Working for yourself from a home office has innumerable benefits. However, as many entrepreneurs quickly discover, the typical home office leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to being productive and maintaining a healthy balance between work and home life. Often home offices are cobbled together from pieces of unused furniture scavenged from other rooms in the house — or worse, little more than a makeshift workspace in the corner of a room or the dining room table.
A disorganized office can have significant ramifications for both your business and your overall health. Studies have found that on average, employees spend 55 minutes a day searching for lost or misplaced items. The estimated cost of such disorganization is more than $89 million per year. Not to mention, when you can’t find what you want in your office, your professional image and morale can suffer.
By avoiding certain design mistakes, though, you can make it easier to work in your home office, as well as improve your productivity and prevent certain work related health issues, like headaches and back problems.
Mistake #1: Not Separating Home and Work.
Finding a dedicated space for your office, one that you can separate from the rest of your home, is the most important part of working from home successfully. When your work is spread out all over the dining room table, or piled up in the corner of the living room, it’s all but impossible to maintain a healthy work-life balance. In addition, working in a high traffic area can make it all but impossible to stay productive.
Ideally, then, your office should be in its own room, with a door that you can close for privacy and separation. Consider converting a guest room, or if possible, adding a room to the basement or garage that can serve as your home office. If that’s not possible, convert a closet into an office, or use an armoire with doors that can be closed and hide your computer, files, and equipment. The idea is to create that visual separation between home and work.
Mistake #2: Not Getting a Comfortable Chair.
Chairs are often a problem in home offices. Often, the business owner just grabs any chair in the house, or picks up a new chair that is either attractive or affordable, without much consideration of comfort. But sitting in the old kitchen chair for hours on end every day will eventually do a number on your back. Because uncomfortable seating can cause back pain and other health issues, it’s vital to choose a comfortable, ergonomically correct chair for your home office.
Mistake #3: Not Considering Storage.
Even the smallest business will have storage needs. Office supplies, promotional items, client files — being a business owner often means acquiring a lot of “stuff.” Without adequate storage, that “stuff” can quickly take over your space and create clutter.
Even if you think you want a minimalist aesthetic, or you are aiming for a paperless office, you still want to have some furniture with cabinet doors or drawers to hide things away. And when you have a storage plan, and actually put things away, you won’t waste time searching for it.
Mistake #4: Technology Overload.
Running a business these days requires a great deal of technology: computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners . . . the list goes on. Often, entrepreneurs working from their home struggle to find a place for all of their necessary equipment. That’s not even considering all of the cords, which often become a jumbled mess or a tripping hazard.
When designing a home office, it’s important to consider the technology needs, and whether there are alternate solutions that would be easier to manage. For example, using an Office 365 fax solution that doesn’t require a fax machine, or investing in a combination printer/scanner can save space and clutter – and reduce your overhead costs as well.
Mistake #5: Ignoring Lighting.
Finally, a major mistake many entrepreneurs make in their home offices is not considering lighting. Not only do you need to position your desk and computer so that you can avoid glare or bright sunlight from the office windows, but you need to think about the overall lighting in your room. A task lamp on your desk can supplement the overhead lighting and help prevent headaches or vision problems caused by dim lighting.
Designing an office that works for you is an important piece of the productivity puzzle. By creating a private, separate area that takes your health into consideration as well as your workflow, you will avoid the wasted time and money that comes with a disorganized or poorly designed space.