A home office can offer entrepreneurs a low-cost, convenient and comfortable place to run a business. But if it’s not designed well, it can also lead to plenty of distractions and loss of productivity.
Blake Zalcberg is the president of OFM, a furniture manufacturer and distributor based in North Carolina. In addition to his design acumen, Zalcberg is also familiar with the importance of an effective home office due to the fact that a good portion of the OFM team works from home on a regular basis. So he’s familiar with a lot of the concepts that go into designing an effective workspace, along with some of the most common mistakes.
Home Office Design Mistakes
If you’re working to design your own home office, here are some missteps to avoid.
Designing Your Office as an Afterthought
When you first purchase or design a home, you’ll likely go through and determine where you want to put all of your living room and dining room furniture and which bedrooms go to which family members. But the office is often just given whatever space is left over.
Zalcberg says, “A lot of people just end up putting the office in that old formal living room that used to have plastic over the couches because it’s just not really used or they think they don’t need a dedicated office space at that time, even if they will in the future.”
Even if you don’t have a ton of space options for your office, try to choose or outline a space that will actually be conducive to good work, rather than just throwing a desk in the corner of the dining room.
Putting the Office Near Distractions
Distractions can be different for each worker. Some people can work with the TV on but get distracted if they see people walking down the street. So while it may not be possible to eliminate every potential distraction while working from home, think about the things that are most likely to derail your work and try to limit those as much as possible.
Zalcberg adds, “You have to know how you work best. If you know you’re going to be running off to the refrigerator or turning on the TV and getting distracted, then you need to separate yourself from those things.”
Failing to Soundproof your Office
No matter what your distraction levels might be, there’s value to having some level of soundproofing to your home office, whether that involves acoustic wall tiles or a solid wood door to shut out the rest of the house.
Zalcberg says, “Think about if you’re on a conference call. Do you want the person on the other line to hear the dog barking and doorbell ringing and kids running around, or do you want them to feel like you’re really focused on what they’re saying?”
Including Subpar Lighting
Poor lighting can also be a major hindrance to good work. If your office is in a room with minimal windows and you don’t have adequate overhead lighting, you’re likely to strain your eyes and get tired or worn out quickly. However, even if the only space you have is the basement, you can install bright LED bulbs in your overhead fixtures and then add table lamps to your space to make a big difference.
Forgetting About Comfort
Another source of distraction for some home office workers is the furniture. If you have an old desk and uncomfortable chair, it can make your office an unwelcoming space and even lead to back and neck problems. Instead, find an ergonomic chair that feels comfortable for you. You can even invest in an ergonomic mouse and keyboard to support your hands and arms if you use those items regularly. Or if you like to stand up throughout the day, you could opt for an adjustable desk to let you switch things up throughout the work day.
Failing to Plan for Avoiding Clutter
Clutter can be another major roadblock for effective work. Once you outline the space to use and eliminate potential distractions, you then have to think about how to lay everything out effectively so that all of your items and documents have a set space. Think about your typical workday and the items you use most often to make sure that nothing will be left just floating around your desk or workspace.
Automatically Going with “Office Style”
According to Zalcberg, there’s been a major shift in home offices over the past several years. Before, offices in the home strongly resembled traditional offices, with similar furniture styles and generic office decor. But now, more entrepreneurs and professionals are taking the opportunity to get creative and make the office feel more like a part of the home. This doesn’t mean you should avoid generic office furniture. But you certainly don’t have to opt for this style just because you’re designing an office space.
Zalcberg explains, “It’s really up to the individual. If you think you’d work better if everything looks like it would in a traditional office, then that’s what you should do. If you want it to look more like a home, then do that instead. It’s just your chance to be the boss and really make the space that works for you specifically.”
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These really are excellent considerations, a lot of them I did not think about when I first converted my dining room into an office. I have now moved into a garden house which has made a huge difference. Another thing to think about is purchasing items which will work for long term growth – especially when it comes to technology. High-speed, reliable internet which actually reaches the office is a must, as well a dual monitors if you do a lot of work on laptop / PC.