Planning a home-office

School-aged children
aren’t the only ones who have homework. In fact, more than 20 million adults do
some work at home as part of their primary job, according to the latest U.S.
Department of Labor’s Current Population Survey.    

Creating an
environment that is both productive and professional is key to setting up a
home office, says Margi Kyle, president of the Interior Design Society.

“In this age of the
Internet and the state of the economy, having a home office just makes sense,”
Kyle says. “There is an art to working and living in the same space.”

For half of Kyle’s
40-year career as an interior designer and educator, she has chosen to conduct
business from her personal home, in Cornelius, N.C. The secret to a successful
in-home office (or “hoffice,” as Kyle refers to it) is to create different
spaces for work and a personal life under the same roof.

“You really can’t
conduct business from a corner of the dining room table,” Kyle says. “If you
take your professional work seriously, the space in which you conduct business
should be all about that. It’s just that your commute to the office takes one
minute, instead of one hour.”

An in-home office
affords Kyle the flexibility to work early or late on a project by simply
walking down the hallway to an extra bedroom that’s been converted to suit her
needs. “My personal bedroom and living room have nothing to do with work, so I
don’t bring it into those spaces,” she says. “Don’t share your work space, you
need to be able to delineate when you’re at work to be able to leave it there.”

After choosing the
space for a home office the first step is to paint the walls with a colour that
is pleasing, but not a favourite shade. “The object is to create focus in your
‘hoffice.’ You don’t want to be looking at the walls, you want to be working,”
says Kyle.“I hate white walls, but that’s the colour of my home office walls.
It’s not offensive, but I walk into my hoffice to get down to business.”

What you hang on your
freshly painted home office walls is highly personal,such as awards and
degrees,but items should primarily pertain to work. When selecting a desk for
adult homework, it’s all about location, location, location. “It’s a Feng Shui
principle that a desk should be facing the door,” Kyle says. “You need to be
able to look up from your desk to see who is coming and going.”

Measure the area of
the room where the desk will be located and if space is tight, consider a
corner desk, or a small desk that comes with a hutch to store books and
vertical files. Today’s home office desks are not only functional, they can
also be fashionable, ranging from contemporary clean-lines to ornately scrolled
furniture.

Kyle says the style
of a home office desk can take a cue from other furnishings found in the home.
If your home is filled with antiques, your desk may be a refinished
quarter-sawn oak banker’s desk. If your home has a modern aesthetic, consider a
black minimalistic desk for your office.

“No matter what your
desk looks like, you need to allow for plenty of storage for client files,”
Kyle says. “Having a cabinet that provides sufficient storage frees up your
workspace.”

Kyle has a multilevel
L-shaped desk in her office with a special storage area in which she files
finished projects. Manufacturers  are
building desks that are modular, with the capability to add hutches and
bookshelves as needed.

Manufacturers are
also adding technology-driven functionality to home office furniture with desks
that feature built-in power strips with USB (universal serial bus) hookups for
computers, electrical outlets and ways to plug in a printer, cell phone and MP3
player. These features are often hidden inside a drawer or cabinet to keep
cords and cables organized, so the workspace remains uncluttered.

Selecting a
comfortable, functional chair is a decision that should be made sitting down.
“It’s important to invest in a really good desk chair that works for you and
your space,” Kyle says. “An ergonomic chair, with castors that roll and
adjustable features that support your posture, help make long work sessions
more comfortable.”

Task lighting, not
overhead lights, will shed some real light on the work you do in a home office.
Don’t rely on recessed or track lighting for reading light. Lamps are
relatively inexpensive, personalized accents that can be as stylish as they are
useful.

If your work requires
telephone time, consider using a headset or speaker to avoid the strain from
using a handset. And, after adding organizational items to a home office to keep
all papers and supplies in order, remove any distractions that might decrease
productivity, such as loud music or television.

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