4 Tips for Improving Your Home Office Environment

by Susan Johnston on May 31, 2011

For many home-based businesses, the office might be a corner of the bedroom, a stool at the kitchen counter, or a spot on the couch.  Workplace strategy? Efficiency? Ha! You’re just happy not to be shelling out four bucks a gallon for gas.

But according to Bryant Rice, a Director in DEGW’s San Francisco office, home-based business owners can help avoid burnout and other hazards with a few simple office strategies. DEGW has consulted on business management, architecture, planning, and interior design for hundreds of clients, including Intuit. Read on for Rice’s four tips on how to improve the way your home office works.

  1. Set a schedule (and stick to it!).
    The danger with working from home and setting your own hours is that you may find yourself working around the clock, skipping meals and exercise, and forgoing social interaction in favor of working on your business. Also, if you have other people in the household, it’s easy to get interrupted. That’s why Rice recommends setting alarms so you don’t overwork yourself and alerting others in your household so they know when you’re working. “If you say your hours are 9-5 or 10-4, make sure your space is available for you,” urges Rice. “So if you have roommates or kids or a spouse, they know that that is the space where you work during those times.”
  2. Make safety a priority.
    Safety issues in home offices are often overlooked because business owners are so focused on other things. But electrical devices like printers and computers all give off heat, so those items need room to vent. “If you have a printer or server that’s doing a lot of work, make sure it’s not heating up paper right next to it,” says Rice. “And make sure equipment is supported the way it’s supposed to be so you’re not stacking on boxes or putting a two-foot laser printer on a one foot shelf.” Also use a surge protector with one long extension cord instead of “daisy chaining,” plugging an extension cord into another extension cord.
  3. Invest in an ergonomic chair.
    Rice says most of your office equipment can be purchased on the cheap. But one area where you shouldn’t skimp is your chair. Says Rice, “at minimum, it needs to adjust in height and seat depth and offer lumbar support. The chairs that do all of that usually start around $250 to 300, but it should last around five years.” It’s also helpful to have a docking station if you use a laptop and other electronic devices, but those items vary depending on your individual needs.
  4. Get out of the office.
    Just because you normally work from home doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up by meeting a client for lunch or working at a coffee shop with another home-based colleague. “As a small business person, it is very important that you maintain your networks outside of work,” adds Rice. “Look for activities that break up your week or break up your day, things that make you shower and get dressed, so you have to be somewhere at noon.”