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Homeworking – make your workspace work for you

For anyone who’s worked perched at the end of the kitchen table surrounded by day to day paraphernalia, you’ll know how great it is to have a separate space to set up your home office. But how to make the best of the space available to you? One of my contacts doesn’t have a spare room to use as an office, so she’s bought one of those nifty desks that fit into the corner that disguise themselves as cupboards out of hours. This means she has to be extra neat and tidy as space is obviously limited. But if you are fortunate to have a separate room to use, you’ll want to think about how to set it up so that it works for you.

Small office, home office

Furniture and Ergonomics

As we all know Ikea is great for home office stuff – desks, chairs and stationery storage at reasonable prices so check them out. Having sat on a cheap office chair with no back adjustment, I know how crippling it can be. You are going to spending a lot of time in this chair so it’s worth the investment (and so is your back). You must also think about the set up of your desk, chair and computer so that you are working safely and comfortably. Check out Ergotron which offers an online tool to help you get set up. An L shaped arrangement in the corner is good because you get a workspace either side of you. It’s also worth taking a look at the HSE guidelines on working with Display Screen Equipment.

Lighting

You’ll need to think about where to put the desk in relation to your window(s) so that you can avoid glare and also get to look outside now and then! You may want to get a desk lamp, especially if you don’t like harsh overhead lighting.

Smartphone stand

Someone came up with some novel ideas for making your own here, which prompted me to make mine out of an old Amazon gift card.  Or you can, of course, buy something a bit more flash. Try EBay or Amazon.

Avoiding cables all over the place

You will want to keep your laptop easy to unplug and take away. Docking stations can be a great way to do this, but a simple USB hub may be all you need. Route all your bits and pieces (printer, mouse, etc) to one hub and then send one line to your laptop. Try using cable ties or binder clips to keep your cables neat under your feet.

Deskspace

Buy some cheap trays for your in, out and filing paperwork and a book rack to store your lever arch files and books that you use a lot. Move your printer away from your main work area. There’s nothing more frustrating than having nowhere to put your working documents and when things keep falling on the floor.

A decent four shelf bookcase will be handy for storing all your other files and books, and you can get some great storage boxes to hide awkward to store bits and bobs. Co-ordinating these with your file colours will make your home office look smart and professional.

Home comforts

Decorate in colours that you feel are stimulating or calming, whichever works best for you. Hang some favourite prints and get a plant or two. If your office is upstairs you may want to keep a kettle, small fridge and tea and coffee making bits up there too. If you have space an easy chair or small sofa is great for when you want a break or want to sit and think something out.

Staying organised

Have a place to put your receipts and invoices for processing so you are not hunting through wallets, purses or under files. Process them regularly and file straightaway. Not only will you have a clear desk but you will know how much your business is spending and taking in.

If you don’t need a letter or document, shred immediately if confidential or put straight in the recycling bin. Don’t leave it lying around to clutter everything else up.

Add your new contacts from networking to your marketing list straightaway, ie, avoid that bag of business cards getting bigger and bigger and bigger…. Then file (if you think you will ever look at them again or want to pass them on to others) or get rid!

Keeping work and home life separate

Probably the hardest to do! If you can get into the habit of switching off your laptop, tablet and phone at the end of the day and shutting the office door behind you, that’s great. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but it’s vital to keep work stresses and home life as separate as possible.

Happy homeworking!

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