Those of us bold enough to leap into self employment know working from home and for yourself is a challenge. For those new to working from home (and note, working from home may not even be best for you), it can be all too easy to become distracted by the comforts of our surroundings, whether it be the couch, a spouse, the view, bed, or even the contents of the fridge. But there are some helpful guidelines about setting up a home office for productivity and comfort.
Setting Up the Home Office
The following tips are a guide to help the first time work-at-home entrepeneur streamline and set up an efficient home work space, highlighting a few tasks/features often easy to overlook while setting up from home.
1. Getting Comfortable: Spine-Health indicates "sitting in an office chair for prolonged periods of time can definitely cause lower back pain."
When sitting in an office chair for a long period, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over or slouch down in the chair, and this posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back and neck pain.
A comfortable chair doesn't mean sacrificing style. The iconic Herman Miller Aeron Chair gave birth to a Dot.com era industry of task chairs and there are numerous resources to choose from where ergonomics requirements are matched by aesthetic preferences.
Even with an ultra-comfortable chair, it's advisable to remember to get up and take periodic breaks. The Heuser Clinic reports long periods of sitting can be detrimental to health, a mistake hard working self-employed types often forget:
Part of the problem is that you don’t use as much energy as when you’re moving. That makes it easier to gain weight. Being overweight makes you more prone to problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
When you spend long periods sitting, your body starts doing things that are bad for you, according to the New York Times. Your metabolism, the way your body stores fuel and changes it to energy, changes. For example, after just one hour of sitting, the chemical that helps your body burn fat drops by as much as 90 percent. Many medical experts now refer to this change in metabolism as “sitting disease.”
2. Get a Business Line: It's not particularly professional or handy to hand out a cell phone number as a primary business number, mixing business and personal calls. Landlines bundled with other services such as internet and television are often quite a good bargain. Extra savings can be found skipping traditional landline, in the realm of voice over IP (VOIP). Adding a Google Voice number into the mix allows additional call management, routing to different numbers at different times, and other business helpful features.
3. Don't Skimp on the Internet Speed: When working from home, the axiom "time is money" really becomes truth. Poor reception Skype calls, slow file transfers, and a variety of other internet speed related troubles can hamper getting work finished on time. It may prove valuable to upgrade to business speed internet access (or services like Google Fiber, FIOS, or other cable provider's fiber network) not only for the faster speed, but with the additional "always on" security these business-rated services usually attach with access.
4. Make It Your Own: One of the benefits of escaping the drab cubicle is the freedom to decorate the home office to suit your own whims and fancy. Whatever inspires your creativity and productivity is fair game, without any draconian corporate rules to limit expression. Framed photos and prints on the walls can really dress up the home office, putting a signature stamp of who you are inside the space you call home...home office.
5. Make Sure You Have The Proper Insurance Coverage: One important thing to overlook is checking whether your home insurance policy covers the home office, ensuring all that costly electronic equipment is covered in case of theft, fire, or other unfortunate situation. Also consider whether liability insurance is needed to cover an additional unforeseen issues. Without an employer covering these policies, these circumstantial preparations are important to research (not to mention health insurance).
6. Add Multiple Monitors: There are many reports outlining how multiple monitors can help increase productivity. Though, The New York Times also warns too much "multitasking can take
a serious toll on productivity", so it can become a delicate balance of "too much" and "too little" on the screen(s). But in this era of online workflow, alongside chat/IM, video chat, and social media, the more screen space, the less time spent trying to find the appropriate window.
Serious multi-monitor users can benefit additionally loading up a monitor management application like Synergy (free), which allows users to share a mouse and keyboard between multiple computers, helpful for client meetings/presentations.
7. Get The Right Peripherals: A desk, chair, and computer are a given when setting up a home office. But it's usually the smaller details which make an office a productive space to work from, including productivity peripherals for connectivity, such as a fast wireless router, a USB 3 hub offering enough ports for every device, at least one additional backup storage device for copying all files in duplicate; and maybe even a multi-format memory card reader if working with images regularly.
Consider purchasing spare batteries for any device used at least weekly: backup rechargeable batteries for the wireless mouse and keyboard, an additional set for the digital camera, a backup charger for smartphones or tablets. If you don't know what a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) beyond the shipping company, it's imperative as a business owner to have a backup power plan.
8. Backup, backup, backup: Remembering to backup all work files frequently or via cloud storage should become second nature for someone working from home. Be sure to set up Time Machine in OS X with an external drive or Time Capsule if working from a Mac, or File Backup in Windows as the bare minimum; consider additional backup protection via cloud services for an extra layer of protection.
9. Separate Computers For Work and Personal: If the budget allows, and as someone who operates his own business, I can't stress how much setting up one machine for professional use and one for personal use can prove helpful. The separate machines minimizes not only potentially embarrassing moments, but also helps minimize the chance of being infected by malware, spam, and viruses, usually caught during leisurely browsing online. Productivity also increases when a "work" machine is devoid of games, extraneous apps, and browser bookmarks.
10. Remove Distractions of Household Comfort: Keeping away from the allure of a comfortable couch or visiting a well-stocked fridge for one-too-many-snacks can be difficult while working for home. An easy solution is to purchase a small mini fridge for the work space, stocked only with water (and any healthy snacks). For coffee drinkers, a separate coffee maker brings the caffeine close to hand and keeps us from wandering into the kitchen.
Instead of a couch, consider adding an exercise machine into the home office. Even a 5-10 minute break on a stationary bike, treadmill, or even lifting some free weights can be much more beneficial not only to overall health, but energy levels for productivity throughout the day.
11. Protect Your Personal Life:
Once the home office is up and running, it's important to remember how to keep aspects of your personal life and work life separate and healthy. Productivity
is a popular topic at Apartment Therapy, and making working from home is all about daily habits
(especially with children
), but remember there are several habits to avoid
to protect what you love about working from home from becoming intrusive, rather than a blessing.
MORE HANDY HOME OFFICE HELPERS ON APARTMENT THERAPY
(Images: Bethany Nauert/At the Office With Tommy Chambers; Nick Keppol's Picture Perfect Brooklyn Office Tech Tour)