By Roger Hazard
More of us are working out of our homes than ever. Whether full time or for just a few hours per week, it's important to carve out a dedicated area for work and storage. It can be a challenge to balance your work and home life, but the first step is designing a home office that meets your needs and inspires you daily.
A layout that delivers functionality and ergonomics. If you will be using the home office during daylight hours, pay close attention to how natural light flows through the space. Arrange your desk to maximize your exposure to the sunlight, but take caution to avoid headache-inducing glare on your computer's screen. If you find your computer desk overcrowded, try adding an additional, smaller worktable elsewhere in the office. Because you might not be the only person in the office, remember to keep a side chair or two handy for impromptu business or family meetings. Don't neglect ergonomics; with the majority of computer users opting for laptops, many home office workers find themselves hunched over all day. A number of attractive, sturdy laptop stands are available to raise your computer's screen to eye level and help correct your posture. If you work from home full time, skip the inexpensive swivel chairs you find at office supply stores and look to business-grade ergonomic chairs. Though it might be a larger investment, a professional chair will last for years, provide superior support for your back, and, in many cases, add a dose of high-tech style to the space.
Flexible work surfaces. When selecting a desk, look for maximum surface area. Remember that, in addition to your computer, you will need space for documents, other tech equipment, and nonwork projects like crafts that might find their way into the office. A large work surface will provide flexibility and keep you from feeling cramped. Consider a table instead of a more traditional wrap-around desk; it will offer greater versatility in day-to-day use and is visually light, helping your office feel more airy.
Versatile lighting to accommodate every activity. Overhead lights are fine, but be sure to implement a task light or two for reading and crafts, and a more decorative table lamp to keep the space from feeling like a cubicle. Because your lighting needs are dramatically different during the day than they are when burning the midnight oil, try putting your overhead lights and lamps on dimmers to enable you to more effectively control the brightness in the room.
A place for everything, and everything in its place. A home office is all too often a disaster zone of paperwork, technology, mail, and books. The easiest way to keep your office tidy is to implement easily accessed storage for capturing these items. You don't need to jump straight to file cabinets; keep the room looking more stylish by instead placing attractive file boxes on bookshelves or stowing files inside of cabinetry with file hanging pull-out drawers.
If you are using a spare bedroom as your home office, consider maximizing closet space by installing an office-oriented floor-to-ceiling shelving system.
Identify technology that could be relocated. For example, many printers today connect wirelessly and needn't be on your computer desk. Could you reclaim desk space by moving your printer to a shelf or into a cabinet?
An infusion of style to keep you inspired and motivated. Most office buildings are filled with white walls, gray carpet and harsh fluorescent lighting. Your home office should be an expression of your personality, with an emphasis on energetic colors, textures and artwork.
Take a chance with paint colors, selecting bold hues that will put a smile on your face when you walk in the room. Add dynamic drapery panels and rugs to introduce a level of comfort and to help deaden noise.
Finally, make sure to fill the office with some of your favorite accessories and pieces of artwork - surround yourself with these pieces and you will be continually inspired.
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