Friday, July 31, 2009

My Office is At Home

More than ever, people are choosing to work from home. Whether it is a business run from home, telecommuting, or just bringing work from home, the need for a home office has become stronger than ever. The problem comes when we try to integrate a working environment into the limited confines of our homes.

Let's face it--the office environment, with all that it implies: the computer, fax machine, printer, filing cabinets, and other paraphernalia, can often be seen as invasive. They turn a place dedicated to relaxation and comfort to one that is concerned with the document, deadlines, and work stress. The challenge of starting a home office is to ensure that a viable work space can be carved out while maintaining the harmony of your home and its interior decor.

Some of us are lucky enough to have a room set aside as a study in our homes that can be used as a home office. Many of us are not, and have to contend with a corner of the bedroom, the living room, or even the store room. Either way, some effort is required to create the right home office, home office (soho). This not only ensures that a formal environment for work is set up, but also that the home office does not appear out of place in your home.


If you have a separate room or study that can be converted into a home office, re-modeling seems simple enough: simply re-create your impression of a modern office in it. Straightforward though this plan of action may be, you are also depriving yourself of the freedom of choice in creating an ideal workplace for yourself. Think back to the commercial offices you have seen (or worked in!): Boring cubicles, greying furniture, and utilitarian furnishings devoid of personality. Worse, office furniture of the wrong height that causes backaches or neck aches. A home office means that you can avoid all of that, and design it according to your tastes instead.
Ergonomic furniture, such as a chair that can support your back, or a desk that can be adjusted for your height, are examples of good investment when you have to spend many hours seated.

At the same time, you can ensure that the overall look of the office fits in with your home decor and personality. For example, if your home is decorated in the country style, you can continue the theme in your home office: get a traditional-looking wooden table to use as your desk. Use natural fabrics. If your home uses red, blue, or other colours as a prominent motif, do the same in your home office, but in smaller doses: maybe have one item in that colour.

Express your personality. Display your favourite photographs or art pieces, or show off the more exclusive of your collector's items on a small shelf. However, remember not to overdo it: your home office is still a place for work--too many distractions and you will find it difficult to concentrate.

Dual function office

If you are faced with option of setting up a small office in another occupied room, however, a different decorating strategy comes into play. The bedroom is usually the first choice for many home offices, as it is generally unused in the day. One important rule about creating a home office in the bedroom is to ensure that each function of the room--sleeping and working--are clearly delineated.
Arrange to sit facing away from the bed, for example, so that you won't be tempted to relax or take a nap. If not, try to screen the bed off from the rest of the room, for example, by using a movable screen. Conversely, it is a good idea to keep the work space out of sight when you are unwinding at the end of the day and preparing to go to sleep, or you may find yourself unable to take your mind off work!

The same arrangement applies if you prefer to work in the living room, the kitchen, or a generally unused corner of the home. Avoid facing your favourite couch, the refrigerator or the television. Choose a spot where there is less human traffic as well, so that there are less distractions.

In such home offices, some people prefer to use a computer workstation or cabinet that can be hidden away from sight when not in use. Others might prefer a solid desk or work top. If you choose not to hide the presence of your home office, consider how these additions can be integrated into your home decor as well. For example, you can match dark wood furniture in your bedroom with a dark wood desk. A glass-topped table looks good in a home with a futuristic theme. Continue the use of a colour or a motif to match your interior decor.
Place your desk or table near a window if possible, both to divert your attention from the distractions at home, and help focus your concentration on the work at hand. If this is not possible, you might prefer to install study lamps or lighting specifically for the work area. This helps again to separate the different functions of your room. Note: when considering sources of light (natural or artificial) on your workspace, also take into account the direction of the light to reduce both glare and shadows.

Good storage is essential as they prevent your paperwork from migrating all the rest of the room (and your home). Start with simple, clearly labelled files or shelves. Invest in a good filing cabinet or filing system if necessary; if space is at a premium, considering cabinets that have wheels so that they can be easily put away or pushed against the wall when not in use. Put up shelves near your working area to store oft-used references, stationery, and other required items. Wall-mounted shelves take up less space.

Be at home

Despite all of these, do not forget to make sure that your home office will be a place where you can enjoy your work. Play soft music if you need it to concentrate. Place a potted plant nearby so that the presence of nature can relax you. Put your favourite photograph on the table. Enjoy being at home.

Working at home requires firm discipline, but these need not be onerous. Put up a magnetic board or a cork pin-up board so that your to-do lists and other essential matters can be drawn to your attention easily. Make it a personal rule to put your things away at the end of the day. Empty your wastepaper bin regularly. It only takes a bit of effort to keep everything ship-shape.
And you'll get to enjoy your home office again the next day.