Creating a Professional Home Office

Whether you are a telecommuter, freelancer or entrepreneur, if you primarily work out of your home, your workspace should be professional, comfortable and conducive to productivity. While working in your pajamas on the couch in front of the TV all day may sound tempting, it is important to draw a line in the sand and set up a professional space for working from home.

Below are some tips for creating a professional home office.

Establish your space.

If you are fortunate enough to have an entire room to dedicate as your office, consider yourself lucky. You’ll have more flexibility when it comes to furnishings and things of that nature. However, if you don’t have the square footage luxury, you can still make do. Declare your office space by sectioning off a room in your home with a screen or curtain to create a separation between your personal and professional space.

Furnish and decorate.

Furnishing and decorating your home office can be fun even if you're on a limited budget. Often, you can use things that you already own, like that lamp that’s been in your attic for ten years or that old table you picked up at a garage sale but never use. Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family if they have any furniture they’re willing to part with, or check out Craigslist or your local thrift shops for great items on a budget.

Remember: Comfort is key. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your office, and will need furniture that is comfortable and isn't going to cause any strain or health issues. It is worth it to invest in a nice office chair, gelled wrist support pads and other ergonomic equipment.

And, if you work for a company, be sure to ask if you can expense your furniture and equipment!

Get the requisite office supplies and equipment.

Make a list of items that you’d normally find in an office, and start with the basics. You may not need a fancy three-hole punch machine, but you will likely need things like post-it notes, pens, notebooks, a calculator, paper clips, and a stapler.  Once you’re telecommuting for a while, you’ll be able to determine if you need to pick up additional items.

When I first started working from home, I started with the basics, going without some of the luxuries found in my previous office jobs like a printer/scanner and an additional monitor to create that “dual” monitor, multi-screen work station. That didn't last long once I realized that I’d have to snail mail my onboarding documents to our human resources department and my productivity was diminished by not having an additional computer screen.

Again, ask if your company will purchase these items for you or if you can expense them. If not, save your receipts. You can likely write them off as unreimbursed business expenses when you do your taxes, but be sure to check with a tax professional first.

Create a good filing system.

If your job requires you to work with a lot of paper, you don’t want it cluttering up your space. What’s the adage? Cluttered space, cluttered mind? Invest in a filing cabinet, folders and even a label machine if you’re really OCD and like things extremely neat and organized. Check out these Priority Paper Piling tips for more information.

Even if your work doesn't involve a lot of paper, a digital filing system is just as important. If you’re going to be sharing documents with coworkers, use a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox so that you and your distance-based coworkers can all retrieve files quickly and easily.

We found this handy chart from Citrix:

clean desk guide

Do you have or are you planning on using a home office? Leave your tips in the comments section below!

Be sure to check back for our next post, “How to successfully work from home.”