As more and more people enter the freelance economy, home offices are more common than ever. While working at home offers a freelancer many advantages (including flexible hours, no more commuting, and complete sartorial freedom), you must have a professional home office to be your most efficient. These tips, ideas and common mistakes will help you to do your best work in your own home environment.
Here are a few important questions you spend time considering before you start the process of designing your ideal home office:
Now that you have asked yourself these questions, it is time to start designing your ideal home office. You don’t need a large space, but it should be highly optimised for your needs and well organised.
It can be easy to allow your home office gear to start spilling out into other areas of your home, but resist this temptation and keep things tidy. You need to be able to find things, retrieve them quickly when needed, and work to your most efficient capacity. This maintains a healthy work/life balance and lets you relax in your home without feeling like you are always at work.
These are common mistakes that many people make when they design their home office. Avoid doing the following:
Start With a List Of Your Specific Needs
Don’t just plonk a desk and a laptop in the corner of your lounge room and call it an office. Instead, sit down and write a list of your specific needs. Of course, this will include a desk, computer, printer, and a telephone (or charging station for your mobile). You might need additional technology and workspace depending on your line of work, such as a drafting table for an artist, or additional monitors for graphic design.
Assess Your Home and Choose a Dedicated Space For Your Home Office
Now that you have a list of your specific needs, you will have a better idea of how much space you require for your home office. Ideally, you can set aside a quiet area with some degree of privacy, something that is even more important if you have kids or a flatmate. If you plan to participate in regular conference calls or video chats, you must have a quiet and calm setting in which to work.
Be Realistic About Your Storage Requirements
Chances are, you are going to set up your home office in the smallest extra room in your home. This is usually a small space, and so it can feel cramped and cluttered. The best way to make good use of this space is to practice good storage and organisation principles. Choose office furniture that does double duty with hidden storage capacity and filing solutions.
Don’t Underestimate Proper Lighting
Lighting plays a big role in how you feel throughout the workday. When working in low or poor lighting, you tend to feel tired, cranky and unfocused. If possible, designate an office space with plenty of natural light. If this isn’t possible, invest in high-quality lighting in order to open up space and give you a boost of energy as you work.
Invest In a Dedicated Phone Number With Voicemail
While you might think that your mobile is good enough to serve as both your professional and personal telephone, this is a common rookie mistake. Using your personal mobile for business is an unprofessional habit that can cause you to miss calls, lose voicemails, and most importantly, it can prevent you from ‘turning off’ on the weekends.
Invest In Home Office Furniture and Equipment
While you might spend the lion’s share of your budget on buying essential technology and equipment, you shouldn’t neglect your other office furniture. The look and feel of your home office will affect your productivity and work ethic, so it pays to decorate it in a pleasing and professional manner. In addition to your desk and an ergonomic chair, consider adding additional shelving and seating. Classic wingback chairs are a timeless option, as is an area rug to tie the room together.
Keep Your Professional Personal Lives Separate
A lot of the points on this list relate to the importance of keeping your personal life separate from your business world. A business bank account is one vital first step, as is a separate procedure for dealing with email, mail and phone calls. Keeping these aspects of your life in different physical (and mental) spheres will also make things easier come tax time, as home office deductions are being scrutinised more than ever before.
Establish Formal Procedures
Growing your business in a home office is not as easy as doing so in a traditional workplace. This is in part because every office has a set of formal procedures, often organised into an employee handbook. While there might not be a need for such a strict protocol, it is a good idea to create a formal system of operations that you implement in your home office. This can help you to log hours, phone and utility costs, mileage and other expenses, as well as keeping you on track with your career goals.
Establish – and Stick To – Set Office Hours
One of the greatest benefits of working in a home office flexibility, allowing you to set your own hours and maximise your time both at home and at work. However, it is precisely this flexibility that can leave some freelancers struggling to find a balance. They either end up ‘slacking off’ too often, or they work exceedingly long hours and end up burning out. Set a specific schedule and try to stick to it, something that will minimise distractions, prevent unannounced calls, mitigate unreasonable clients demands, and discourage unscheduled visits from family and friends.
Hang a Clock On The Wall
Once you have set specific office hours, it is time to stick to them. That said, this is much easier said than done! If you want to increase your chances of sticking to your designated schedule, it is a good idea to hang a clock on your wall or set a digital clock on your desk. While this might seem like a simplistic solution, this concrete action will go a long way in helping you keep a good work/life balance and leaving work behind to spend time with friends and family.
By designing a home office that corresponds to your needs and business goals, you can excel in your career without ever stepping foot outside your door. You will be spending upwards of 40 hours per week in this space – it pays to customise it to your personal taste, specific industry, and your working habits.
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Edward is the managing director of Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs. He is an expert in quality, comfortable upholstered chairs.