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Summary:

We’ve previously covered planning your home office and setting up your home office here on WebWorkerDaily. Here I share a real-life home office: mine. I’m not a decorator — far from it, just an organized person who wants things to have a place and feel comfortable […]

We’ve previously covered planning your home office and setting up your home office here on WebWorkerDaily. Here I share a real-life home office: mine. I’m not a decorator — far from it, just an organized person who wants things to have a place and feel comfortable where I spend most of my time during the work week. Seriously, if I can set up a home office like mine, anyone can.

I don’t let my family mess with my home office. Sure, they can borrow my stapler and tape as long as they promise to bring it back: one sneak held on to my stapler for a week! At least it’s not a red Swingline stapler (I wish). But no leaving toys and backpacks behind. It’s also the tidiest place in the house, something important to the neat freak I am.

Meryl's office

The home office also sets aside a working space that sends a message to the family that I’m working. Moms and Dads can keep dreaming that their office space will keep out children. However, kids will disrupt your work less often in a dedicated office than if you work in a bedroom or living room.

Though a small space, the setup works well. Let’s just say the master bathroom has more room than the office. Every web worker’s office space requirements differ based on their jobs and space available.

Before I became a full-time web worker, I had my “office” in the family room. This let me keep an eye on the baby — now five-years-old — and the other kids. I moved into my current home office when the youngest was two and I switched to full-time freelancing.

This post lists things I have that make me feel “at home” in my home office. Maybe they’ll inspire yours. For more inspiration, see 5 Inspirational Workspaces.

Desk. Not just any desk. The desk housing the computer, keyboard and mouse must feel comfortable. This includes the right height for the mouse, keyboard and monitors. Ergonomics do matter: I’ve worked on someone else’s desk for a while and my wrist and arm ached. That signaled to me that my desk setup was right for me. A good setup makes a real difference. If you feel pain within an hour, keep adjusting. My desk is a cheap one with wheels (leftovers from working in the family room), and it works. The fancier L-shaped desk facing the wall sits to my right and behind me. It holds supplies, files, paperwork, laser and color printers, stationery and décor.

Shelves. I only need one bookshelf because the L-shaped desk contains the needed shelves (see in image below) for supplies, papers, folders and other knickknacks. I used to have two bookshelves (the other sat below the picture you see in the above image), which made the office space a tad uncomfortable and tight. After rearranging things, I moved my lesser important books upstairs where most of the books live.

Supplies. As much as I limit paper use, I’ll always need staplers, tape, rubber bands, scissors and stamps. I don’t waste time hunting down for these little items because they wait for me in the right spots. A little container holding pens, pencils, highlighters and scissors sits to the left of my keyboard (proud southpaw here) for easy access. The tape and stapler sit on a shelf behind me because I don’t use them as much as the writing tools. Next to the pencil holder is a small three-drawer container that holds the checkbook, sticky notes and little items needing to be within reach without turning around. It prevents clutter — muy importante!

Equipment. An all-in-one printer saves space. I have two printers: a laser printer and an all-in-one that includes a scanner, copier and color printer. I also have a fax machine. Two monitors sit on my desk side-by-side and I’d make room for a third. Having items on two screens at the same time makes me more efficient. Since I don’t want to turn up the heat or air conditioner just for me, I keep a portable fan and heater in the office. That’s one advantage of a small office — it’s easier to control the temperature. An ergonomic chair makes a difference and is well worth the investment. That and a footstool support my ergonomic setup. Also a lamp ensures I have the right lighting when it’s a rainy day or nighttime.

Books. As a writer, I rely on many reference books even though many web sites provide similar references.

Personal items. My walls hold my college diploma, several career certificates, my skydiving certificate from my first skydive, my spouse’s military awards and two art works, one of which contains famous Fort Worth buildings — where I was born and raised. While my spouse doesn’t work in this office, I like having his awards here because it’s his home, too. Besides, his awards don’t have a logical place anywhere else in the house.

The L-shaped desk contains photos of the kids, little toys, a Donald Duck clock that belonged to my father and other mementos. Not all employees like to have personal items in their cubicles or offices and that’s OK. I hardly look at these items, but they provide a personal touch and the occasional smile.

The L-shaped Desk

A home office provides the right environment to ensure productivity. The colors, the windows, lighting and décor create the atmosphere. The desk, equipment and supplies support daily work activities.

What do you have in your home office? How does it make a difference in your work?

