Rumor has it that Mary Kay started her business on her kitchen table. Many home business owners get started in a tiny corner of the home with furniture and equipment they already have. While this allows for a quick, affordable startup, over time, it can impact business growth. The reality is, your home office design plays a role in your productivity and energy.
If your home office is still on the kitchen table or the corner of the dining room, or you're feeling uninspired in your space, it’s time for a home office makeover. Here are some things to consider when selecting the location and design of your home office as well as ideas for layouts.
Things to Consider in Your Home Office Design
While you may not have many home office options when you first start, it's important to consider a permanent home office that maximizes productivity. But even the ideal home office space can lose its oomph. Periodic redesign of your home office can re-energize and inspire you. Below are things to consider when setting up or redesigning your home office.
Your kitchen table or a desk tucked into a corner of a bedroom is a good place to get started on your home business journey, but as you grow, you’ll want to design an office that supports your work. Having to pack up to move off the dining room table each night can get old quickly. The ideal space in your home is free from work-time distractions and has a door, both of which make it easy to divide work time and space with your personal time and space to create greater work/life balance.
Along with being away from high traffic areas, you want to think about other distractions, such as how loud is the outdoor activity, TV or appliances. Make sure the temperature of the room is conducive to working. If you’re meeting clients in your home, you want a place that is close to where they enter and that can be away from your regular living space.
Many people put their home office in a basement, which isn’t bad, but there are many benefits to natural lighting. If you have to be in a dark area without windows, get good quality lighting that not only lights the room but your work area as well. Light can help you avoid eye strain, and boost your mood.
Along with eyestrain, back issues are another risk that comes from working at home especially if you work on your computer all day. There are home office items you can skimp on, but a chair isn’t one of them.
Research suggests that messy people are geniuses. However, a messy desk can increase stress, sap energy, and lower productivity. Your desk doesn’t need to look like Martha Stewart organized it, but it should have some measure of a tidy organization so that you can find what you need easily. Corral your pens, paperclips, and other office tools into a cup or other desk organization tool.
Set Up for Function
While getting up and moving is a good thing healthwise, it can interrupt your focus and workflow, thereby slowing you down. For items that you use a lot, you’ll want to design your home office in a way that you can access them easily and quickly. For example, if you use the phone often, you’ll want it on your desk. Other resources you might need to keep close include specific files, reference books, planner, and printer.
If your home office requires a lot of technology, you want to set up your furniture so that outlets are within easy reach of your equipment. While extension cords can give you some flexibility, they can get in the way and cause a tripping hazard. All your furniture and tools should serve to help, not hinder, you in your home business. It includes your desk, bookcases, file cabinets, and anything else you need.
Decorate to Inspire and Motivate
Even working at home can get tedious and dull. A drab home office can sap your energy making it hard to work. Paint your home office in a color you like. Hang pictures, posters, and décor on the walls. Surround yourself with items that motivate such as pictures of your family, inspiring quotes, a vision board, and other items that bring you joy.
Designing an environmentally-friendly home office isn’t just about being kind to the earth. It can also reduce clutter and your expenses. Reuse and recycle paper and other items whenever possible. Switch to digital tools over planners and other paper items. Use energy-saving light bulbs and power strips, and weather seal your windows, which will save on your power bill.
Consider Your Budget
It can be fun to decorate a home office, but you don’t want to waste money on unneeded items. While you don’t want to sacrifice your comfort (i.e., you should buy a good chair), you do want to be frugal, at least in the beginning. Take inventory of your home and see what items you already have that can be moved to your home office.
The budget includes your tech needs as well. Hold off on buying new computers, printers, and software unless you need it. If you need new furniture, check out your local thrift shops, which often have durable furniture for less than you can get make-yourself-particle board items at other stores.
Where to Place Your Desk
Along with the other office space issues already mentioned, don't forget about a crucial piece of your office. Your work desk will need to suit your work, fit your budget, and complement your office space. Some considerations in choosing your desk include the location of the office in your home, and whether or not you need space for multiple monitors, monitor stand(s) and a keyboard drawer.
A simple straight-forward desk is ideal for small spaces, if you prefer a minimalist design, or if you’re just starting and don’t have the budget for office furniture. A table can even work, although a desk with drawers offers storage to keep your desk clutter-free.
While you can put your desk against a wall, in many cases, regular desks can be placed almost anywhere, including in the middle of the room, perpendicular to a wall, or in front of a window. If your home office is in a bedroom, you can put the desk in the closet.
Desk With Hutch or Shelves
If you don’t have a lot of room, but still need something to keep all your tools and resources close, a desk with a hutch or bookshelves is a good option. Like the traditional straight desk, a desk with a hutch can take up little space, while offering more function.
Because desks with hutches take up vertical space, they’re usually placed against a wall. If you need the features of a hutch but can’t afford a new one, consider buying an inexpensive bookshelf to set on your desk, or hang shelves over your desk.
If you like to spread out or need many resources within reach, an L-shaped desk is a good option. An L-Shaped desk can sit in the corner to use up just a little space, or you can be creative, placing the desk like a V in the room. Or you can set the desk perpendicular to the wall, in which case you can have a bookcase or shelves along on the wall, creating a U-shaped work area.
If you can’t afford to buy an L-shaped desk, you can create your own using a table and an existing desk, or buying two desks from the thrift shop.
T-shaped desks are ideal if you have a partner or spouse you’re building your home business with, or need two work stations. A T-shaped desk can also have bookshelves or a hutch at the top of the T, giving you even more storage.
While you can create your own, using two desks at the top of the T, and two desks along the stem of the T, this can take up more room, and be more costly.
If you want a complete command center, a U-Shaped desk is a great option. A U-shaped desk takes up a lot of space, so it’s best in a larger room. The benefit is that you essentially get three work areas. If you need multiple monitors, but also, space to work on non-computer activities, a U-shaped desk can provide that. With a simple turn of your chair, you can switch your workstation. U-shaped desks can be expensive, but you can create your own buy putting desks and tables you already have or found at the local thrift store together in a U-pattern.
The galley design is essentially two desks laid out parallel to each other. It offers similar benefits that the U-shaped desk does in that you can swivel to work at one station or the other. It's easy to create a galley design with two desks or a desk and regular table or buffet table.
Research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to your health. One solution to sitting all day is to get a standing desk. A standing desk often has all the features of a traditional desk, such as keyword drawer and monitor stand, but it’s at a height that has you standing to work. With that said, other research suggests that standing all day isn’t necessarily good either. In that case, you can get an adjustable desk-top stand, which allows you to work sitting or standing.