Creating Professional Surroundings at Home

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With many independent IT contractors and consultants finding themselves on the road for most of their workday, having a professional workspace that is both practical and comfortable is a necessity. However, creating this space may not be easy. With some help from design professionals, you can create the perfect home workspace.


According to the IDC, a provider of technology intelligence, market data and industry analysis, almost one in three households in America have some form of home office. “In 2005, there were 34.9 million home-office households,” said Merle Sandler, senior research analyst for the SMB and home-office programs. “The number of home-office households is expected to rise … at a faster rate than the growth rate for households in general.” Home-offices households include income-generating home offices that IT independents use on a part-time or full-time basis.


With this expected increase in home offices comes a change in professional needs. “I’ve been designing home offices for several years, but my clients’ needs have changed throughout that time,” said Lisa Kanarek, home-office expert and author of “Home Office Solutions: Making a Space That Works For You and Organizing Your Home Business.” She explained, “For example, when technology was larger, my clients wanted large desks and workspaces. Now that many of my clients use flat screens or prefer a notebook computer over a desktop, they want a home office that is comfortable and functional.”


Evaluating personal objectives for the office is the first step to a successful space. “Decide if you need peace and quiet to be productive or if you function best in the thick of things,” said professional organizer Sally Allen, CEO of A Place For Everything LLC, a business that helps individuals and companies organize their homes and offices. “Do not choose the home-office space where you think it should be, but where you want it to be.”


By selecting and creating the ideal work environment, independent consultants allow their office to become more functional as a professional workspace that they actually will want to use. “(It is important) that you have a space of your own, a desk of your own and adequate supplies to function as a productive business,” Allen said. Kanarek added that when designing a home office, many forget to make the space personal. “Some people forget that their office doesn’t have to resemble a corporate (one),” said Kanarek. “They can display family photos, hang artwork that reflects their interests and add touches that reflect their personal style.”


An effective office design can further ensure success of the workspace. “I prefer an L-shape with the desk at a right angle to the workspace. This allows for a computer, keyboard, etc. on the workspace, with a free desk surface for paperwork. Another efficient layout is the parallel layout with the desk in front and a work surface behind you. This allows you to (move) while you work without leaving the chair,” Allen said. She also suggests effective organizational and lighting ideas. “A clothes closet in a room has great potential to become a supply closet. (Regarding lighting), natural light is the best. Desk lamps and floor lamps enhance the ability to work without getting eyestrain. Overhead lighting is sure to drain your brain.”


When deciding which supplies to buy for a home office, independent consultants must choose items that accommodate their on-the-go professional needs. Most importantly, these office supplies need to effectively facilitate organization, performance and communication. The decision can be difficult due to a wide variety of choices. However, items such as laptops that allow portability are a necessity for all independent consultants.


Communication devices also are helpful tools for independent consultants. Mobile phones and Palm Pilots also offer Internet access and organizational features, such as calendars and address books in an all-in-one package. The BlackBerry is another useful wireless personal digital assistant (PDA) offering e-mail abilities and Web browsing, as well as general mobile phone capabilities.


Buying the correct supplies and designing the space effectively could put you in the fast lane to a successful and professional home office.


Allen reiterated, “It is important to have your home office feel like an office, look like an office and sound like an office. Make your office professional at home and you may never have to return to the ‘other’ office.”


–Jessica Mousseau,

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