Some 30 million of us work from home at least once a week, and that number is growing, according to Forbes. That migration into the home for work is reshaping the concept of a home office.
Still, entrepreneurs, consultants, company employees and government workers sometimes haven’t really figure out how to make it work, even if just for the occasional snow day.
The experts will tell you the correct formula for each of us starts with a simple idea.
“You need to make sure you actually have a place to work,” said professional organizer Laurie Martin, of Simplicity. “You need to have the necessities in that one location, so you don’t have to keep getting up to find what you’re looking for.”
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Anne Carter Smith figured she was asking the impossible: Recreate the functionality of the large office in her previous home in the small workstation tucked into her new kitchen.
She hired Martin, who not only organized Smith’s new workspace but also helped her create a system to keep it that way.
“We had to take a full office room and compact it down to a third of the space, and make it work like it used to,” said Smith, who moved last June to a new home in Charlotte.
Martin utilized the cabinets below Smith’s countertop and the shelving above it to create filing systems that keep the space orderly.
“She put all of my things into binders and made them all stand up in the same box,” said Smith, a stay-at-home mom who serves on several boards. “She made it look very neat because I like a neat kitchen.”
The result is a workspace that is cheerful, inspiring and much more efficient than the coffee shop around the corner.
If you prefer a seat in a coffee shop to your home office, heads up. It’s time to consider the five the things every home office needs.
1. A seat of power
The desk is the heart of the home office. These days it’s not always easy to carve out a place for a traditional workstation that’s roomy enough for you to recline in a big leather chair and prop up your feet on a solid-wood desk with drawers deep enough for a decanter.
Take time to find a desk that’s right for the space and your line of work. The Prepac Floating Desk with Storage is among the new designs that look professional and can be used to create a multifunction room. Prices start at $250 at www.hayneedle.com.
To get organized, move every item off the desk and add back only the essentials. You don’t need much: a computer; a caddy with pens, pencils and a stapler; and an in-box to keep papers you need to act on.
The Executive Restt by MykeyO is a caddy and stand, all in one. Underneath its wireless Bluetooth keyboard, the silicone organizer stores paper clips, flash drives and other items that you want close at hand. It’s compatible with Apple, PC and Android devices, and available in multiple colors. $60 at www.mykeyo.com.
2. Walls that work hard
The more time you invest up-front adding systems for organization, the more efficient your day will be. We’re not talking about gray metal file towers or bland putty-colored cabinets. Shop for things that have as much style as function.
Letter bins, display areas, pin boards, hooks, supply nooks, blackboards and white boards are other tools for organization, and they can hang from the walls. Some office organizers, such as Pottery Barn’s Build Your Own – Daily System Components, let you change your workspace as your needs evolve. $9-$55. www.potterybarn.com.
3. Lighting for every task
Every workspace needs lighting, often for a variety of tasks. Lamps are useful because they can be moved as needed. A design that has a clamp makes the lamp more adaptable to your needs. You can direct its beam as close or as far away as you need it. The Atelier Task Table Clamp Lamp has a three-way switch and is styled after designs pharmacists used in the early 20th century. $279. www.restorationhardware.com.
4. Scheduled paper purges
We spend on average 400 hours per year searching for paper documents, according to a Datapro/Gartner Group study. That’s because they’re weeding through papers that don’t need to be in the mix.
“Offices need to be purged at least twice a year,” said Martin, who recommends archiving tax returns, financial documents and old keepsakes into labeled boxes for storage in the attic. “There’s no reason to keep the things that you won’t need to refer to in this year.”
Martin also recommends storing papers vertically, when possible, for easier access. Look for a design that holds standard-size letters and folders and is made of renewable materials, so it’s kinder to the environment.
5. Things that make you smile
Remind yourself that there are at least two ways to look at a situation: seriously or with humor. You’ll thank yourself later for dressing up your desktop with whimsical touches such as Paper Pot Tissue Holders. These store facial tissue or an entire roll of bathroom tissue. Nobody will know the difference, and we won’t tell. $40. www.containerstore.com.
More SmarterLiving: www.charlotteobserver.com/smarterliving