In these days of “emergency” home-based working, I guess that people are using all sorts of ad hoc set ups and working from any place they can. Whereas this may work OK on a short-term basis, it is not recommended in the longer term.
Having a permanent, comfortable and relatively quiet workspace is actually very important to enable you to work happily and productively from a home base.
Ideally your homework space should be:
Private and Permanent: For a start, the chosen workspace must be permanent. It is simply not practical to constantly have to tidy up and pack away all your work equipment and information from e.g. the kitchen table. So try to identify a room within your home which can be used as a relatively private and permanent workspace and set it up as a comfortable and serviceable workspace.
Not everyone has spare space within the home and some workers prefer to convert part of their garage or acquire a portable building for the garden. This is quite practical provided that the accommodation is properly fitted out, insulated and weatherproof.
A converted attic may be another option but don’t overlook the importance of natural light, healthy ventilation and safety of access and egress.
Size: As a general guideline, an office space of approximately 8.5sq.m would be suitable for one person, assuming limited traffic through the office on a daily basis.
Either way, home office accommodation must:
Be accessible safely: A rickety loft ladder to the attic office is not a good idea
Be a reasonable size: Consider how much room you actually need – remember to make maximum use of walls for shelving. Headroom is another consideration that is almost always overlooked especially in converted lofts/roof spaces
Be draught free: Working in a draught is probably the most uncomfortable thing that anyone can do, and it is also dangerous to your health – eliminate all draughts but ensure that there is a system of controllable ventilation
Be reasonably private: Where possible, protect your work from the attention of casual visitors and nosy neighbours – good quality blinds or curtains can do the trick quite nicely. Good arrangements here can also minimise the risk to your equipment from sneak thieves!
Take account of the rest of the household: It is unreasonable for other members of the household (small children excepted) to be barred from areas of their own home. Make it clear that at certain times of the day, co-operation on the matter of access would be appreciated.
Be reasonably secure: Where possible, the home-based office should be capable of being secured especially where property belonging to clients or your employer or clients may be held.
In a home office set up, the most common safety risk concerns the electricity supply. It is not uncommon to find an entire home office being powered from a single 13amp power socket. The danger from overloading the supply to the work area is obvious – such overloading leads to overheating which in turn, could lead to fire.
Heating arrangements also impact on safety – if electric heating is used, then exposed elements – even on a floor type blower heater, can be a serious fire risk. Heat sources should also be controllable and a means of reducing the temperature in summer, such as a small fan, should be part and parcel of your set up.
Earlier we mentioned the need to be able to control ventilation and should be considered as early as possible. The recommended temperature and humidity levels for an office are:
- Temperature – 20-24C
- Humidity level – 40-60% Rh
Tip: Using a water-loving plant like the Peace Lily helps to gauge the humidity level in the room. If the plant is not getting enough humidity then the room is probably too dry for you too!
Managing Fire Risks
The home office area should be designated as a non-smoking area as it is a place of work and – in addition – simply on the grounds of safety and the fire risk involved. You should have a fire extinguisher at the ready in case of fire. Attention should also be given to fire escape arrangements, especially if working upstairs or in a converted attic.
Disposal of Waste
You should also have a regular routine for the disposal of waste – don’t let it build up! Clutter makes working difficult – papers tend to get lost and it is a fire hazard.
What Office Equipment Should be Considered?
While there will significant differences between individuals on this matter, but a good, comfortable and properly equipped workspace is essential for productive home working.
· Top Priority – A Good chair and desk – In setting up the office, it is possible to economise in some areas but please don’t skimp on a good chair and desk. To work effectively, you must be comfortable and your chair must be capable of sustaining that comfort for long periods.
Your desk should be sturdy and provide you with all the surface area necessary to suit the way you are used to working.
· PC/MAC/Laptop – Get the best specification possible. Choose the biggest screen /monitor – in the long run, it is less tiring and easier on the eyesight!
· Printer/Scanner/Photocopier – depending on your needs.
Tip: Don’t forget to regularly top up on ink, paper and other consumables.
· A Wall Planner – this can be simple but very effective for managing your time and reviewing your schedule.
·Maybe a Flip Chart – these can be useful for recording that bright idea, brain storming and your ‘To Do ’ list
· A Filing Cabinet? – Not everyone will need one, but if you do you do.
A fireproof cabinet is preferred.
– Shelving – to keep your files, paper and reference documents visible and tidy
Everyone’s needs will be different but I hope this information provides you with food for thought in planning your home office.