Essential Qualities of a Home Office

by Steven Snell

March 12, 2009 in Business/Freelance

Being able to earn a living working from home is a great privilege, and something in which most freelancers and web workers invest a great deal of effort. Part of being successful in this setting is creating a work space that is conducive to getting things done, and that will help to keep you relaxed and at peace when things can get stressful.

In this article we’ll take a look at 9 essentials of a great home office. I’d love to get some feedback from readers that have opinions on the topic from their own experience.

1 – Equipped

Regardless of what type of work you do, your home office will need to include the tools that allow you to do your job. For designers, this includes a decent computer and other related equipment (scanner, tablet, printer, dual monitors, whatever you need to get the job done well). You’ll also need basic office furniture and supplies.

Spending money on equipment and supplies is difficult for a lot of freelancers, but in some cases it’s necessary. You’ll need to evaluate how you can spend your money that will put you in a position to work more efficiently or to produce higher quality. In these cases, the expense is an investment in your business that should result in more income. And of course, legitimate business expenses are tax deductible.

Photo credit: Paladin27

2 – Separated from Living Space

One of the most difficult things about working from home is the separation of work from the rest of your life. Knowing when you should be working and when you should be relaxing and spending time with family or friends is a challenge that you typically won’t face (at least not to this extent) in a typical office job. Another challenge is feeling like you should be working even when it’s time to relax.

By maintaining a home office that is separated from the rest of your home, there will be a clear line between the two. Sure, it will still be easy to work longer hours than you probably should, but creating a physical separation of the space is a great first step. Additionally, it will help you to keep a more organized work space.

Photo credit: Super-Structure

3 – Quiet

Staying away from distractions is another challenge for those of us who work from home. In order to maximize efficiency and to be able to get the necessary work done, having an office that is away from noise is essential. Not all of us prefer to work in silence, many freelancers listen to music while working. This is fine (and normal), but the distracting noises are what should be avoided.

Keeping a quiet office is much easier when it is separated from the living space in the home, especially if others are around while you’re working. Your office doesn’t need to feel like you’re secluded and trapped away from everyone, but it should allow for a time of distraction-free work.

Photo credit: jmayzurk

4 – Well Lit

Most of us that work from home spend a great deal of time looking at a computer screen. Proper lighting is necessary in this case to keep your eyes from straining too much and to allow you to work without getting headaches. Lighting will have a big impact on how you feel, how much energy you have, and how long you’re able to work.

When it comes to the issue of lighting for a home office, natural lighting is desirable. If possible, choose a space for your home office that has a window that will bring a good amount of sunlight into the room.

Photo credit: rephlektiv

5 – Comfortable

There’s probably nowhere else where you will spend as much time as your home office. If you’re going to be putting in a lot of hours, comfort is essential. A comfortable workplace will result in better efficiency and more enjoyable work.

Creating a comfortable office includes several different factors. Of course, the chair that you sit in and the desk that you work at will have a big impact. Other things like the size and layout of the room, and the temperature could also be factors.

Photo credit: Fernanda Mancini

6 – Peaceful

The ideal home office should create peaceful feelings that allow you to get your best work done. Colors should generally be calming, rather than something that will lead to tension. Decorations and even the scents of the office can also have an impact here.

We all have different preferences for how we would like to decorate our office and what makes us feel at peace. Of course, there is no right or wrong here, just a matter of creating something that works for you.

Photo credit: TranceMist

7 – Organized

Let’s face it, some of us are a lot more organized than others. It’s important for a home office to be organized enough that you are comfortable and that you can quickly find whatever you need. No one wants to waste valuable time looking for things that are out of place.

In addition to being organized, keeping a clean office can also help to maintain a peaceful setting for work. In some cases this can be difficult, as home offices are often pretty small and full of items.

Photo credit: jaxmac

8 – Motivating

When you work from home there is no one looking over your should or telling you what you have to get done. One of the keys to a home office is creating an atmosphere that motivates you to do your best work and to keep moving forward.

Motivation comes in all different ways for various people. Maybe a photo of your family on your desk will provide motivation. Maybe a picture of a dream vacation spot will help. Maybe having a notebook at your desk with your goals written down will help. Whatever the case, find something that motivates you and incorporate it into your daily life in the home office.

Photo credit: Erik Eckel

9 – Enjoyable

I left cubicle life for several reasons. One of them was that I simply didn’t enjoy my work and I was just killing time until I could get home and work on my own projects and a part-time business. Working from home allows me the opportunity to actually enjoy my daily tasks, and I want it to stay that way by having an environment that is pleasant.

All of us have a need to enjoy the work we do, efficiency and productivity are not the only concerns. In your efforts to create a home office that helps you to do your best work, don’t forget to keep it fun.

Photo credit: Jeremy Levine Design

What About You?

What are your ideal qualities of a home office?

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design.Connect with Stephen on google+

  • online resource

    Mar 12th

    if im looking for my space, i prefer room that allow me to move and do a little dance when stress.. :D and also far from living room, so no noise except from itunes.

  • Nokadota

    Mar 12th

    I think offices with plenty of natural lighting appeal to me as well. This is a nice list.

  • Brandon

    Mar 12th

    Fantastic article!

    Very nice tips and the images to go along with each heading was refreshing to see what is meant by the text above it. Lets face it…images bring our blog posts to life, instead of just plain boring text.

    Great job again!

  • Hoang

    Mar 12th

    Oh I am just about to re-design my room for a home office. Fortunately stumbled upon this post and it turned out a really good reference. Thank you for the great advices. I will upload some pictures here of my room after the re-design.

  • Craig

    Mar 12th

    I would like to add that if applicable, you need to have a supporting family that understand “work time”.

