There was a time when a home office was nothing more than a fax machine and notebook on the kitchen counter or maybe the kitchen table. Then a laptop was added along with a gooseneck lamp and several mobile devices.
Stop! It’s time to move out of the kitchen and into a home office that is private, peaceful and conducive to doing business whether it is a designated workspace for running a business or simply a nook for paying bills.
The benefits to moving into a designated area in the home are many including the biggest benefit of all: That home office may qualify as a tax deduction. Internal Revenue Service regulations allow for tax deductions on that portion of a house used exclusively for business under certain conditions and restrictions. The only stipulation is that a specific portion of the house must be used “regularly and exclusively” to conduct business to claim a home office deduction.
Ann Marie Arseneault, a sales representative and design consultant at Walker Furniture, said the first question to ask is how the room will be utilized.
“I need to know the person’s profession and what type of work is going to be done in the office,” she said. “I ask for a photo of the room to see the walls, flooring and lighting.
I incorporate that photo into the computer program I have at work where a schematic creates the home office. This allows me to place a table here or a desk there in different design alignments.”
One of Arseneault’s rules is not to sacrifice form for function. A desk, shelves and storage should be arranged to serve the work and workflow.
Look for pieces of furniture that are both beautiful and functional. If the home has traditional decor, warm wood and soft chairs would be proper. A more contemporary home office can feature artistic pieces or modern metal furniture.
The focus is to create a room that is inviting because a pleasant space translates to increased productivity. Someone is going to work there every day, and the environment needs to be comfortable.
Start building that room by considering the color of the walls. A bright color, such as orange or lime green, encourages creative productivity and a positive outlook. More calming shades are botanical green or sea foam. Choose the color carefully because certain colors affect mood.
A good chair is the most important investment, according to Arseneault.
“You’re going to spend hours in your office chair so make sure it’s ergonomically correct and comfortable,” she said. “The investment will be worth it.
“A solid desk is vital including those that lift up and down so you can stand, which is important for one’s health and overall circulation. The room needs to be functional so less is more in order to utilize every inch of space. A person using several computers will probably want an L-shaped desk.”
Arseneault suggests positioning the desk in an area more interesting than a blank wall. A window’s natural light is ideal. If there is no window, hang a favorite picture above the desk or position the work chair so it faces the door.
Be sure there is enough light to cut down on eye strain and headaches since lighting is paramount to not getting tired. That might mean positioning the computer monitor so there is no glare from a window or overhead light.
If the home doesn’t have a room that can be dedicated as a full home office, create a work area with a folding screen or bookcase. Even a small corner with a desk can create a proper work atmosphere. To keep the area fresh and healthy, consider several indoor plants such as lady palm, English ivy, lucky bamboo, bamboo palm, plum blossom or rubber plant.
Arseneault is finding that more young adults are incorporating home offices as a result of a more flexible workplace. Some add exercise equipment, such as a treadmill, into the office and have replaced the standard office chair with a stability ball that balances the body core as opposed to just sitting in a chair.
A final suggestion is to organize vertically and horizontally. Many home offices do not have large square footage.
Hang floating shelves on the walls to get papers and office equipment off the desk and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within reach. Get a basket to hold mail and papers. Wooden or metal cube storage is an alternative to bookshelves as each space can be used for books or odds and ends.