Building A Complete Home Office: It Takes More Than Just a Chair and a Laptop
Working remotely has moved on from being a ‘growing trend’ to becoming a normal method of employment.
Formal offices are expensive to maintain and, with the newfound comfort with virtual meetings, are becoming less useful overall.
The fear of reduced productivity from employees who work from home has been met with the reality of increased production instead.
In short, the home office is on its way to becoming the norm, and more and more workers are seeking ways to create their own workspace in their homes.
Following these five steps to creating your home office will get you off to a good start.
Step 1 – Understand What Defines A Home Office
A home office is much more than a laptop and a chair. There’s a reason that big box office supply stores exist – it takes a lot of supplies to keep an office organized. While you won’t have to worry about stocking your office for other’s needs, there are elements to the shared office that you will need to bring into your home.
You need to be able to work without distractions. So, the space you pick needs to be separate from the rest of your home.
That could mean a door you can close or some kind of sheeting across part of a large room. How you create your private space is less important than making sure your workspace is assured privacy.
Your workspace needs to put you into work mode as soon as you enter. So, it needs to be a permanent choice that your mind connects to work and only work.
This can’t happen in a space that you also use for leisure, so consider your choice carefully. Wherever you set your home office, you will lose that space for any other use.
Once you begin to use your home office, you’ll be shocked at the sheer volume of stuff you need to track. Deadlines, policies, procedures, and paperwork that used to be handled by an office manager are all now under your purview.
You will need to sit down and plan your methods for controlling the flow in your small space. The potential for getting disorganized is massive because nobody is looking over your shoulder, and there’s no officemate nearby to hand you their copy of a memo. It is all on you, so planning ahead is essential to your success.
Step 2 – Decide Where To Place Your Office
Your home office can be virtually anywhere you want it to be. There are, however, several traditional locations that tend to work out better than others. We will discuss the top six options for placing a home office.
Spare Bedroom Office
Spare bedrooms are the catchall spaces in most homes. They become hobby rooms, exercise rooms, and game rooms, to name just a few uses. Their usefulness as a home office is fairly obvious. You have ample power, natural light, and a door you can close.
The drawback is that ambient noise travels freely throughout the main levels of a home, and footsteps down the hallway can be distracting.
- Ready Power
- Natural Light
The basement is a popular choice because there is a sense of separation from the rest of your home. You can work away in your basement office without forcing your family to tiptoe past your door as they move quietly throughout the house. You can see some inspiration for great basement transitions at Biehn Basements in Salem, Wisconsin.
The con of a basement office is the potential for traffic through your space during the day if your laundry room is also downstairs. Also, the temperature can get pretty cool in an underground space, and many basements have a limited number of wall outlets.
- Partial Separation
- Family Can Move Freely Upstairs
- Uncomfortable Temperatures
- Potential Foot Traffic
- Limited Wall Outlets
A garage office can be a great answer to many of your home office difficulties. It is completely removed from the living spaces in your home, and only the loudest noises will reach you even if your garage is attached. There should also be ample lighting and power available.
Garage offices, however, offer little protection from the temperatures outside and have no convenient door to the outside if you expect to have clients visiting your workspace. Plus, you’ll have to park in the driveway.
- Completely separate from living space
- Plenty of power outlets
- Difficult to heat/cool
- No standard entryway
- Lose covered parking
The office shed can make an ideal home office. It is physically removed from the home and can be set up in any manner you like. You can even drop in a pre-fab shed to make it easier. It is, in essence, a brand new space that you can customize to fit your needs. Its small footprint makes it easy to heat or cool, as well.
One drawback is that the location in your backyard may put clients off at first, but as the remote work movement grows, that attitude will soften. You will also probably need a permit to run power to your shed.
- Physically separate from living space
- Fully customizable
- Easy to heat/cool
- Converting an existing shed can cost less
- Located in backyard
- Running power will require permits
Office Space Additions
Though it’s the most expensive option of all, building an office addition on your home will give you every advantage offered by a standard office without the expense of commuting to work. You can shape your office to your desires and needs and even create a conference room for speaking with clients.
The con here, of course, is the expense. Building an addition will add at least one zero to the cost of your home office – if not two. Plus, you will need to contend with local authorities from building inspectors to HOA’s.
- Large space
- Access to home infrastructure
- Totally custom design
- Huge investment
- Inspections and HOA’s
While sectioning off part of a room is the least expensive option, it is also a very bad idea. It lacks privacy, separation, permanence, and organization.
To be perfectly frank, no matter the promises from family members, the distractions will be constant, and the interruptions frequent. If you are visible, you are available. That’s just how family life works.
- Very inexpensive
- Set it up in a day
- Lack of privacy
- Temporary setup
Step 3 – Learn Your Home Office Essentials
The form of your home office will depend on your profession and personal preferences, but certain factors are necessary to all home offices regardless of their location.
