How to set up a home office

If you're starting a brand new business, the likelihood is you won't have enough employees (or funds) to warrant getting premises, so working from home will be your best option. Make sure your home office is well kitted out - remember, as your business builds up, so will the mass of bits of paper, gadgets and general detritus on your desk. If you can at least start off organised, you'll stand a much better chance of carrying on that way.

The space

  • While the idea workspace is a large, airy room with heavy curtains and a leather-topped desk, the reality is that most new entrepreneurs don't have the space to have a separate study. Your workspace can be anywhere, from the space under the stairs to a cubby hole in the kitchen. Some entrepreneurs even take the clothes rail out of a wardrobe and work from there.
  • It may be tempting to sit in bed with a laptop balanced on your knees, but most experts agree it's best not to work in a space where you're used to relaxing. If you set up a space specifically to work, you'll start to associate it with concentration and be able to separate your relaxation space.
  • Plan your space so everything you need will be within easy reach. If you'll need to access books or files, install bookshelves behind the desk, and leave space for a filing cabinet if you think you'll need one. Use a resource such as MyDeco's room planner tool to plan your space.

The furniture

  • The most important - and space consuming - piece of furniture in your home office will inevitably be the desk. When you're buying the desk, try it out - is it the right height for you? Can it be adjusted to suit your height or sitting position?
  • Remember to measure your space before you go shopping: there's nothing more frustrating than having a desk which is too big.
  • You will spend hours sitting in your desk chair, so make sure you get a comfortable one. Considering the amount of time you are likely to spend sitting down, it's not an aspect of your office worth scrimping on.
  • Your chair should be fully adjustable: there should be options to alter the height and angle of both the seat back and seat pan, as well as both the arm rests.
  • Look for a chair which an adjustable lumbar support as well - one you can inflate and deflate by hand will make a huge difference.
  • Most businesses build up an enormous amount of paper over the first few months, so consider investing in a filing cabinet to keep yourself organised. Although we hear they're now available in red, filing cabinets haven't come a particularly long way since the echoey grey towers of the 1950s, but if you're strapped for space, start off with one which can be stowed neatly under your desk.

The technology

  • Your computer is an essential piece of kit and there's an age-old battle between laptop advocates and those who favour desktops. If you do opt for a laptop, though, consider investing in a monitor and keyboard which you can plug it into when you're at home, which will help you keep back problems at bay.
  • Make sure you have a phone within easy reach - you won't want to have to get up every five minutes when it rings.
  • Remember, you'll be making a lot of business calls, so relying on your mobile phone might mean large bills.
  • If you're expecting to receive calls during evenings and weekends (and if you're under any illusion, it's best to deal with that now: you will be), get a second line installed. That big business deal might have less impact if the caller needs to ask 'is mummy there?' when your three-year-old answers the phone.
  • While email has cut down on the need for most postages, even the most paperless of offices has a printer. Unless you are planning to do big mailshots, don't bother paying through the nose for an expensive laser printer - you'll probably only need an inkjet which can be picked up for around £30.
  • While they're not as common as they used to be, it's still worth getting a fax machine for the odd time you need to fax signed documents or invoices through.
  • To save on space, get a combined fax machine and printer - although be aware that if one breaks, you lose use of the other as well.

Checklist

  • You can fit an office into almost any space you have available
  • Plan your space to get the most out of it
  • Don't work in spaces where there are distractions - you won't be able to concentrate
  • Make sure your desk is the right size
  • Choose a fully adjustable chair
  • Consider investing in a filing cabinet
  • Buy a monitor and keyboard if you choose a laptop
  • Have a phone nearby and consider installing a second line
  • You won't need an expensive printer
  • It's worth getting a fax machine

Resources

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