Whether you are setting up a home office to run your household or you have a home-based business, there are certain steps you can take to make sure it is set up for maximum efficiency. And if you have a home office now that is “not working” (as I hear from so many of my clients), don’t be afraid to start from scratch: de-clutter and re-organize it.
Set up zones & furniture
If your office has multiple functions, you’ll want to create zones for each function. For instance, if you are using your office area for managing your household files and doing a home business, you need to have separate file drawers or file cabinets for each. You may even want to have two desks, one for personal and one for business.
If you have a computer and several peripherals, make sure you set them up near a grounded outlet using a surge protector. Also make sure the computer is in a position that will not have a glare from the sun if there are windows in your office. One of the basic rules of feng shui is that a desk chair should face the door of the room. This is the “control” position. You definitely want to be in control of your business.
Consider Paper flow
One of the most common clutter problems in a home office involves paper. Think about the flow of paper in your office and set it up in an assembly line fashion. If yours is an office for managing your home, you could set it up like this:
To Do Bin > Open space on desk > Printer > shredder/trash can > “Going Out” table
If bills are often paid late, leave those out and visible on the desk top. Even if you pay them electronically, you need some visual reminder of the amount and due date.
If you are also using your office to manage a home-based business, your set up may be more complicated. But as Philip Crosby says, “all work is a process.” Whether you have a product based or service based business (or a little of both) document your process from customer requests, to fulfillment to payment. You could set up stations for each step in the process. For a product based business, have order forms by the phone or computer – wherever they come in. Then spread them out on a table for filling orders. Keep a record of who has paid and who has not. You could use a letter holder on the table or two bins accurately marked. Have your packaging materials either under the table or in a closet in your office and pull them out when you’re ready to ship. Once the packages are ready to deliver or mail, have a “Going Out” bin by the door of the office. So your straight line process might look like this:
Take orders > Record Payment > Fill Orders > Package > Send out product
Having your business set up in this way will avoid a lot of confusion about where a certain order is, and who has paid you or not. It also helps you see exactly what piece of the process you need to focus on at any given time.
For a service based business, you will still have customer requests. These may come in via phone or email. Most likely you will create a record of the request, defining the customer requirements. The workflow may look something like this:
Customer request>Define Requirements>Contract or invoice>Schedule work>Complete work>Check requirements>Collect payment>Follow up
Set the stages of this process up from left to right in your office so you can easily move from one to another without going in circles!
Put on the finishing touches
Once your office is set up functionally, make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing too. When you feel at ease and have a clear space to work, you will have a clear and focused mind to do your work.
- If you like visual reminders and motivators, put up a bulletin board. Post pictures of loved ones, pictures of prizes you are working towards, or simple notes. Bulletin boards do have potential for clutter so make sure you keep them current. Don’t cover old notes with new ones.
- If your office is in a corner of a larger room in your house, make sure it blends. You wouldn’t want a metal desk in a French country living room. Try to match the wood tones of the furniture.
- If your file cabinets are visible in your office, also make sure they are wood. Metal or plastic bins should be tucked away in a closet and not out in the open.
- If you have clients come to your office, make sure you have a comfortable place for them to sit, and a clear table for them to use.
- Add something pretty like a vase of flowers, a beautiful picture, or a great smelling candle.
What’s your tip for a great home office?