Your workspace is the key to your success!
If you’re making the switch from a regular job to a work at home career, then defining your workspace will help you and your family make the mental transition and adjustment.
Defining where it is you work helps you to put a boundary between your “home” and your “work” so that family members learn to respect that even though you are at home you are working, and you need the time, space and quiet to do so.
This can be a challenge if you have a small home, or a city apartment! But it’s necessary for the success of your new endeavor.
Besides, it’s fun saying, “I’m leaving for work now!” before walking into your in home office!
Choosing your Work Space
Sometimes the ideal and the reality don’t come together! But your attitude and your determination to figure out a way to make it work will count for a lot.
Ideally you’ll want a separate room, ie a spare bedroom, dedicated for home office use with a door that shuts, away from family hustle and bustle. But in some cases this just isn’t possible.
The reality can be a corner of your bedroom, or a corner of the dining room, or an alcove or nook, or even a basement or attic space! Sometimes bookcases or partitions can be used to wall off a corner of an existing room.
Unused or Underused Space in Your Home — The Perfect Solution!
One clever friend converted the closet in her mudroom into her office. Yes, she had to put up with the sound of the washer and dryer, but the mudroom was out of the main traffic flow of the family, who knew that during work hours they were to use a different entry, and the mudroom had a door that closed it off from the rest of the house.
She removed the double sliding doors off the closet, and installed a desktop and shelves in the space. An armoire was installed in another room near the back entry to hold the coats and other stuff that had been in the mudroom closet.
The key to choosing the space is that it should be, if not truly isolated, then at least visually isolated, and if possible sonically isolated from the parts of the home where family members congregate and spend the most time.
Another friend, a freelance writer who lives in NYC where space is at a premium, solved her dilemma in a different way. She mostly works right in her living room when her (older) kids are at school, but if she’s on deadline and has to work when they’re home, she packs up her notebook computer and heads off to the local wifi enabled coffeehouse or her local library.
It’s understood when she does this that the kids are to text her with any questions or concerns, and she’s only a few minutes away in the event of an emergency. This may not be ideal, but it allows her to focus on work when she needs to.
The point is, you can work wherever it’s convenient, even the basement if need be.
Home Office Necessities
Whatever equipment and supplies you need to do your work is what your in-home office should contain.
It’s nice to be able to furnish an in-home office with all new furniture, and yes, this is the ideal. But not everyone has the money to do so, and most new businesses are strapped for cash, or at the very least need to be careful of initial expenditures, since most new businesses fail because of lack of, or running out of, startup capital before the business gets off the ground.
For those who are bootstrapping, and need to furnish a home office on the cheap, try thrift shops, freecycle, auctions, flea markets and your local hardware store or lumber yard. Sometimes office furniture suppliers will take trade-ins and sell the used office furniture very inexpensively compared to new.
One friend garbage picked a solid door from a construction site, and set it horizontally on top of two two-drawer file cabinets he bought at the local thrift shop. Total cost? 30 bucks! He later added shelves against the wall by stacking bricks and planks across the back. His laptop dock, printer, scanner and reference books were installed, and he kept his records in the file cabinets.
Some bright paint and a few potted plants and he’s got a reasonably nice work space for very little money.
Furnishing your Office– Buying on a Budget
Flea market finds and thrift shop treasures are especially great for use as furniture in a home office. Also check your local auction listings, since office furniture often goes cheap at auctions.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need a traditional desk. Sometimes a library table or rectangular top kitchen table will do. Add shelves above and to the sides, a rollout cupboard underneath that can extend your workspace and add file and office supply storage, and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget great lighting! You’ll need some good light fixtures. Swags and and a swing-arm desk lamp or an architect desk lamp are great for making smart use of space while putting the lighting where you need it.
Sometimes you can stack a narrow table or a bench on top of a wider table.to give you the work and storage space you need. Bookcases can also be stacked on a desk or table top, or on each other. C clamps can be useful for making stacks sturdy.
The most important thing is to have a comfortable chair, since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it. Don’t skimp when it comes to your chair! And having carpeting is always nice for a few reasons. When it’s cold, the carpet or even a rug can help keep your feet nice and warm. And also, carpeting or even rugs help deaden sound. You’d be surprised how much they make a difference if you’re on a call with a client or something like that, especially when using a headset and Skype. These microphones are usually quite sensitive and a good carpet or large area rug helps keep the sounds from bouncing around.
And once you’re making a little cash, you can just hire a home carpet cleaning service or a maid service, and you’ll have a nice clean space to do your work in every single day.
Some people need an elaborate office, some can make do with a very spare and sparse office setup. And some people can make do with nothing but an iPad!
Does Your In-Home Office Have to be NEAT?
Some folks swear by a neat office with a place for everything and everything in its place. The desktop is an open and empty expanse with only the current project front and center, and at the end of the day it gets put away.
Others can’t function without having clutter around them, but know exactly where everything is (because they know where they put it down last time after they used it! This is usually known as the Pile Method of Filing, and messy desk folks know how deep things should be in any single pile!)
Ideas for Making the Most out of a Small Space
Shelves and hanging cupboards– When you don’t have a lot of floor space to work with, go vertical! Whether you choose to use bookcases or hang shelves on the wall, shelving is a great way to make the most of a small space. One innovative way to use shelving is putting a short bookcase on top of a table and/or under it. Hanging cupboards are great if you’re using the room for more than one purpose, so you can “hide” your office when not in use.
Pullout surfaces– If you are creating a “built-in” office, pullout surfaces are a great way to enable more surface space while you’re working, without taking up that space permanently.
Rollaway Storage– Storage on wheels that can be rolled under a desk or table is great for making the most of a small space!
Hanging or Wall-Mounted Lighting– Getting your desk lighting up off your desktop helps you make the most of your desktop surface.
Making the most of a room corner as an office.
L-Shaped Desks make the most of a small space
Sometimes all the space you have is a corner of an existing room. Making the most of it by installing an L-shaped Desk and some shelving to define the space is the best way to carve out your workspace. Note the addition of some cheery color in the shelving chosen, and the installation of lighting to the bottom of the bottom shelf that frees desk space and puts the light where it’s needed..
Hide your Office in a Cupboard!
For the ultimate in small space offices, build it in a cupboard so your workday can end simply by closing its doors. Sometimes a separate office space just isn’t possible . . .
A dining table can do dual duty as a desk, if a separate office space just isn’t possible. Using closed cupboards for storage allows you to stash away your work gear when it’s time to eat.