It’s ‘clean out your home office’ day, so what are you waiting for? Get to it!

Guidance on how to keep your home office in order.

by bret.silverberg, published 03/11/2014
Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. workforce spent at least one day working from home, according to a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, “Home-based Workers in the United States: 2010.” The report found the number of people who worked from home at least one day increased from 9.5 million to 13.4 million between 1999 and 2010. More people working from home means there are more home offices around the country — even if it’s just a desk in a spare bedroom. And because today is “clean out your home office” day, we reached out to “Productivity Pro” Laura Stack, author of “Execution IS The Strategy,” for some tips on how to best set up your home office. Finding space “In most homes, extra space is difficult to come by, so you’ll need to get creative,” Stack says. “I’ve seen people attempt to use a hallway, part of a bedroom, and even a closet.” Stack says she previously converted an unused dining room in her house, but suggests snagging a spare, non-communal room if you have one. Also, she recommends taking the time to answer the following work-from-home questions:
  • Where will you set up your home office?
  • How will you modify the space to meet your needs?
  • Can you lock the door? Can you lock the windows?
  • Do you have sufficient lighting for that area?
  • What office supplies you will need?
  • Where are the electrical sockets located? Will you need additional power sources?
  • Do you have enough storage space, such as a file cabinet, bookcases, credenza, closets, etc.?
  • Where you will store back-ups? Is the storage area safe from fire, flooding, etc.?
  • If your home office is in the basement, and if the basement tends to get damp, do you have a de-humidifier?
  • Do you have a personal computer that you already use at home? Will you need different software or hardware to do your work? Will others need to stop using it for personal purposes?
  • Do you have sufficient office equipment for your home office?
  • Do you have a desk? Is it large enough to do office work?
  • Do you need to have adequate access to the Internet? WiFi? What about network security?
  • Are there sufficient phone jacks in the area you’ve designated for your home office? If you don’t have a landline, does your cell phone get a strong enough signal?
  • Do you need a separate fax line, Internet line, and business line?
  • Do you have voice mail or an answering machine?
  • Do you have a smoke detector in your home office area?
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher located near your home office?
The things you’ll need Stack says no matter the amount of time you’ll be working from home, all home offices have similar basic furniture requirements. Feel free to consider the following as needed:
  • A professional office desk and worktable;
  • Sturdy filing cabinets and drawer space for files. Invest in quality pieces that won’t fall apart;
  • An ergonomically correct chair;
  • Bookcases or shelves to hold binders, trays, phone books, and reference manuals;
  • Stackable storage units that maximize your space vertically;
  • Large garbage can;
  • Supply caddy/accessories;
  • Stackable trays for “in” and “out” boxes;
  • A large, standing document sorter with slots for envelopes, fax paper, letterhead, etc., that fits under your desk for easy access.
Organization is great, but cleanliness is next to godliness! “If you're not already highly organized, get yourself together ASAP,” Stack says. Working from home, as opposed to an office, can be a bit disorienting, at least at first. Stack suggests implementing a simple filing system to help you get your bearings and put yourself in a work-first mindset. And of course, in keeping with the theme of today’s “holiday,” keep it clean. “Basic messiness itself can get in your way and cause distractions that pull you away from your productive focus — so clean up the clutter, and keep the place tidy,” Stack says. “Pay special attention to making sure your desk doesn't accumulate papers and junk. “A clean desk isn't a sign of an empty mind, contrary to the popular saying. Rather, it indicates an organized mind that refuses to allow clutter to get in the way of a job efficiently done,” she adds. If the numbers continue along this trend, it’s likely an even-higher percentage of U.S. workers will be working from home by the time the next survey is conducted. Learning to be productive while working from home will no longer be a luxury, but, instead, a necessity. “Consider it a survival instinct,” Stack says. “At least if you want to prove you can maintain (or exceed) your productivity at work via telecommuting.
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