So you’ve taken the plunge and you have a perfectly viable idea for a home business. You’ve tested that idea so many times you know it works and how it works, inside and out. You’ve even sold some of your products. It all looks good and you’re raring to go. There’s only one problem.
You don’t have an office.
What most home business owners do is set up a home office. Some rent out a low-cost office and use that, but most consider the benefits of having a low overhead office in the place where they live.
So far, so good. But if you think it’s easy setting up a home office, you’d be wrong. There are many things to think about. For example, you have to be organised, and that requirement has a huge impact on the equipment you buy. You also have to make sure that you’re not working in a home office that is actually dangerous. You have to be physically comfortable and healthy or you could run the risk of a long-term serious injury.
So let’s walk through all of the important aspects of setting up that home office for your home business.
First, it’s all about the space.
You need to have a dedicated space for your home office
The very best home office set ups have to be in a dedicated space. This is not always possible, but if you can manage to find a spare room or decent-sized space for your office, you’re already setting yourself up for success.
That word ‘dedicated’ is important. While you may not choose to use barbed wire or electric fences, the set up has to be left alone by anyone else in the building. It’s going to be a professional space, used for making money, so it’s serious stuff.
If this means sectioning off a part of your bedroom (and many businesses have been started in bedrooms) then so be it. Keep it separate and private, and as professional as possible. You need to be as free from distractions as possible too. I know this is not always possible, but you still need to optimise whatever space you have so that it is viewed as a home office. Even if this is just a desk in the hallway, it’s your office. Everyone else in the building needs to know that.
The ideal solution
Ideally, you should have a room that is large enough to hold a desk and a computer and allows you to shut the door. That makes it a true ‘office’ in the traditional sense and allows you to have that dedicated space.
Many people do not have a spare room, or if they do it is for the purpose of allowing guests to stay over. If it is a guest room, you can get creative with a camp bed or futon, with your office equipment living in the space permanently. Other people use a garden shed that they convert (and hopefully fit out with heaters for the winter) or a porch area. There are many ways you can get that dedicated space, even if you cannot have the ideal.
Here’s a guy who made a floating desk for $11. He is good at DIY (I’m not), and the video should show you how you can adapt a space for what you need.
If you’re truly desperate for space and can’t even put up a shelf without destroying a wall (like me), then this solution is best:
If you are living with other people, then bear in mind that the whole thing works both ways. You don’t need them distracting you, and they want you out of the way of the busy household while you’re working.
So yes, work hard to get that space.
You need to have a good chair for your home office
We’ve all worked in an office where someone has an amazing chair that looks like it came from the future. But a good chair is essential if you’re going to be working from a home office. It’s wise to invest in a chair that has a good spec, and can help prevent serious injury. That’s right, you could have a life-changing injury if you choose the wrong chair. And that is not a joke.
Don’t believe me? Listen to this chiropractor:
You will be surprised how many people simply grab a chair from the dining room and stick that in front of the desk in their home office. Sure, it’s practical and it costs nothing, but you may as well book your appointment with the guy in the video above now. You’re going to suffer from a world of back pain and other posture-related injuries.
You don’t need to break the bank, but look for a quality office chair that has the following features:
- Adjustable height
- Lumbar support for your lower back
- Arm height adjustments
- Good arm rests
- The ability to roll
Take the time to find a chair that has the above (or most of the above) and fits within your budget. And don’t buy it off the Internet without heading out to a store and testing it out first. Like with any chair, it has to ‘feel right’.
You need to have a good desk for your home office
Again, don’t spend a fortune on a desk. You should look far and wide for a bargain. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional.
By ‘functional’, I mean it has to satisfy the following requirements;
- It is the right size for your home office, giving a suitable amount of space around it
- It is tough enough to manage your own demands on a daily basis
- It is good ergonomically. Not to get technical here, but there are a few things you need to bear in mind if you’re going to avoid those injuries
So let’s dig in.
There are generally three types of surface for a home office desk.
Laminate is a very popular choice for a home office desk. Laminate is a plastic finish laid over a core of wood. It is durable, and comes in a wide range of looks. If you’re looking to have laminate on your desk at home, choose a desk that has a thick laminate, so it is more durable over time.
