Career expert Lisa Kanarek guides you through the feng shui of your workspace
Setting up a home office, including finding the right furniture, equipment and supplies, can be overwhelming. It’s important to know what you need, what you want, and what you can really have. After all, a business won’t last long if you spend more than you earn.
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Whether you’re creating a home office from scratch, or changing a few parts of your home office that are no longer working, it’s important to avoid a few home office mistakes, starting with the following ten.
1. Not designating a room for a home office: It’s hard to take a home-based business seriously when it’s literally being run from the kitchen table. The frustrating part is that every night at dinnertime, you have to close up shop and turn your home office into a diner. There’s nothing wrong with having dinner with your family — I encourage it — but you shouldn’t have to clear papers and put away supplies at the end of each day to make that happen.
2. Choosing the wrong room for a home office: You may think that a guest room or a spare bedroom is the perfect place for a home office, but what if the room is on the other side of your home, or is right in the middle of family traffic? Either you’ll feel isolated all day or you’ll shake your head and wonder why you decided to work from home.
Consider every room in your home as a place to set up shop. Two rooms that homeowners rarely use are a formal living room and the dining room. Why not use one of those spaces as a home office? Considering the dining room usually has the best light, it seems a shame to make that room go to waste. The key to making your dining room work, especially is you want it to do double-duty, is to find furniture that can double as office supply and equipment storage.
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3. Using furniture that no long matches your décor: A home office tends to be a dumping ground for furniture that didn’t make the cut during the last home remodeling project. So rather than donate that overstuffed chair or scratched end table, some people move the mismatched furniture into a home office. Before you stuff one more piece of furniture in your home office, decide whether you need it or whether it’s simply adding more clutter to the space. If you can part with the extra furniture, donate it or sell it online.
4. No soundproofing: When you work from home, you have to be more professional than your corporate counterparts. A corporate employee can talk on the phone while her co-workers are laughing and yelling in the background, but a home-based worker needs to make sure there is no background noise. It’s tough to be taken seriously by a client when your dog is barking or your child wants your attention (which usually happens as soon as the phone rings!). Invest in a high-quality headset, solid (not hollow) doors, and good insulation between rooms.
5. Not creating enough storage space: Working from home has enough distractions that having to leave your desk to get supplies shouldn’t be one of them. Creating extra storage space in a home office requires a bit of creativity, especially when space is limited. Think vertically and attach shelves to the wall, add a freestanding bookcase or install shelves inside a closet to create extra storage. Rather than store supplies in their original packaging (a huge waste of space), use clear containers.
6. Using the wrong chair: I cringe when I see photos of home offices that have a kitchen chair or a dining chair in front of a desk instead of an ergonomic chair. It takes only a few months of sitting in the wrong chair for your back and neck to let you know that you need to make a change. Ergonomically correct chairs are easy to find and they’re less expensive than before. Check office supply superstores and even warehouse stores for reliable, non-back-breaking chairs.
7. Bad lighting: Poor lighting can lead to fatigue and eye strain. While you may have an overhead light in your home office, that’s not enough. You also need task lighting on your desk and ideally, natural light from a home office window. If your home office is in your basement, the right lighting can be the difference between working in a calm, motivating space and working in a dungeon.
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8. Not setting boundaries: Some people, family and friends included, don’t understand that when you’re working from home, you’re actually working. They think that you’re available to wait for the washer repair person or eager to babysit day and night. It’s important to make sure everyone understands that unless it’s an emergency, you can’t take personal calls during the day and you’re not available to run errands. One of the best words you can learn to use often is NO. Otherwise, you’ll train everyone around you to ask you for favors throughout the workday.
9. Spending money on the wrong things: Unless clients need to meet with you in your home office, it doesn’t make sense to waste money on expensive office furniture and accessories. Rather than add to your bottom line, these extra expenses will take from it. Instead, invest in quality equipment, online services and even a virtual assistant if it will help you grow your business. Prioritize every purchase and then set a budget for buying each item when the time is right.
10. Skimping on the wrong things: Whether you’re buying a new computer, an all-in-one (printer, scanner, copier and fax), or a desk chair, buy the best quality you can afford. When you equip your office with the technology you need to stay in touch with clients, create presentations and keep up with social media, you can focus on keeping your business on track.
Think about the different ways you can design your space, consider the materials and furnishings you already may have, and prioritize every purchase, from furniture and equipment down to simple office supplies. Treat every purchase like a business decision and you’ll be one step closer to moving your business forward.
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