How to Design a Home Office

Post by Sharon

I've worked from home for pretty much my entire adult life. I've done various things from home from stock trading and oil and gas industry work, to screenwriting, blogging, book writing, and medical transcription.

And, I learned a LOT along the way. I'd like to share it. 

I started out with a desk in the bedroom. I figured it was a space that wasn't used during the day by anyone and I could close the door. It wouldn't compromise any other parts of the house and no noisy TV or people hanging out while I'm working. 

The idea was a good one - isolate and quiet.

But it had a bad side - having my desk in my room made it impossible to avoid the "well, I'm bored, I'll just go on and do some work and make more money" syndrome. It was hard to rest and sleep in the room where I had stacks of books, a computer with post-it notes all over it. I mean, other than the occasional nodding off at your desk in a work office, do you think you could sleep on a bed in there? 

I went through a divorce and got a 2-bedroom apartment. It was sunny and in the desert preserve with bunnies and hummingbirds and tons of sunlight. So, I used the guest bedroom as an office. I filled it with stuff that says "me" and proceeded to feel like I was cut off from the world.

I found myself wanting to hear a TV or see what was going on outside. I put the desk against the window so I could gaze out as I worked. That helped a fair deal to feel less like I'm in time-out, but I felt like I was paying for real estate I didn't need. And, I really wanted to feel like I was part of the hub of my apartment. With no one else living in it, it got very quiet. 

So I moved myself out to my living room which was spatious and open concept with the kitchen and the dining room. With tons of windows and a large-screen TV, I could play YouTube vids or scary movies with cool background music and feel a bit less cut off from the world. 

I put the desk and the bookcase with reference books behind the sofa.

From entering the apartment, all you saw was the back of the bookcase and pretty planter atop of it. The office was obscured. 

I found my days went quicker and I felt less like I was in school. I got up and moved around more which was critical for a seated typing job. I also knew when people came and went, when the news put out a storm warning, and the refrigerator was 10 feet away. Why was I paying for this vast real estate when I would end up double-dutying my space? 

So, I moved.

What I forgot was that I could write off the real estate if I had a designated room for my work at home. Moving to a one-bedroom, I would lose that credit. But, cost-wise, it was worth it.

At one point, when I was doing stock trading in my one-bedroom home, I put a desk at the sofa and it was the width of half the sofa. Having a bulky computer screen there meant I could only watch  TV on the other half of the sofa. I considered a laptop, but it was making me have double-vision by the end of the day with the tiny screen. 

There was not a lot of extra room, but I set up desk area on one end of the living room and then got rid of the dining set I never used and built a huge Bowflex machine for that space where I could take my breaks and workout. Of course, like most exercise machines, it ended up being a dust catcher. And the home office never worked in the apartment. They had a built in desk in a dark corner but it was way too tall to use for a desk and no lighting. 

More and more, I gave up hope for a home office that suits me.

I moved in with a friend into a house. I put my office in the same room with his home office. But, I found the room was dark, I was limited sound-wise with whatever he was doing on his computer and since I did radio show interviews, I needed my own space. 

This is when things really came together for me in the home office realization. You spend at least 8-10 hours at an office daily. You sleep maybe 8 hours in the bedroom. The work space if it's just designated for work takes away from your home space. 

But, in this case, I took on the other half of the house that was an open kitchen, living room, dining room again. This time, however, I set up my easel in the corner with my paint cart. I had a sofa and TV at another end. I had tons of windows for my beloved plants. And I could look out, see the beautiful views, and if the TV was playing for background, the computer screen blocked the view. With my paint area also in the room, it became a triple use room where I associated it with a great place to escape to instead of a punishment. It was movie room. It was painting room. It was plant room. It was room with a view. And it happened to be my office as a secondary benefit.

There are a lot of variables to consider in a home office - 

*Tax write off space
*Designated space cut off from home noise
*Other occupants in the house during working hours
*Can you share home office space or does it inhibit your work?
*Internet access that is strong
*Is a TV sound in the background or distraction?
*Personal items versus professional items around you
*Need for photos and plants, things with warmth and humanity
*Easy access to reference materials
*In the main living area versus a private room?
*Arranging a desk facing into the center of the room or window instead of against a wall and feeling hemmed in
*Just because it's a corner desk doesn't mean it has to face the corner, turn it and look out at the room. 

Other things to consider in the design

*Proper grounded power strips
*Internet Signal from Router
*Standing Desk - these sit atop your desk and make it possible to stand for periods of time or walk or dance in place while typing.
*Bookcase - consider a low one nearby that you can turn your chair and reach the books, but also look over it and use the surface of it as a table to set planner book and printer on.
*Baskets and cups - for stapler, post-it pads, pens....
*The chair is critical. I can't have one with arms as I will rest my elbows on it and my weight and my shoulders and upper back hurt. Watch how you feel at the end of the day to find out if you need lumbar support or possibly a sciatica pillow where the base of the spine has no weight on the pillow.  (see below for my suggestions)
*Table versus desk? I use a dining table and it holds the power strip, lamp, standing desk, computer, small fan, etc.
*If this is a main living area where the office is, maybe a storage situation that allows you to tuck things away out of sight and mind - like a roll-top desk.
*Do you want a file cabinet? How about a combo desk/cabinet?

Here's some great ideas to spark your imagination - 

Easy to tuck closed home office - LINK

Desk and Storage - LINK

Roll Top Desk - LINK

Office Bookcase - LINK

Corner Desk - LINK

Chair - LINK

Standing Desk - LINK

Tailbone Relief Pillow - LINK

Industrial Lamp - LINK