5 steps to create the ultimate home office

Almost two-thirds of UK businesses are run from home now, but is your residential workplace fit for purpose?

Home is more than where the heart is – it’s where business gets done! The number of companies run from a residential addresses accounts for a massive 59% of all small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK.

So says data from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – more and more people are forgoing a stressful early morning commute and a sterile office environment to run their business from the comfort of their own home.

But opening up your laptop, spreading your documents across the living room floor and reclining in an armchair isn’t going to be conducive to productive home working.

So, here are five steps to create the ultimate home office and get you working smarter than ever:

Step 1: Pick the ideal location

It goes without saying you should try to distance yourself from the distractions of other people, so choose a room as distant from your communal living spaces as possible.

If you really want to have your own space you could locate your office in the garden, either in an out building or a custom built space. Be aware that you may need planning permission if your building exceeds a certain height and it will need adequate heating unless you want to be working in ski gear come Winter.

Is it close to the router? Make sure the room you choose as the office either has a router in it or is close enough to receive a strong signal. Thicker walls in some houses, especially older ones, can block the signal – and slow internet means slow business.

Research has suggested that looking at the natural world is far more conducive to a good work ethic than looking at a completely man-made environment. Natural light is important for your mental health and will boost productivity and mood.

Alternatively you could dot a few plants around the place for a similar effect.

Step 2: Create an environment to match your business

Make your office suit your business. If you’re a designer you may need more desk space for designs, products or equipment – while a tech business can afford to be in a more compact environment.

Will anyone else be joining you in the office at any point? If you have a business partner, colleague, client or employee that you need to meet or work with at any point, think about how the space will accommodate them – especially in the case of a client visit, make it look tidy and professional.

Step 3: Get the right office equipment

At the very least you’ll need a desk and a chair, but if you’re going to be putting the hours in make sure it’s a desk and chair you feel comfortable in and that promotes productivity.

  • Height adjustable desk – With mounting research revealing the health dangers of sitting still for prolonged periods of time, an adjustable desk can not only help you maintain correct posture but allow you to work standing up and get the blood flowing.
  • Ergonomic chair – You’re going to be sitting in that chair for hours every day so it’s worth investing in a comfortable, ergonomically designed swivel chair, to save you back pain and allow you the freedom to scoot around your office doing tasks.
  • Storage – An organised system of labelled shelves and boxes will prevent your office from turning into a disorganised sea of paper.
  • Fridge/ kettle – A small fridge with drinks and refreshments will ensure you’re well sustained and keep you from the temptations of the kitchen. Having a kettle and mugs on hand is a good idea when you need a caffeine kick.
  • Shredder/ wastebasket  – Dispose of sensitive documents in seconds.

Step 4: Surround yourself with the right technology

This almost goes without saying as so few of us can operate without a desktop, laptop, tablet or all three. The same goes for the smartphone. Nevertheless, here’s our checklist reminder:

  • Desktop/ laptop – A desktop will give you more processing power and more storage but less mobility. A laptop allows you to take your job anywhere but the size can be restrictive. Alternatively you could buy both, or use a desk monitor for your laptop and keep an external hard drive for back up.
  • Tablet – while there’s a lot to be said for staying fixed and focused, the ability to move around and get the blood circulating will have long-term health benefits. So take calls while walking around your house and keep your tablet with you to monitor email or check something online as you settle in another room.
  • Superfast broadband – Absolutely essential if you want to compete in today’s market.
  • Keyboard and mouse – Increase efficiency and decrease discomfort with an ergonomically designed mouse and keyboard.
  • Printer/ scanner – Buy a wireless all-in-one printer to keep things tidy and reduce trip hazards.
  • Landline – A landline number looks much more professional if you’re taking client calls. You could also consider an integrated, cloud-based system – useful if you have remote working employees.
  • Smartphone – Stay connected and take advantage of useful business apps. Speaking of which…
  • Apps – There are whole suites of apps tailored towards making the lives of small business owners easier. Accounting software can take the hassle out of keeping track of invoices and accounts and productivity apps can help you stay productive, organised and on target.

Step 5: Think about privacy and safety

With all that technology a home office is a prime target for thieves – consider a lock for the door and a window that doesn’t face onto the street and advertise your equipment to prying eyes.

Equally, keep key files in a lockable and fire-proof cabinet.

Yes safety is important. Plan a sensible, open layout – and if you have children in the house, make sure there’s nothing dangerous within their reach.

What’s it like to work from home?

Everyone’s experience of working from home is different and we’ll all have a way of setting up the office space in a way that works for us.

To find out what it’s really like to work from a home office we spoke to three business owners: Max Wiseberg, founder of drug-free allergen barrier balm HayMax; Kathryn Hughes, director of public relations firm, Kayak PR; and Sanjay Aggarwal, founder of recruitment company DentRecruit and spice company Spice Kitchen.

Why do you choose to work from home?

Max: “So I can spend more time with my family and manage my hours more easily. And no commuting is brilliant.”

Kathryn: “I decided to build a home office last year after renting serviced offices for many years in Chiswick and Kingston Upon Thames and being very disappointed with the lack of ‘service’ provided and the high costs of the IT and telephone that you are tied into as part of the package.

“I used to take some of these things for granted in a serviced office but they are really important. I don’t have the time or knowledge to manage the IT myself. Like any small business owner, I need to focus on my clients so it is important to have these support systems in place.”

Sanjay: “I run two small businesses, a recruitment company called DentRecruit, which I run out of my home near Liverpool and also an eBay mail order spice shop with my parents called Spice Kitchen, which runs out of their house near Birmingham. I therefore have two home offices set up and I bounce between the two!”

“Having worked for companies in the past which involved commuting by car or tube, I do not miss the commute one bit!”

What are the essentials for a home office?

Max: “Biscuits, phone and internet connection, PC and printer, home, space, a business.”

Kathryn: “Any home office needs to function as professionally as a proper office and having the right IT systems and good printer/scanner, telephone, wireless connection and crucially, a backup IT support company in place is essential.”

Sanjay: “For me it is having an organised, efficient and comfortable workspace. I try and keep it as de-cluttered as possible with a good set of shelves on which I have everything organised in labelled boxes, so when I need something I can get to it quickly.

“Also things like cables can get overbearing so I ensure in my home office cables are labelled and also kept hidden under desks or in cable boxes I have bought cheaply online. I also always use two screens which I find incredibly useful as it means I can multi task much easier, with the internet open on one screen and emails on the other.”

Where at home is your office situated and why?

Max: “In a building in the garden because I managed to persuade my wife to build a studio in the garage so I could have the office building with a kitchen and bathroom. We bought a house with outbuildings so we could fulfill our dream of running our own business from home together.”

Sanjay: “My home office is situated downstairs at the front of my house. I much prefer having it away from the bedrooms and I don’t ever take work upstairs. I always try to ensure I get ready in the mornings and come down to work as I find I work more productively.”

What are the disadvantages of working from home?

Max: “One can get isolated – easily fixed though by going out and meeting suppliers, customers, attending exhibitions, doing lunch…”

Kathryn: “There are pros and cons of a home office. Sometimes, I miss the buzz and the interaction with other people you get in an office but I have make sure I have lots of meetings and also go to networking events to make up for this.”

Sanjay: “It can be easy to distract yourself and start getting carried away with domestic chores or personal jobs that need doing. But in some ways this is the advantage with working from home that you can mix business and domestic in a more fluid fashion. In the past I have certainly lacked.”

This article was produced in partnership with O2 Business. To be inspired or read more about working anywhere, working smarter, marketing, and for tech advice go to businessblog.o2.co.uk

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