Working from home has many advantages: arranging your work hours to suit your needs, casual dress code, and a flexible workload. One of the great disadvantages to working at home, however, is the lack of a supply closet stocked with exactly what you need to be productive, a corporate account that orders equipment and supplies as needed, and established office space.
If you are starting a home-based business, or are simply becoming a virtual employee, you need a place to set up as your work headquarters. A quick perusal of Pinterest shows hundreds of ideas to establish a magazine-worthy home office, but do you really need all that stuff? What essentials can you absolutely not live without as you get your home-based business established?
Location, location, location
Despite its name, a home office does not actually have to be a separate room. Home office spaces can be set up anywhere there is a suitable location in your home. This could be the laundry room, a spare bedroom, a staircase landing, or even unused space in a living room. Wherever there is suitable space not being used, your office can move in. Depending on how much space you actually need, even a closet can become a functioning work area that meets your needs.
Covering the desktop
One of the most-used components in any office is the desk, and a home-based office is no exception. Corporate or executive furniture can be cost-prohibitive, and may not fit the space that you have available for your office. Consider carefully the location for the desk, and then consider the type of material that you want your desk to be made of. Get creative with your desk — old doors set on filing cabinets can serve as a work surface, as can large pieces of glass cut to size or old dining room tables. The sky (and your imagination) is the limit.
Pull up a chair
Second only slightly to the correct desk is the correct chair. Since you will, presumably, be spending multiple hours sitting, it is important that the chair give you the support and comfort that you need. A chair should be vertically adjustable, allowing for you to raise and/or lower it as needed. As a temporary solution, chairs can be borrowed from other areas of the house (dining room chairs make excellent stand-ins) until you find the perfect chair.
Search flea markets, thrift stores or going-out-of-business sales to save money on your office chair, but don’t be afraid to stretch your budget slightly to accommodate a higher-priced chair that you really love. You want to have a comfortable space to park, or you may find yourself avoiding work simply to avoid having to sit there.
Papers and pens
One of the downfalls of a home office is the amount of paper that starts to pile up. While you can become an avid recycle-bin user, there are still important papers and documents that must be held onto for various reasons. Contracts, client documentation, or proofs of work in progress are a few of examples of paperwork that can start to pile up, cluttering even the largest workspace.
To avoid this catastrophe, plan ahead for whatever storage needs you may have. Establish containers and homes on your desk for everything that you will use. Use mugs, bins and baskets to keep your desk surface neat and organized, scouring thrift stores and flea markets for secondhand storage that can save you money.
Books and boxes
Since most home offices are in shared space, they also need visually-appealing storage space. Look for cabinets or bookshelves that can keep your space organized, but also offer aesthetically-pleasing features like cabinet doors so you can “put work away” at the end of the day. Used cabinets can be painted to match your home décor, giving your office a personalized space that blends in with your existing motif.
Turn on the lights
Take advantage of natural lighting that your office space may offer, but look for small lamps to use during darker times of the day.
Your budget may not allow you to fill up your cabinet with every color post-it note or highlighter, but buying extra of the materials you frequently use will ultimately save you time and money. You don’t want to have to run errands every time you’re out of basic office supplies, so make sure you have tape, scissors, a stapler (with staples) and other items available that are designated for work use.
You don’t have to break the bank buying furniture and equipment — check your garage, attic and closets for unused items that can be repurposed. Second-hand stores, garage sales, and flea markets are excellent sources of items that can be given new life with a fresh coat of paint. Setting up a home office can be fun, since you have the opportunity to be creative and make your office exactly the way you want it. However, keep in mind that the space needs to be functional and professional.