  • Dylan Parry

    Mar 12th

    One thing that I’ve learned is that it’s important to pick a room in the house that faces the right direction. When I moved into my current home I chose the room I’m currently using as an office because it felt sunny and bright, and I thought that would be a good choice. As it is, it’s a south-facing room and during the summer it gets blazingly hot and the sun is so bright that I can’t actually see my monitor properly, so I end up closing the blinds and working under electric light instead.

    This isn’t such a good environment to work in. The only bonus I have now is that I swapped my bulbs for “daylight bulbs” which make the light feel much more natural.

    If I could start over, I’d choose a north-facing room with a big window. I’d get plenty of light coming in, but I would never have to deal with the sun shining directly through the window, and it would be cooler in the summer.

  • FreelancerCrowd

    Mar 12th

    Perhaps the family is the most tricky part indeed.
    I’ve had quite a hard time to make them realise that I actually work and am not supposed to do stuff, which people do not normally do in an office – like laundy or cooking.

  • Nico

    Mar 12th

    @Craig
    Agreed, there really needs to be boundries wrt “work time”

    Last week there were a whole bunch of photos floating around on twitter tagged with #workspacememe, quite interesting to see how different people’s setups look

  • Todd

    Mar 12th

    A major staple for a comfortable home office: Bean Bag Chair! It’s great to be able to get up from the regular desk chair (even if it’s a very comfortable one) and be able to plop down on a beanbag chair and just let go of your thoughts for a few minutes and then refocus.

  • Soh

    Mar 12th

    I need to redesign my apartment lol

  • Isabel

    Mar 13th

    OMG! I’m SO JELOUS about this pictures! :) No, I don’t have a confortable space to work and that’s horrible. I hope I can change it this summer. Thanks for the examples!

  • sameer guglani

    Mar 16th

    Great article, especially useful in a time like today when the number of folks working from home is increasing. I have been working from last 5 years, here is some things I have found useful:

    - Its a must to have a whiteboard for brain storming
    - At the start of day the whiteboard can be used for making a list of the “to-dos” of the day
    - Initially I was going out every day for meetings and ended up wasting a lot of time traveling. Now I only do external meetings 2 days a week, so that rest of the time I can work in a productive way from home
    - Watch against overworking. Having an office at home can easily suck you into too much work and no “personal” life. Make some rules that work for you

  • Bogdan Pop

    Mar 27th

    @Ozan / Home Office #2 picture: I see you have rounded walls. Neat! Just kidding. Nice little office, but isn’t it to dark? I assume you’re not a professional photographer and that you don’t produce pictures the old fashion way.

    If it has to be something like http://www.pedestrianx.com/darkroom, than your room is 5*

  • Ask Pete

    Apr 10th

    Great little article. For me, the organisational element is one of the key differentiators in having a high level of productivity when working in general, but in particular when working from home. Many thanks ;0)

  • Portland Web Marketing

    Apr 26th

    I wish I could post a picture of my office here: it almost fits in perfectly, I just need to add art! :) Well problem is with two young kids a home office is rarely quiet. Long hours – I relate. WHEW.

  • Sean

    May 5th

    Some great pointers there. I’m setting up freelance and have just made my room part office. (In-fact I call it my office, it’s really cool!) Unfortunately where I live we have 6 dogs which can get a tad distracting.

    It would have been great to have a list of items that the freelancer would need and might not have thought of.

  • gustulank

    Jun 17th

    must saving a lot of money to create workspace like this.. :D

  • Hash

    Jul 14th

    Very Nicely done !! Great information for my new home project !

    Thanks Steven.

    Cheers,
    Hash

  • Trio

    Aug 5th

    I cant separate my office from my living space, my apartment is to small. My children though know that when the computer is in hand or I am at the drafting table I am working. My kids are both in school so they are not home all day when I am working. I also get up at 5 am with my husband, that way that when the kids leave I am alert and ready to work.

  • paul

    Aug 6th

    Trio, I’m in the same situation. I am about to move to a 4 bedroom apartment, which means I’ll have a separate office, Up to now, I’ve been working in my bedroom with a builtin desk in a corner. I can’t work properly because of the constant interruptions, and that means I spend more time at my desk than I normally would.
    Hopefully that will change (I’ll have to lock the door, :-) ) when I move.
    The room doesn’t have much natural lighting, but I intend to add good quality lighting.
    It’s important to consider ergonomics when designing your workspace, so find out the best height for your chair, desk and computer screen to avoid injuries. I had sciatica because of a bad sitting poistion and I can tell you it’s painful as hell!

  • Joseph Scrivener

    Aug 19th

    I’m living now with 3 other friends of mine but I would like to move to an own apartment. I’m working now from home for a London based design studio, also started my part time freelancer business, i need peace and silence when i work, except of music.I’m always listening to music. I would like to have a small room for home office, I don’t like big rooms. I styles , creative small room will be the best for me.

  • vuitton

    Aug 15th

    thank you so much, very nice

  • Game Testing

    Aug 31st

    Very Nicely done !! Great information for my new home project !

  • Andrew Spencer

    Mar 10th

    Wise words and an inspiring resource – Andrew Spencer writes informative and useful articles on home office furniture, office desks, office chairs, reception counters, meeting tables and office screens: http://www.londonofficefurniture.co.uk/blog

  • TheKoolDots

    Mar 17th

    Very Inspirational!

    We’re in the process of redoing our Study.

    Thanks

  • Justin

    May 19th

    I’m working from home but am without a separate room.

    I’ve taken Mark Boultons advice and always put on a pair of shoes to start the work day, and take them off in the evening oncce I’ve finished work for the day.

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