Whether you intend working full time from a home office or simply want space for the occasional business call and Internet check, this area is every bit as important as planning the rest of your living space.
On the surface, it might appear to be easier than some other rooms because you’ll think desk, chair, phone, computer—and leave it at that. In fact, with a little forethought beyond the obvious, it can be one of the most pleasant—and useful—places in the home.
Here are a few things to think about as you collect ideas to get your home office up and running.
How much will you actually use a home office? If you are among those who now telecommute and work full time at home, then you need to craft your thinking around the amount of time you will spend there.
While prospective homeowners often devote a lot of effort to creating a beautiful master suite because they’re going to spend at least one-third of their lives there, that time is going to be spent with eyes closed and brain soothingly shut down. Your office will be another one-third of your life—at the very least—in just the opposite mode. And yet, “soothing” is an equally important word.
You want to be efficient, but part of the appeal of working from home is to create space that allows you to function at your best.
Even if you’ll be using a home office just to write checks for the bills or to surf the web every now and then, don’t skimp on space. Sometimes prospective homeowners are advised that a cute little desk in the kitchen or under a stairwell will suffice. While it can for some people, the reality is that most of us spend more and more time with computers and telephones and a desktop. Why shouldn’t our workspace reflect our growing affinity for desk time?
Make it dedicated space. The temptation is to make a home office multi-functional, but for most people, distractions are not conducive to being efficient with time or quality of work. Even in a second home, if you get more done in less time, you can join the rest of the family or guests more quickly. A room that serves only as an office space is just smart planning these days.
Locate the office away from noise and activity. Nothing can be more frustrating to the worker dealing with one more deadline or one more impossible hoop to jump through than to hear the rest of the household enjoying a televised sporting event.
Or laughter. Or extended time around the dining table.
For people who need to project a professional demeanor during telephone calls, this becomes even more important.
While we’re on the related topics of noise and distractions, put the big-screen TV set in a media or family room. The office is just the worst location in the home for televisions. If there is information you’re looking for, whether occasionally or frequently, log onto the computer. It’s much easier to control.
Conversely, a radio or stereo system can be a huge bonus. Music, especially during extended work periods, can be soothing or encouraging or stimulating. Unless you are a volume junkie, however, the sound system can be relegated to the background and dealt with quickly during telephone calls. Television is demanding company, while music can be a comfortable pal.
Be generous with room size. Offices are sometimes relegated to leftover space after the public rooms, kitchen, bedrooms, even bathrooms, have been planned out.
Really, the office should be very high on the list and not consigned to a spot under the loft’s eaves. Whether you are moving furniture from another residence or buying new, allow plenty of room, vertically as well as horizontally. You want to feel like you can breathe, especially when the pressure is on—and you want it off.
The single most important part of the office is the door. And the more you work at home, the greater the importance the door will play in making life pleasant. If you go out to an office somewhere, whether it’s 5 p.m. or midnight, at some point you leave. Even if you take some work home with you, there’s still a sense of limit to what you can accomplish. In a home office, particularly one that’s the primary workspace, the lure of deadlines can make it very hard to stay away.
Closing the door won’t keep you out, but it creates a symbolic barrier that makes it easier for nearly everyone to refocus on the rest of the home. And no matter how wonderful a home office is, it’s important to remember that the rest of the home and property are there—deserving of your time and attention, too.
Much more of this story, including more tips, ran in the April 2008 issue of Log Homes Illustrated.