Organizing a Home Office
Organizing a home office is different than organization in a larger place of business, because a number of different functions may have to work in one space. Your main work desk, supply storage, archives, a meeting area for colleagues and/or clients, a collection of reference materials, and a space for your or your client’s children may all be part of the mix. Some of these areas may be separated from the main office area, or they may all have to work together.
One way to begin organizing a home office is to start with the main activity you carry out. If meetings is the most essential part of your job, begin with the meeting area. If using your computer is, begin with your desk. If you are a graphic artist working in paint, crayon, or pen, begin with the workspace where you create. And if your home office is for record keeping and archiving information from either your household or a business conducted mainly outside the office, like a daycare, then start with whatever tools you need for that.
Organizing the Home Office Main Work Area
Begin with the functions the area needs to perform, keeping in mind both general ergonomic principles as well as the particular needs of your trade. If you need to draw, the height of the easel or table, the lighting, and the way in which your tools are arrayed will all be important.
If you are working at a computer, the height and distance of the keyboard and monitor(s), the chair, and the lighting will all come into play. Space will be needed for peripherals, such as a printer, fax machine, scanner, and other items that you use in conjunction with your computer. Many people place the actual computer tower on the floor in order to conserve precious desk space. In addition, organizing means organizing your files and folders on the computer for ease of use, and to organize a back-up system to preserve your work in case of a problem.
If your main area is a meeting space, you need to decide if it should be centered around a table or with chairs arranged in a conversational area. You may wish to make writing supplies available at each place and allow for people to view material side-by-side. You certainly want to ensure that they will be comfortable in their seats for as long as the meeting lasts.
In any case, you will want to consider the elements that affect mood as you organize: the color and style of the décor, and elements, such as the brightness and tint of the lights and music, all contribute to the office ambiance. If you have CDs to play while you work, you’ll want to organize them with a tidy storage system.
Ease of access is also important. Getting to important tools like your phone and its accoutrements like address or telephone books, as well as frequently used archives, references, and supplies may dictate having some of these materials close to the main work area, and a separate area for those less frequently used.
Organizing a Home Office Storage Area
If you store items in your office, organize the space so that the items you need most often are the most accessible, and so that you can see everything you need. Many people use two storage spaces for office supplies. Often, storage for the most frequently used items is in the top two desk drawers, in which they may have small amounts of paper clips, thumbtacks, a few pens and pencils, stamps, a flash drive, a staple remover, a pair of scissors, a letter opener, #10 envelopes, letterhead, etc.
In addition a larger storage area—whether a closet, a cupboard, or a shelf—may hold larger boxes of these items, as well as CD-Roms, other computer disks, large manila envelopes, file folders, ink cartridges and other supplies, and other bulk or less frequently used items. If office space is at a premium, this storage area needn’t even be in the office, but could be out in the hall or in the basement, for example.
Organizing a Home Office Reference and Archive Area
Even with dictionaries and thesauruses available on the Internet, you may have work-specific references that you need to access frequently. Placing these on a shelf reachable from your main work area may be ideal. Depending on the form your archives take, you may wish to combine archives and references.
One or more bookcases, either free-standing or built-in, may hold references that are needed less often. They may also hold older archives, or you may find that archived material works better in a filing cabinet. As with your larger storage area, you may find that your less frequently accessed references and archives can be stored in an area separate from the office itself.
Written by Mary Elizabeth