However, if you are after the most durable material, you should buy a desk that is crafted from metal. These can be quite attractive, but they tend to lean towards the more ‘functional’ side as regards looks. It’s a matter of taste, but a metal desk does give you the highest level of durability.
Finally, we have wood as a surface. As you can imagine, wood or veneer does scratch quite easily. This is not a durable desk, but it is more likely to be the most attractive of choices. If your desk requirements are quite minimal, as in you’re not likely to be moving things around a lot or placing heavy objects, wood could be an option.
The ergonomics of a home office desk
Your safety is important, and the desk has an important role to play in this. Think about the following when purchasing and installing a new desk fro your home office:
- If you are looking at a desk that has a sharp edge or two, you should consider buying a wrist pad that you can place on the edge. This will help to prevent that sharp edge impacting on your wrists. It’s a small aspect, but it can help prevent discomfort
- Setting up your desk, make sure that the equipment and materials you use on a daily basis (diary, phone etc.) are in easy reach. This will prevent unnecessary stretching
- Underneath the desk, there should be adequate clearance space for your legs. For most people who use a desk, around 30 inches is enough space to feel comfortable
- When sitting at the desk, you should have around three feet of space between you and the desk so you can roll back and feel comfortable if you need to
- The keyboard of a computer must be at the right height. To test this, your wrist should be on the same level of the top of your forearm, and your fingers should dangle slightly down to the keyboard. Most desks have a dedicated keyboard platform or adjustable legs so you can easily make sure the keyboard height is right
You need to have good lighting for your home office
The best kind of lighting you can have for a home office is an overhead light. Your main aim here is to reduce the chances of glare from the monitor you are sitting in front of. If you place a desk lamp too close to a monitor, there is every chance you will experience glare. If you need to have desk lamps, just make sure you don’t place them too close to the monitor. This means the two light sources (lamp and monitor) aren’t competing for your attention.
We are all aware of the importance of natural light when we are working. However, if there is a window directly behind the monitor you can experience monitor glare again. Sunlight can bring on that glare, and again cause problems with eyestrain and headaches. If there is a window behind or to the side of your monitor view, buy some blinds.
Ambient lighting is the lighting that the room ‘comes with’. This is the wall or ceiling mounted lighting. Your main aim here is to make sure that the ambient lighting is even. It can become uneven when you have more than one source of ambient lighting, for example, with different bulb wattage.
If you can have a dimmer switch fitted, do so. These make a huge difference and can help reduce eyestrain and help you maintain productivity as the working day goes on.
You need good monitors for your home office
The first rule when buying monitors is to make sure that you purchase units that are of a good size. This is an investment, but it makes sense to buy monitors that don’t cause you to strain your eyes.
The second rule is to absolutely avoid buying monitors that are cheap. A high quality monitor is the most important part of your home office. You will be staring at it a lot, and it has to be of the highest quality as regards display.
The top end of this is a decent monitor with a good size (around 27 inches)and a 4K HD display. Visit stores and try them out yourself. Even if you cannot afford the best you can usually find one just below top spec that will cost significantly less. Even then, we’re talking hundreds of dollars, not thousands. And it is more than worth it.
When looking at the monitor, your eyes should be at the height of around 25% from the top of the actual screen. This allows you to maintain a good posture.
Further considerations for your home office
After working in your gorgeous home office for a while you’ll realise that you need to have storage solutions. As far as I am concerned, nothing replaces a good filing cabinet. You can buy small cabinets so space doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. A filing cabinet allows you to file the really important stuff, like invoices and tax details. It’s great for organisation and you should really consider one for your home office.
I adore filing cabinets, which is why I watch videos like this:
You can also fit shelves and use magazine racks etc. just to add that bit of storage that you will need. It really all boils down to the size of your home office space.
Buy a headset if you’re in a family home or a place where you share with others. This prevents noise affecting others in the home and also allows you to work when videoconferencing, for example, without having distractions from outside the office space. These are inexpensive, but invaluable if you are not in a quiet, undisturbed space.
And that’s it. The shopping list looks like this:
Oh, and yes, don’t forget that dedicated space. Without that you have no professional space within which to work. That means it is not a home office.
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