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How to Make a Home Office that Works for You

written by: Nacie•edited by: John Garger•updated: 2/18/2010

Working at home can be a pleasant experience if you create a home office that works for you. Learn how to choose a good location, furnish your new office space, and stick to a budget in the process.

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    Choosing the Best Location for Your Home Office

    The first thing you need to do is consider your living space and pick the ideal location. The ideal location will be somewhere that is separated or can be separated from your living, sleeping, and eating spaces and has adequate light and space at least for a computer desk, chair, and book shelf. You may also want to leave space for a filing cabinet, reading chair, or television stand depending on your work.

    If you are having trouble locating a space in your home that would be suitable, consider reworking space that is currently misused or not maximized: a spare bedroom, a basement, a formal parlor that is rarely used, the kid’s old play room, the attic. Do you have a shed in your yard that is filled with junk? Consider cleaning it out and using it as your home office.

    Whenever possible, you also want to make sure you separate your living space from your work space so you can leave it at the end of the day. Just as you find release from stress when you walk in the door from your office job, you want to have the same kind of feeling when you leave your home work space as well.

    Consider the space as it is now: is there anything you need to change about it before you begin furnishing? Think about what colors make you feel relaxed, motivated, and powerful. These are the colors you should surround yourself with in the home office space. Don’t be afraid to paint the space, add a new carpet, or fix up the wood work. You will be expected to be professional in this room, and you want it to reflect your commitment to quality. Perfom all maintenance tasks on the room before adding furniture, such as adding a heating vent or repairing the leaking air conditioner duct. Don’t sweep minor issues like these under the rug at the start, or you will find yourself frustrated and unable to work later.

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    Basic Furnishings

    Once you have chosen the site for your home office, you need to furnish it with the basics. Arguably, the cornerstone of any office is the desk. Choose a desk that is tall enough for your legs to fit under comfortably, deep enough for a computer plus papers, and has several draws and perhaps a file cabinet for storage. If you don’t already own a desk that will fit your needs, visit your local Staples or Office Depot and pick a style and size that will work in the space you have chosen. If you have chosen a smaller space for your office, it is helpful to take the dimensions of the room before you buy a desk so you can avoid picking a desk that is too larger or bulky for the space.

    After choosing your desk, you need to find a chair that is adjustable, comfortable, and can fit into your workspace with room to spare. Many aspects of a chair are personal preference - however it is recommended if you will be sitting at it for long periods of time that you invest in an ergonomic chair- this will provide your back and legs with the support and comfort it needs during the day.

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    Additional Needs

    If you purchase these items, it is recommended that you get them home and assemble them in the space before buy any additional items. When the room is set-up thus far, sit behind the desk and ask yourself what you think of the space aesthetically. Where would be a good place for a book shelf? Do you want a tall bookcase or a three-shelf unit? Would you like any art or photographs on your walls? How about drapes for the windows? It is important that you make the space somewhere you can be productive, but also somewhere you will enjoy being.

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    Budget for Success

    When tackling the project of creating a home office, it is important that you give yourself a budget. Even at office supply stores, it is easy to spend hundreds of dollars on designer desk sets, large leather chairs, and expensive electronics. Depending on your lifestyle, income, and needs, select a budget that will allow you to purchase a chair, bookshelf, desk, and a little bit of personal flair (artwork, picture frames, etc). A good, standard budget for all people is $500.

    Most stores like Office Max and Walmart have their products listed online along with their current price and any upcoming promotions. Use these sites to get a sense of the most appropriate way to spend your budget money before you get to the stores; it will help you stay on track and give you a heads up on what is out there. You can also check budget stores like Costco for your home office furnishings. While they don’t list their whole inventory online they will advertise their specials on their sites and could be offering an item you need cheap.

    Try your best to stick to your budget, that way you won’t feel guilty every time you enter your new working space.

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    Does The Space Work?

    After working in your new office for two weeks, ask yourself, “Is this space meeting my needs? What do I like, what don’t I like?" The beauty of a home office is that, like all areas of your home, it is an organic and personal area that can be modified by you anytime you want. Unlike your office at work, where you can’t change the color of your drapes or paint the walls, you have the power to shape a space that is the most conducive to you producing quality work. Take pride in your home office, and don’t be afraid to make it fun, beautiful, and an expression of who you are as a professional and a person.