3 Tips to Design a Functional Home Office You'll Actually Use

Whether you work entirely from home, or occasionally bring some office tasks back to your house, the functionality and appeal of your home office will influence whether you're productive and engaged ... or not.
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Whether you work entirely from home, or occasionally bring some office tasks back to your house, the functionality and appeal of your home office will influence whether you're productive and engaged ... or not.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don't give their home office enough attention, and don't recognize the negative impact this can have on their performance.

The Keys to a Productive Home Office

All entrepreneurs have their own personality and preferences. And while these nuances typically shine through in different ways, there are also some commonalities.

In particular, every entrepreneur needs to think about two broad categories when he or she designs and sets up a home office: functionality and aesthetic appeal.

  • Functionality. A home office must be appropriately functional to be effective. As we'll discuss in this article, functionality might mean different things to different people, but it's essential to everyone. When you design and set up your home office, make sure functionality is your priority.
  • Aesthetic appeal. It's also true that aesthetic appeal matters, however. This has been proven time and again in various studies, such as the one which showed that 83 percent of employees feel carefully selected art is a critically vital feature of an enjoyable and effective workplace.
  • It's also worth noting that -- for most people -- this is how they rank in terms of priority. Functionality should take first place, with aesthetic appeal coming in second.

    The good news, however, is that you don't necessarily have to compromise one for the sake of the other. It's entirely possible to create a home office that's both practical and visually stimulating.

    Three Tips for Better Design and Functionality

    You don't have to be an interior designer to create an office you can be proud of. Start by taking an inventory of your situation. Think about critical factors such as square footage, space, layout, number of people in your home, access to various resources, and anything else you think might be relevant.

    From that point, the following tips and suggestions may help you devise your strategy.

    1. How to Handle Limited Space

    One of the first things people typically discuss is limited space. Some people have the luxury of an extra bedroom or basement, but others have to work with a much more restricted floor plan.

    Is it even possible to have a home office when you live in a tiny apartment, loft, or house? The answer is yes ... but you must be more creative. Specifically, think about whether any of the following ideas would work:

    • Kitchen island. The kitchen could be an acceptable locale when a separate room is not an option. In particular, a kitchen island might be ideal. Many of today's kitchen islands come with such features as two-tier surfaces, underneath storage, built-in power outlets, and comfortable seating that make them ideal for a makeshift office that can be quickly set up and efficiently broken down. In some cases, a permanent setup may even be possible.

  • Bedroom nook. Do you have a large master bedroom with an additional nook or extra space? A bedroom can be the perfect place for an office when you have limited space to work with. It's a little more private and you don't have to worry about setting up and tearing down when you have visitors or guests over.
  • Large closet. Finally, a large closet can work as a great office space. Depending on the size, you may be able to fit the entire office there, or you might have to use the closet as a "pop-up" office. You can make this work by placing the desk inside the closet and then opening the door to reveal the workspace when you need to use it. Here's a good example.
  • Would any of these suggestions help you to establish a home office? Whatever your situation, there is probably a way around your space restrictions and limitations. It may not be the ideal office you've always dreamed about, but it should work for the time being.

    2. When Privacy and Silence Matter

    If you have two or three small children racing around your home, the foregoing tips may not be sufficient. In situations where you have to have privacy and silence for your home office, a dedicated space is going to be non-negotiable. Here are some things you should consider when seclusion is a priority:

    • Close the door. If your home is constantly buzzing with people, then you need the ability to shut yourself in a room behind a door. An extra bedroom often makes for the perfect office. You can set up your desk and computer there, and use the room as an office for 90 percent of the year, then quickly rearrange it into a guest bedroom for the nights when you have guests.
  • Your own space. While an office that doubles as a guest bedroom would work if you use it only a few hours per week, it might not be the ideal solution if you work from home full time. If you're spending 40-plus hours a week working at home, then you probably need a dedicated room.
  • Privacy is an absolute must, sometimes. And don't try to get away with anything less; you have to have a door if young children are walking (or crawling) about. In that instance, a kitchen or living room won't suffice.

    3. Emphasizing Ergonomics

    As we said earlier, functionality is also vital when it comes to designing and setting up a home office. Whether you're working on the kitchen island or in a separate wing of your home, ergonomics have to be a priority. Specifically, you should think about the following:

    • Chair. The chair is one of the most crucial items in your office. It needs to (1) provide adequate support for your lower back, (2) support your arms at the proper height, (3) swivel and roll, and (4) have a comfortable seat cushion with breathable fabric.
    • Monitor height. Ideally, your computer monitor should be positioned at a level where the point two or three inches below the top of the screen is exactly at eye level. You also want the monitor to be at arm's length away from your chair.

  • Desk height. The height of your desk also matters. Your arms should be able to rest on your chair's armrests and the desk while remaining level. Fortunately, an adjustable chair should enable you to tweak your settings until you achieve the right balance.
  • Mouse and keyboard placement. Finally, think about the placement of your mouse and keyboard. The two should be as close together as possible, and your wrists should rest comfortably on the desk without having to strain to reach the keys.
  • When you address the ergonomics, your workspace will be much more comfortable and functional. As a result, you'll be more productive and engaged when you're working. If you want to design the perfect office, these steps are absolutely essential.

    Make Your Home Office a Priority

    Whether you spend 4 hours a week working from your home office or 40, it should be a priority to design the setting for absolute comfort and efficiency. Consider your environment with care and work diligently to create a space that's conducive to productivity and engagement.

    For some, a home office may have to double as a kitchen island. Others will enjoy the luxury of dedicating an entire basement to serving as a secluded workspace.

    Whatever the case, if you focus on designing an office that's functional and aesthetically pleasing, your work life will be the better for it. Use these tips and suggestions to get started.

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