Ten Steps To A Home Office That Really Works

I know. It doesn’t sound like such an exciting thing, but think of all the time you spend trying to manage your paper. If your space isn’t comfortable and efficient and your work tools are not easily accessible, then you’re wasting time and energy. When you organize your office, you organize your life, so it’s well worth the time it will take, possibly an entire day or weekend. You’ll be rewarded with untold hours of satisfaction and greater productivity. Just follow these 10 easy steps:

  1. LOCATION, LOCATION. The first rule of real estate applies to home offices as well. Choose a place for your office that is convenient, yet not in a high traffic area. Try to avoid your basement and attic area and instead choose a place on the first floor, off the kitchen, preferably with a window. If you’re setting up an office in an office building, and you have discretion over choice of space, choose an office away from a reception area, elevator, stairs, rest rooms, supply room, pantry or copy center. If you do this, there will be fewer distractions for you in the course of your workday. Better to choose a smaller office in a good location than a larger one in a bad location.
  2. LIGHTING. Is it too dark or even too bright? Do you have a dated fluorescent light buzzing over your head?  It’s amazing what proper lighting can do for us to reduce stress and fatigue. Adjust the lighting if needed, and ideally install recessed lighting on a dimmer. If you need supplemental lighting, add a desk light. If too much light from outside is interfering with your work, install window blinds.
  3. TEMPERATURE. Check air the flow. Is the room well-ventilated? Are you physically comfortable? Is there a vent overhead or directly behind you blowing air on you?  Redirect the airflow with an inexpensive plastic heat and air redirector that magnetically attaches itself to the vent (you can also screw it in).  All of these factors affect your efficiency and staying power. If you’re feeling too cold or too hot, you’re really not able to focus entirely on your work.
  4. DESK. Does it support not only the technology you need to use (telephone, computer, printer, etc.) but also allow for a cleared space in the center or off to the right or left of the desk to process your paperwork? The best configuration for your desk is an “L” shaped or “U” shaped configuration with at least one file drawer and two supply drawers. This allows you to remain in a seated position and get what you need.
  5. DESKTOP TOOLS. Are you unsure of where to place your desktop items? If you’re right-handed, place the phone and a small notebook to towards the right corner, but not more than an arm’s reach away, and feed the wires through the desktop or around the back of the desk so they’re never in your way. Place decorative items such as pictures in picture frames and flowers in the far left and right corners to add beauty to your workspace. Place a pen/pencil cup, stapler, tape dispenser and staple remover toward the right corner of your desk for easy access. Discard any non-functional writing instruments and include a pair of scissors and a 6-inch ruler in your cup for convenience. To your immediate left place your calculator, desk light and business cards.   To the right of your phone, use a step file to accommodate your most important project files. This way, you won’t have to dig through your file drawers and will be reminded to work on them. Add a plant to bring nature into your space.
  6. TRASH. Get a trash bin for all non-paper trash and a recycle bin for paper and place them under the desk. Both bins should be square or rectangular in order to fit better and they should not touch your legs. If there’s room under your desk and it doesn’t interfere with your leg space, add a shredder. If the shredder is too large, place it as close to the desk as possible.
  7. WIRES and POWER STRIP. Organize the wires under your desk so that they’re not in your way and cannot get easily disconnected. Use a label maker to print identifying labels for each and attach them close to the plug you can identify them quickly. To recharge your cell phone and other devices, install a power strip towards the back of your desk so you’ll never have to bend over to recharge anything. Gather up excess cord lengths with twist ties or buy cord organizers.
  8. REFERENCE MATERIALS. Utilize the wall space closest to your desk for reference materials. You can use a bookcase or install shelves on the wall or use hanging sorters or magazine holders to store information you use frequently.  Go vertical with your storage to always keep yourself as close to the desk as possible.
  9. LABELER. Use a label maker to create large, neat headings for your files. Alphabetize your drawer or color code your files by category if that helps you quickly locate what you need. Install a double lateral file cabinet on a wall behind you or place it as close to the desk as possible so you won’t have to get out of your chair to use it. Position the files in your drawers so you’re able to read the file headings without contorting yourself. Place your printer on top of the file cabinet to free up desk space.
  10. CHAIR. Choose a chair that supports both your back and your weight. A chair with a high back is preferable, especially if you must have your back to the door. Make sure the chair is adjustable and it’s on wheels. Place a plastic chair mat underneath so the chair slides easily, you don’t strain your back when moving, and your carpet or other flooring is protected from wear and tear. If your back is to the door, install a tiny rear view mirror to the top right of your computer monitor so you don’t have to do a “360” to see who’s in your background.

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