Working from Home
Our Top 10 Tips on Running and Organising Your Home Office
by Julie-Ann Amos
Julie-Ann Amos is a freelance consultant within business, management and human resources. She has worked in the RAF, the public sector, retail, recruitment and banking – in as far locations as New York, Hong Kong, Scotland, and the Falkland Islands. Currently, she works part-time, consulting with a banking institution in the City of London, and freelances during the rest of her time.
She is the author of a number of books published by How To Books on management topics.
She lives in London with her husband, a wonderful garden and a small menagerie, including a Siberian Husky, and a very helpful cat who likes to type and play computer games!
Read our interview with Julie-Ann Amos
Working from a "home office" may be ideal but difficult in practice. Here are our top ten tips for running and organising your home office.
1. Make Room...
A whole room wherever possible: you may spend more waking hours here than anywhere else. Separating work and home life is easier if you work in a separate room. Sharing the dining room, living room etc rarely works. You need privacy and protection. Make your room pleasant enough to keep you there!
2. Size DOES Matter...
Your workspace must be large enough to house work, equipment, filing and you! If cramped, you end up working too close to your screen, sitting awkwardly, and generally getting stressed. Keep clutter off the desk and in drawers or boxes. Get a proper filing cabinet for papers. Archive papers and files not used regularly.
3. Be Alone...
Create boundaries to keep others out and you in. Have start-of-day rituals as you would when arriving at work.
Consider working regular hours – regardless of what time of day. Tell people you will be at work then, and make rules to avoid disturbance and interruption.
4. Avoid Gadgets…
When equipping yourself, don’t use gadgets you don’t need. Only use mobiles or laptops, for instance, if you really can’t do without them. This will save money and can be easier and better for your needs. But don’t forget gadgets that are life-savers, such as backup tape or zip drives, or ignore technology such as ISDN lines.
5. Remember - your Bosses Can’t See You…
This means they will judge you by the contact they do have. Clients and prospects must see you as professional. A second phone line is essential – to separate calls from fax/internet usage. Answer all calls personally unless all householders answer calls professionally. Children answering calls rarely appears professional.
6. Beware the Family…
They can be an unwanted distraction. Ensure they know how important non-disturbance is. Let neighbours know (NICELY!) that casual visits are unwelcome. Partners at home may have to adjust to not having the house to themselves Partners out at work may try to give you greater domestic responsibility. However, sometimes family can assist with filing, copying, posting correspondence, sorting mail etc.
7. Motivate Yourself…
Being alone with no set hours can be heaven or hell! Beware of isolation or loneliness. Get together with similar people regularly. Don’t neglect training and career development. Know when to take a break, but also avoid excesses of tea, coffee and snacks. Avoid temptations.
8. Count the cost…
And balance profit against charges for heating, lighting, electricity, phone bills etc. The bureaucracy of VAT and tax records can weigh you down if you don’t keep records. Business rates are a grey area, as is capital gains tax. Get a good accountant.
9. Health and Safety…
Invest in an office chair designed for all-day use. The more possible adjustments, the better the chair. Home desks/tables are usually too shallow for computers. Have PC’s directly ahead, screen at right angles to light sources, the top of the screen at eye level and arm’s length away. Windows are attractive, but can cause screen glare.
10. Insurance Matters…
Don’t neglect it. Most household policies exclude items for business use, or have a low threshold. You may be less likely to be burgled whilst at home all the time, but you may still be penalized on cover. Check with your insurer. If necessary, check out policies designed specifically for home workers.
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