More and more people are making home their place of work. Recent statistics from the US Bureau of Labor estimate that there are now more than 18.3 million home based businesses in the United States. Home offices are not just for the self-employed, with telecommuting options available through many companies, employees are able to perform some, or all of their duties from home. Reflecting this trend, many new homes include private "bonus" rooms that can be used for office space.

The freedom to create your own schedule, dress as you please, and the ability to work in the comfort of your personal surroundings are some of the positive aspects of a home office. On the down side, there are the difficulties of maintaining privacy, separating work time from family time, and the lack of ideal space to create a professional, efficient office.

If you are planning to set up a home office, or if you already have an office space, but it isn’t quite working, and you are not sure why, take a moment to think about your work style and personal preferences. There are a few basic requirements that you need to consider before you run out to buy office furniture or equipment. Make a list of YOUR basic requirements to do your job efficiently. Visualize your “dream office” and try to include a few dream elements into your workspace and budget. This is your opportunity to create an ideal work environment for yourself.

The following are a few essential questions you need to be able to answer in order to design an office that reflects who you are, creates a professional working environment, and that works efficiently with your work style.

· What is your budget?

· List every piece of equipment you need. Where will they be set up?

· Desktop computer, or will a laptop do the job? Many people have both.

· How much printing will you be doing? Consider size of printer and printer location.

· Think about electrical, cable, and phone line needs. Does your space have adequate outlets? Are they located where they are needed?

· Are you right or left handed? Place phone and other desktop items for ease of movement and usability.

· What will your lighting needs be? Is there natural light? Will you be working at night? Do you need task lighting?

· Will your clients be coming in for consultations or meetings? Do you need a private entrance to your office? Will you need meeting space?

· Will noise be an issue in your chosen space? How easily distracted are you by noise?

· What are your city zoning ordinances?

· Do you need reference materials nearby? Will you need bookcases, wall shelves and possibly containers to accommodate your materials and make them easily accessible?

· What are your filing space requirements? Do you have a filing system set up for easy filing and retrieval of documents?

· If your home does not have a spare room for your office, is there a nook or cranny that you can creatively convert to a workspace?

· Do you need a large workspace for projects, sorting, mailing, etc.? Does this space need to be within the office?

One more important consideration is ergonomics, which means designing the workspace and placing the equipment with the comfort of the worker in mind. Good ergonomics can be easily implemented and can reduce stress, headaches, and back pain. A comfortable, adjustable chair is the best place to start. Also, adjust your computer screen so it is at eye level. Your keypad should be directly in front of the screen and at a comfortable level for your arms and shoulders, and the computer mouse should be located so that your arm is not extended too far, or raised too high.

Many people start to work in their home office as soon as the desk is set down, and never give much thought to processes and systems that can make their job easier. Before you move a desk, or buy a fax machine, spend the time to observe and understand your personal quirks. Think about what distracts you, and what motivates you. Whether your budget includes installing custom cabinets or you are shopping at the second hand store, a little planning will make your home office a productive and efficient space where you enjoy spending your work hours.

Author's Bio: 

Sandra J. Carroll, is the owner, creator and chief organizer for Creative Changes, a professional organizing company. In addition to many years of business experience, Sandra found that living and cruising on a 30-foot sailboat for 4 years gave her unique training in space efficiency and organization.

Creative Changes specializes in simple solutions to clutter, space challenges, time management and ineffective storage. Sandra’s “Organize Your House to Sell” system is an effective and economical option to home staging.

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