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Self Management

Successful Strategies for Home Offices

The total number of full- and part-time home-based businesses recently hit 24.3 million, according to Link Resources Corporation, a New York City-based research and consulting firm. There is a quiet revolution going on in the way people earn a living. Work from home is booming, particularly for women, 16 million of whom have started home-based businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal. There are many things that are causing this boom: downsizing within corporations, the glass ceiling for women in corporate life, a desire for autonomy, conflict between work and family, a desire for more balance in life, or a reduction in commute time. Here are some things to think about when you decide to hang your shingle outside your front door. (One is signage requirements in your zoning area).

Getting Started

In choosing a location for your home office, consider convenience, location, comfort, and privacy. Your office should be in a place easy to get to, where you can start working simply and easily. Whether that is in a tiny room in your home or in a converted garage, make sure that the day-to-day activities of your work can be done comfortably. Next to the washing machine or having to cross a mine field of distractions will make getting started each morning harder. So will having to unplug the toaster every time you wish to use the calculator.
Choose equipment with care. This is not the time you want to use that old chair that you had no use for in other parts of the house. According to the results of a Harris poll taken for furniture manufacturer, Steelcase, if your work is office-based, you will spend over 75% of your time sitting at your desk. A good chair is one of your key investments. The back of the chair should support your spine, and the backrest should reach at least the lower part of your shoulder blades so that you can relax against it. A good chair should have a number of adjustments, including height and tension, and should be able to swivel.
Placement of furniture and equipment is very important to your health and well-being. Remember that the appropriate heights for a computer desk and a writing desk are different. Frequency of use is the key to location. The more often you use an item, the closer it should be to you. Avoid clutter; it is distracting. Keep work surfaces free of extraneous items that take up space, fall over, are distracting or are bad habits, i.e., a candy dish to a dieter.
Privacy is important for concentration. Your office needs to be free of disturbances and intrusions. Trying to concentrate on the end of a dining room table in the late afternoon after the children arrive from school will send your blood pressure soaring. If you work in a home office, setting up a clear division between where your home ends and your office begins is helpful to you as well as other family members. Being able to close the door will help you get started in the morning and reduce distractions. Additionally a clearly delineated office space is essential if you plan to claim a home office deduction on your taxes. Talk to your accountant about the particular requirements in your state.

The Proper Equipment

It is easy to get talked into buying much more equipment than you will probably need. Before buying, be sure to ask yourself some questions about what you really need and will use regularly enough to justify ownership. Do you really require a color printer, or will a black-and-white one do? All-in-one machines that combine a fax, copier, scanner and printer save you space and money. (The one challenge comes when the machine is down, you have lost all of these functions until it is repaired.) For every startup company cash is tight initially. This is particularly true in home-based businesses. Be sure to investigate vendors and places to outsource things you need less often, including services like secretarial help.
When choosing a computer and the software applications, consider your knowledge, sophistication and interest in learning. Technology does not run itself, and takes a fair amount of time to learn. Questions to ask yourself include: 1) Where can I get help when I hit a problem; 2) Which programs do my friends and colleagues use; 3) Do I have the time to take software classes; and 4) Am I intimately acquainted with a skilled computer user?
Take the time to carefully consider these issues in the beginning, rather than leaping blindly into the complexities of a home office. With a little bit of forethought and planning, you, too, can join the millions of successful home-based businesses.



Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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