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Proper planning and organization ensure productive home office

Many people have said goodbye to long commutes and noisy, windowless cubicles and are working from home. Whether it’s full-time self employment or telecommuting from home for the company, setting up the best office possible is important to getting the job done. Without proper planning and organization, the home office may do more to hinder productivity than enhance it.

Jim Vlach, who owns JV Business Services of Jackson, suggested taking an area of the house and setting it aside so work and household life don’t intermingle. “Considering that office rent is pretty high and you don’t pay that rent at home, it can be good to have a home office,” he said. “You will need the proper electrical hookups and the kind of computer equipment that’s best for the work you do.”

Freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Mississippi Business Journal Becky Gillette of Ocean Springs thinks it’s important to have a window with a view of the outdoors. “I have actually landscaped around the view from my office window,” she said, “and have a small waterfall and goldfish pond that I enjoy looking at when I’m taking a break or waiting for someone to answer a call.”

Noting the number of hours spent working, she wants a connection to something beautiful and soothing — far from the windowless cubicles of today’s office buildings.

Ideally, the home office should be removed from the noise and commotion of the household in a room with a door that closes. That may be a dining room, extra bedroom, den or basement. However, everyone doesn’t have the luxury of dedicating a room to a home office and must get creative with space.

“I once saw a home office that was run efficiently and conveniently from a closet with louvered doors. It worked perfectly for that particular business,” said Catherine Meyers of the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center.

Whatever equipment and furniture are needed is important but having the right computer takes center stage. If cost is a concern, professional organizer Barry Izsak said getting a good computer is the priority, followed by buying secondhand furniture.

“The computer is the most important. Then, the desk and computer work station, and at least one two-drawer filing cabinet,” he said. “Used office furniture stores and resale shops are great places to start looking if you’re on a limited budget.”

Gillette, who’s worked from home for 20 years, says people with home offices may not pay enough attention to good ergonomics.

“Things might be set up more professionally at the regular office,” she said. “For example, I know someone whose home office is a laptop on the couch. That causes a lot of physical strain when working hours at a time.”

A good chair, a monitor placed at the right height to prevent “computer neck” problems and a full-size keyboard are elements that rate high with her for a home office.

“Don’t skimp on a good working setup just because it is an office based in the home,” Gillette added. “You will be more productive and less prone to repetitive stress problems if you pay good attention to ergonomics.”

A separate telephone line for the business is also crucial, said business consultants. “A separate phone line gives professionalism and credibility to the business,” Meyers said. “A child answering the family phone or a family member tying up the line for hours using the Internet can deliver a death blow to even the most well-organized, professional home office.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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