. For example, in Spain where I am based I’m not obliged to pay tax on my home office even though it is noted on my tax registry form. I can detail the percentage of the house the office takes up so say my office is 20% of the total house size, that means that 20% of my electricity bill and 20% of the interest paid on my mortgage would be deductible. You would need to check what local regulations are and perhaps you can receive tax benefits also.
As you can see there are many points to think about when setting up your home office but the important thing is that you are comfortable working in the space you choose and if you share your house with others it would be a great idea to lay down some rules so they respect your need for privacy whilst you’re working.
You don’t need a massive budget to convert a room into a home office but you can have a lot of fun creating a fantastic space.