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Michael Kennedy is Canadian sales manager for Basic Research Inc, a U.S. based cosmetics company. He is seen here in his home office in Cambridge, Ontario. (Sheryl Nadler)
Michael Kennedy is Canadian sales manager for Basic Research Inc, a U.S. based cosmetics company. He is seen here in his home office in Cambridge, Ontario. (Sheryl Nadler)

Working Life

How to set up the ideal home office Add to ...

There are inherent challenges that come with a home office.

Distractions, difficulty in separating work from personal life, and creating a true professional feel are just a few. You should give careful thought and planning to a home office, and if you already have one, there are ways to increase your productivity and revenue.

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Here are some tips on building and maintaining an efficient, comfortable, profitable and professional home office:

  • If at all possible, have a separate entrance to the office. Otherwise, choose a room near the front or back door of your house or apartment. Separate your office from the living areas of your home. Should your office be part of another room, divide it with a screen or several large plants.
  • Before entering your office in the morning, take a short walk, and then take another one at the end of your workday. This separates the business and personal aspects of your life. Try to keep your household business separate, such as paying bills and managing the home.
  • If your home office does not have a window, brighten the room with yellow paint, bright lights, and pictures of the outdoors. If your home office is in the basement, paint the walls and ceilings bright white, and create as much light as possible. Install a fan to get energy flowing. The best place for your office is in the front of the house.
  • Don't place your desk under a window, but let the light reflect on it from the side. Some people prefer to have their desks facing east. Leave an 18- to 23-centimetre gap between your furniture and the walls.
  • If you have clients coming to your home office, it is best for them to use a separate entrance. By so doing, your clients can enter without passing through your living space. Clients who walk through your living space before getting to the office are likely to make a subtle shift away from the focus of business, and their confidence in your professionalism may subconsciously be diminished.
  • Wait to do the laundry, cooking, and all other related errands until after designated working hours. Set specific hours and stick to them. They can be different every day, but create a working schedule. Make your family and friends aware of your work areas, advise them of the rules you have set for yourself, and ask them to respect these decisions.
  • When you are finished working, make every effort to close the door, leave your business, and return to home life. This means you should ignore the office phone ringing or the urge to run in and check to see if an important e-mail came through.
  • Keep television out of your office, unless you need it for your job. TV is generally associated with relaxation and leisure, not work.
  • When sorting your mail, bring only what's related to your business into the office and put your personal mail in another room.
  • Avoid working in the centre of your home, in a nook underneath the stairs, in the basement, or next to a bathroom. These areas can reduce the "real office" feel you need to ensure productivity.

Judy Smith, who works from a home office, has more than 30 years of marketing experience and she created one of the largest direct-mail businesses in Pennsylvania. She is the author, with her brother Dan Smith, of the new book, Business Mojo: Achieving Success Through Mystical Exploration.

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