Tech Writers Tell How To Rig Up The Perfect Home Office

HomeOfficeSample.jpg Unsurprisingly given my job, I know a lot of people who write about technology for a living. A large percentage of that group are self-employed and work from home. As a result, when a discussion started on a tech journalist mailing list I subscribe to about the requirements for the perfect home office, there was plenty of lively debate and a lot of useful ideas. Here's some of the things that Australia's tech writers think are essential when working from home. I haven't quoted or named anyone specifically in this write-up, since the list itself isn't meant for public dissemination. And I've left things off that are very peculiar to the trade (such as how to store lots of review gear or multiple routers for network testing). If you've got extra ideas for what's needed in the perfect home office, be sure to offer them up in the comments.

Ensure you have plenty of shelves

By far the most common regret amongst people who had created their own home offices was a lack of available shelving for storing manuals, gear and other useful office accessories. The kind of shelving you can add depends on the amount of space you have (and whether you rent or own), but adding a few shelves to an available wall can make a space dramatically more useful.

Get a wireless headset phone

Being able to chat on the phone without having to hold a handset leaves writers free to type, but it's a useful feature for anyone who regularly works in front of a PC. Budget-minded sorts could combine this with a VOIP service as well.

Have a system to sort your paper

Desktop clutter makes it hard to get anything done, and no matter how much use you make of email there's bound to be bits of paper floating around: Using desktop filing of some description — whether that's trays, a wire file stand or even just a portable file box — ensures that you're not overwhelmed by administrative tasks.

Make sure there's plenty of power outlets

PC, multiple monitors, printer, NAS, mobile phone — it doesn't take long for the power demands to become overwhelming. If you're starting from scratch, make sure there's multiple outlets; if you're stuck with what you have, try and intelligently position a power board. Don't forget to add a UPS (or at least some surge protection) to ensure your gear doesn't get fried in a storm.

Get dressed for work

Not strictly an office setup tip, but there was common consensus that getting dressed before hitting the home office was a vital step to ensuring that work life and home life didn't overlap to an unpleasant degree. (Of the people I've known who tried self-employment and abandoned it, a high percentage were slack when it came to doing this.)

Ensure you have secure storage somewhere

Securing your PC against hackers is vital, but it's equally important to have somewhere safe to keep backup drives, important business documents and other valuables. A lockable filing cabinet is often a good place to start.

Stash install CDs in a dedicated folder

We might dream about a freeware universe here at Lifehacker, but the reality is that pretty much everyone has to store some installation discs. Keep them all in a folder to minimise storage space, but make sure you keep the licence codes with them. (I stick mine on as post-it notes but also keep a digital backup list.)

Get as much natural light as possible

While your options may be restricted by house design, getting natural light is vital to stopping yourself going stir-crazy when working for long periods. I'd go so far as to advocate swapping room functions around if this is an issue: you need natural light in an office more than you do in a bedroom!


Comments

    Have a good solid door you can shut out your beloved family with. A sound blocking one is a bonus:)

    Never (not even during lunch breaks) use your work station for pleasure. The second that starts happening, pleasure becomes stressful (because of the ties to work, no pun intended ;)), and work efficiency plummets.

    Nice little grab bag of tips Gus.

    I converted a shed into an office a while ago. Here are a few pics and some lessons learned: http://pocketmojo.net/index.php/thepdaguy/2007/07/31/my_new_office_is_finished

    Nice work Gus – I like seeing them all in the one post. I may actually take some of that advice and sort my spare bloody room out.

    Drink plenty of water and take regular breaks!

    Man, home offices are a piece of work when you've got kids at home too! Talk about having to make sure important things are kept in safe storage at all times lest the toddlers get their hands on them during their paper-ripping phase! Yikes!

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