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Setting Up a Home Office That Is Ergonomically Designed

If I had to name one remarkable new development in interior design trends that has taken place within the last 7 to 10 years, I would have to say it is the emergence of the Home Office.

According to The Success Factory International, “America is in the midst of an extraordinary workplace transformation... the home-based business phenomenon shows no sign of slowing down... the number of U.S. households that have a home-based business currently exceeds 12%.”

IDC (a top national research firm) claims that there are between 34.3 million to 36.6 million home office households in the U.S. alone!

It is said that every 11 seconds, someone starts a home-based business.

That’s big.

In 1990, buyers of new homes rarely listed a “home office” among their prerequisites.  In 2006, however, its high on the list.  If your guest bedroom or in-law apartment is appointed the dual-role of “home office”, you will have increased the ‘desirability factor’ of your home many times over.

Now that they are capable of linking corporate branches globally via IT, employers are saving on overhead by allowing staff to perform from home.  And it seems to be working out (forgive the pun).

Adding to the growing numbers of home offices, we now have a nation of “Baby-Boomers”, many of whom are at their peak of health and productivity, and showing no signs of slowing down.  On the contrary, many are enjoying “re-births” as entrepreneurs, putting their many years of experience in diverse fields to work in new, inventive ways.  And yes, they, too, are working from home.

Life has indeed changed, and this time, for the better!

Working at home offers unique joys.  We all function better in a beautiful, well-organized workspace.  Productivity increases when the atmosphere is conducive to concentration.

In your own private office space the scissors stay where you left them.  There is generally uninterrupted quiet, allowing completion of work in a fraction of the time it would have taken in the chaotic, communal atmosphere of many offices.

Planning a functional, ergonomically sound and efficient workspace/office in your home just requires a little “home-work” on your part.  This is your opportunity to marry beauty with function so that you will want to spend more (quality) time at work.  A well-designed workspace pays enormous dividends on many levels.  It’s worth taking a little extra time to think it through carefully.

Your home office is personal and specific to your profession, your individual needs.  Planning your space is not a “one-size-fits-all” project, and it requires your input.

The following is a general guide to get you started in planning your “Dream Office”.

Once you complete the “scoping” required, you can turn the whole thing over to a professional interior designer or space planner.  But you must do some hard thinking beforehand so that you will be able to provide your “pro” with a “wish list” of your personal needs.

Sit down with paper and pencil and make a “punch list” of the:

1.   Type of Equipment Your Work Requires, such as personal computer, printer, FAX Machine, answering machine, telephone, copier, desk (how big? Do you need space to spread out?), desk lamp (use overhead recessed lights for overall lighting but have a desk lamp on your desk for close work - besides, lamps are friendlier), corkboard or whiteboard, conference table with chairs (how many?), desk chair, rocking chair (for thinking by the window?), bookcase(s), file cabinet(s), cupboard(s), work table. 

These are suggestions only.  You will fill in this list based upon your needs.

2.   Items That Would Make Your Work-Day More Enjoyable, such as:

• Music (Sound equipment?)
• A beautiful view
• Color (What color(s) would you like to look at day after day?)
• Comfort (Tip: A GOOD desk chair is #1 in importance!)
• A small refrigerator? 
• A rebounder (for intermittent workouts?)
• A perfectly organized filing system?  With room to grow?
• Copious work surfaces that will allow work-in-progress to be left out?
• Clever use of overhead space?  (This one’s not always possible... how high are your ceilings?

Again, this is YOUR list.  You put in it what makes you happy.

3.   Next, write a thoughtful critique of your former office space.  List what you liked about it, and even more importantly, what you didn’t like.  How would you improve it if you could?  Consider light, space in which to function, flow, storage facilities, comfort, aesthetics.

For instance, there is a guideline in office planning that specifies one 4-drawer file cabinet per person, per year.  Is that a guideline that works for you?  
These are just a few of the details you will want to consider as you begin your planning.  You will surely think of other ideas that will suit your work style and personality.

4.   Now that you have a fairly good sense of what you would like from your home office, we have to look at the space itself and begin to work with it.

On another sheet of paper, answer these questions:

• What is the shape of the room?
• How many square feet are available to you?
• Will this room be air-conditioned in summer?  Central air?  Window model?
• Is there a window appropriate for installation of a window model A/C?
• How many windows are there?  What direction do they face?  Is the room naturally warm or cool?
• Is there adequate natural light in this room?  
• Where are the electrical outlets located?  How many are there?  You will need plenty of amps (15 or 20) on a separate circuit.
• Will you need to install the above with a grounded plug?
• Where are the telephone jacks?  Will you need to install one?
• Will you need to install cable for PC, telephone, TV?
• Where are the heating vents or radiators?
• Do you require a separate client entry?  If so, does it already exist, or will you have to install one?
• Is this room away from noisy areas of your home?
• Is your orientation right-handed or left-handed?  Your answer will influence the placement of your desk, phone, and many pieces of equipment.
• Is there nearby access to a bathroom?
• Is there already wiring for overhead light? (Convert a central light fixture to several recessed cans!)

5.   Make a Quick “Thumbnail” Sketch of the room shape, indicating location of door(s), window(s), closet(s), and radiator(s).  Measure the over-all length and width of the room, then go back and measure the perimeter of the room, starting at the door (jot down width of doorway), then move clock-wise around room... door to corner, corner to window, window width, window to corner, etc, etc, all around the room.  You could transfer these measurements to 1/4" scale graph paper if you are so inclined, but if not, just carry this sketch with you when you shop for your furnishings, or just ask your designer to measure and make a scale drawing for you.

If you are doing this on your own, there is going to be a lot of measuring in order to be sure that each item will fit properly.  So bring your measuring tape when you go shopping!

Congratulations, you now have a comprehensive guide which will serve you well in the design of your new office!

Make several copies of the room sketch, and use them to start blocking in a general layout that you think you would like.  On your sketch, pencil in your desk, computer, printer, etc, where you think they would function best for you.  Stay mindful of sizes.  In my work as a designer I always try many layouts until I find the best one.  Sometimes a room offers only one viable layout.  Sometimes there will be two good ones.  Trial and error will help you discover the best solution for you. 

Be patient and use your imagination.  Visualize yourself working in a perfect setting, and make note of where everything is placed in your “daydream”.


Color For Your Home Office

You didn’t think I’d forget color, did you?  It’s the most exciting part of your home office! After all, in the corporate setting everything tends to be rather “blah” and office-like.  Here is your chance to break out and really create YOUR OWN environment, having to please no one but yourself.

Now, if you happen to love “blah” color, that’s fine.  

But if you would like the sun to be out all winter long, consider walls the color of orange juice. 

If you are a nature-lover, perhaps a soft shade of sage-y green will make you feel like you are working in an sylvan glade every day. 

Perhaps a soft shade of robin’s egg blue is your thing, or sandalwood, or taupe. 

Just remember that you will be spending a lot of time here, and you want to feel GOOD in this environment.  Avoid colors that are too dark.  Paint moldings Linen White from Benjamin Moore.  It is a beautiful, creamy white, and works with every color.

Test many colors before you settle on one.  For added help with this, check out the article on paint colors in SHOPSICLE’s Tips and Articles section.

Before your cabinets, desk, files, and the rest are delivered, patch, prime, and paint the walls, have wall-to-wall carpet installed (it soundproofs and it’s cozy underfoot), and have any electrical or wiring work done.

Personalize your space further by hanging art or photographs that feed your soul.

Once the office is fully installed, be sure to break out the flowers and champagne to launch a beautiful new era.

May you and your business live long and prosper!

-Karen Saloomey
®  All Rights Reserved




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