Now that the kids are back in school, it's time to get your own work space in order. You don't have to be Fortune 500 CEO to need a functional office. Paying bills, filing, staying on top of phone calls, and tracking expenses -- these activities all require an orderly workspace. And don't forget your personal documents -- no matter what kind of paper you accumulate, you need a dedicated space for storing and managing it.
Setting Up Your Space
Where is your "home office?" A corner of the kitchen? The spare bedroom? Perhaps you work out of a cubbyhole -- or you might be fortunate enough to have an entire spare room set aside. In choosing your home office space, first ask how you plan to use it -- for managing personal paperwork, occasionally bringing business home with you, or working full-time out of the house. Do you plan to bring clients or other colleagues to your home office? Whatever space you adopt, make sure to avoid any territorial disputes with other household activities. Your kids don't need to play monopoly on your desk -- and you shouldn't have to move your work off the kitchen table to serve dinner.
How you design your office depends on what you plan to do there. What keeps you busy -- writing letters? Balancing your books? Calls? Computer work? Keep this in mind as you plan your space. If you need room to spread out, include a large flat surface. If you have a lot of "peripherals," bring in a printer stand or a bookshelf for your equipment. For each activity, ask what sort of space and equipment it requires.
Don't think that you have to spend a lot of money on expensive furniture. You may have some discards that would do the job just fine. I have seen everything -- from card tables to steamer trunks to old doors -- used as office furniture. Be creative! And even if you do decide to go the traditional route, check the yellow pages under "office furniture:used" first -- you can find some great deals on used, good condition items like desks, file cabinets, and chairs for fraction of what you would spend getting them new.
I must ask you a personal question -- do you hoard supplies? Is there any logical reason for keeping 65 pads of post-it notes or 287 pens in your desk drawer? It's good to have items you use regularly within arm's reach, but storing everything you own near your desk is counterproductive. All this clutter makes it harder for you to find what you need, and may be distracting you from your work. You say you don't have any place else to put them -- well, let's see what we can do about that.
Take a good look around your office. Where can we create some additional storage? Could we put in some bracket shelves above your desk or credenza -- to hold books and binders? How about using a small rolling drawer system to organize excess paper clips, thumb tacks, extra staples, and tape? And any letter or legal size items (letterhead, sheet protectors, index dividers, manila folders) can always be stored more efficiently in stacking trays or a document sorter. Can you set up a bookshelf to hold these? Or even some shelves in that spare closet? Remember, your storage center does not have to be conventional -- it simply has to be functional.
Ergonomics In Action
Does your office give you a pain in the neck -- literally? It has been proven time and time again that you work more efficiently and your productivity increases when your office space is designed to be ergonomically correct. You too can have an ergonomic workspace if you set up your equipment in a way that prevents repetitive strain injury (like carpal tunnel), and allows you to get more done with less effort. Here's how...
The first step is to make sure that all of your vital equipment and supplies (the ones that you use daily) are within arm's reach. You should be able to get at everything you need without bending, squatting, or stretching. Now take a look at your computer -- the monitor should be at eye level and your wrists should be flat when you are typing or using the mouse. If not, either raise up your monitor or attach a keyboard tray to your desk. Finally, have a seat. Are your thighs parallel to the floor, your calves perpendicular, and your feet planted flat on the ground? If not, adjust your chair or bring in a footrest. As you sit at your desk, pay attention to what your body is telling you. If it causes you discomfort, fix it!
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