If you are using space inside your home, this won’t be an issue (or so we fervently hope!). But for garage or shed space offices, insulation is a must-have. And not only do you need to insulate your walls, but you need to insulate your floor and ceiling as well.
Heating or cooling an uninsulated space can be very expensive and, in some weather extremes, impossible. A slab floor will make it difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature even if the walls and ceiling have been insulated.
The benefit of insulating the floor is that you also create a way to hide your cables and wires since your entire floor will be raised several inches.
Interior spaces will most likely have the outlets you need except, perhaps, in an unfinished basement. Your garage or shed, however, probably doesn’t have adequate power sources to meet your needs.
You should plot your needs and the general configuration of your home office before you start any building activities. Ensure that you have the necessary number and type of circuits to run your office.
Some larger pieces of office equipment require dedicated circuits (meaning nothing else uses them) with 20amp wiring rather than the standard 15amp circuits used in your home.
You also need to consider your need for lighting and include circuits for overhead lighting fixtures, if needed.
If you are starting from scratch electrically, it is good to hire a professional electrician to advise you; if not, do the actual installation of the wiring and outlets.
Laying out a brand new circuit is also an opportunity to install an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) for the whole office as well as a whole house surge protection system to protect your expensive equipment and keep it going if the power goes out. With a UPS in place, you’ll have several minutes to save your work instead of shouting at a blank screen because hours of effort just got erased.
You will also need to know what the local building codes require when wiring an outbuilding or adding to the circuits within your home. At the least, you will need to pull a permit and go through one or two inspections to verify your circuits were installed properly.
It has been well documented that workers produce more when comfortable, so you need to include climate control in your plans for your home office.
For an attached garage, you can create an off chute from your home’s HVAC system and run the venting into your garage. It is a fairly simple and relatively inexpensive way to ensure that your office is as comfortable as the rest of your home.
With a detached garage or office shed, you will need to create heat and cooling on-site with a separate system. A window AC unit is a simple answer for the need to cool your space, and there are even some available now that provide heat as well.
Another answer is a ductless mini-split HVAC system with a heat pump in the air handler. These are highly efficient systems that are perfect for small spaces.
You can also opt to use separate systems for each need, in which case a standard space heater combined with a window AC unit will do the trick.
You will spend a lot of time in your home office so you should enjoy looking at the space. If you’re in an unfinished basement, a coat of paint will make the space more pleasant. In your converted garage or office shed, cover the insulation with sheeting. If you have converted underused space in your home, use the walls to make it your own.
Hide your cables and wires, organize your desk, and keep the space clean. These sound like small things, and they are, but they can be the difference between enjoying your office space or dreading walking in there.
Step 4 – Design Your Home Office
Whether you plan to set up shop in an office shed, converted garage, or a formerly underused space inside your home, take the time to plot your new home office before you touch the first tool.
Consider the conveniences you liked about your former office as well as the things that drove you mad. This is your chance to create the perfect workspace so consider every angle.
Think about your needs throughout your workday and make sure that the tools you use the most are close to hand. Make sure that you picture how you will use them and in what order and place them accordingly.
Plan for the future. Create an organizational structure that will be able to grow with your business or job. Don’t create a space that you will need to alter every year as your needs change. Make the room now so that you can move smoothly into your next level of effort.
We strongly recommend that you place a large whiteboard placed near your desk (and USE it) so that you have something tangible to look at to help you keep on track.
If your job involves a lot of paperwork, get a filing cabinet that will hold more than you will ever expect to need.
You want to make it easy to stay in your office. Every trip into the rest of the living space in your home is an opportunity to become sidetracked. Don’t feel guilty about setting yourself up with a small breakroom setup.
Get a k-pod coffee machine, a small fridge, and a mini microwave. Do whatever you can to eliminate the urge to walk out of your office so you can stay in work mode except when you take your lunch.
Buy a dedicated work computer and keep it free of distracting apps (and the viruses that come with them). Pick up a good 3-in-1 printer and use it to save hard copies of your work, especially if you work in a team where others can edit your work. That hard copy could save you one day.
If you have to do research or online training, we highly recommend getting a second monitor. It makes it much easier to follow along in a tutorial if you have one screen to play the video and another to mess with the new software.
Step 5 – Make Sure You Can Focus
Just remember that every time you have to pause to make a change, satisfy a need, or search for an item is a chance to wander away from the task at hand. Create a design that prevents those pauses as much as possible.
As a final thought on home offices set yourself some rules.
Create a schedule if one hasn’t been created for you, and stick to it. If you keep to a schedule, your brain will begin to click over to work mode at the appropriate time even when all the input says, “But I’m home.”
Dress for work every day, too. Maybe not shiny shoes and a tie or even a shirt with the company logo, but dress like a friend may drop by. In other words, no PJs. If you are serious about what you do, look the part. It has a huge effect on how you approach your day.