  1. I’m very envious of this office space :) I had to give up my home office when we moved last year, so now I work off the dining room table – or kitchen counter – or Starbucks! Luckily I can logon to my webtop from anywhere to get my work done and answer emails. But I do look forward to having my personal (non-toy-cluttered) space one day!

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  2. You neglected a very important (and expensive) component to the setup. Your Aeron chair!

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  3. GoEverywhere, thanks! I like it. It’s not my dream, but it’s functional and comfortable.

    Joe, you got that right. I just referenced it as a generic ergo chair as there are others that work well.

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  4. I recommend a standing desk, ideally as a second desk if you have the space. I built one years ago. I have one of my computers on the standing desk, which is somewhat like a public kiosk. It’s healthful to move between sitting and standing throughout the day.

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  5. Agree with your thoughts about organization. Having a comfortable chair is essential, and I am very partial to the Humanscale Freedom chair.

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  6. @mark I’d love to hear more about how you built your standing desk (including photos). It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

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  7. Excellent Article. My Home office is actually in the Garage but it offers that ‘privacy’ and I basically have all the things you mention. I even make the family feel a little guilty when they interrupt me by reminding them that I was so considerate that I gave them the whole house & all I asked for was the garage. They normally apologize and duck back into the comfort of the home.

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  8. Good idea on the standing desk. A friend works at a standing desk most of the time and swears by it for his back.

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  9. @Joe Aeron chairs are great. I miss the one I used to have

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  10. @Mark, I’d love a standing desk that can switch between standing a sitting. Do share as it looks like others are interested including J and Neil.

    @CMarketing, thanks for sharing your fave chair. Anyone else have a fave chair that isn’t an Aeron?

    @Perry, clever.

    @Simon, so get another! :)

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  11. My husband and I work together and recently did an overhaul on our home office setup.

    We live and work in an open studio so what designates the office space is simply that it’s where the desks and computers are.

    We found after a couple months of working with our desks side-by-side in this corner of the room that we were too distracting to one another, making it difficult to really get in the zone and focus.

    We ended up getting a bookshelf to act as a wall between us—we’re using the popular Expedit bookcase (http://bit.ly/mwLVK) from Ikea. It’s open on both sides, though now filled with books and supplies. We got a few of the hinged door cabinets and they block our peripheral view of each other perfectly. It’s just enough.

    We also rely heavily on:

    1) Good chairs—it’s no good when your back hurts. My husband swears by his Sum chair ( http://bit.ly/tdyGE ) made by Allsteel and found an amazing deal on eBay.

    2) Our King keyboard trays (tiny self promotion!)—a product we sell and swear by that vastly improved our neck aches and helped us get ergonomic (http://www.kingtray.com/ ).

    3) Cable organization—we both have lots of gadgets and their cords and cables easily get out of control. Inside our cabinets we’ve hung hooks and use cable ties and turtles (http://bit.ly/FmUoA ) to deter the mess.

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  12. @Brittany, I have that shelf from Ikea! We use it upstairs to hold trays of toys and books. It’s a great piece. I was lucky my desk had a keyboard tray just in the right place.

    I could stand some cable organization, though. But with so many other projects in the way… I’ve learned to turn a blind eye to what’s happening under and behind my desk.

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  13. @Meryl: this sums up my feelings about cables quite well :-)

    @Brittany I like the look of your trays! (BTW, I fixed the links in your comments. WordPress mangles URLs with following closing brackets…)

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  14. I am partial to Neutral Posture’s ergonomic chairs. Not only is my chair extremely comfortable but I feel good that the parts are recyclable.

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  15. @Simon, that NYT article/illustration is great! I guess I’m not alone in the cable craziness that is inevitable with our current tech. Also, thanks for fixing the links. Much better :)

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  16. Simon, how did I miss that? That’s creative! I love the first one being from Texas, of course. But trust me — very few of us wear 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots. Although my little one did last week for Kindergarten Western Day.

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  17. [...] Life with Cables: How Simon and I feel about ‘em. Tags: 404, crafts, geek, photography, twitter SHARETHIS.addEntry({ [...]

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  18. Being a part-time office worker and part-time home worker, the key to my home office setup is remote access software. It allows me to view important files from my work computer on days when I’m at home. It’s the only thing I can’t live without!

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  19. Being able to work at home can either be a blessing or a nightmare. Not having the proper equipment/utilities at home can really ruin the atmosphere. I can not even imagine how hard it would be to concentrate with kids running around the house. For now I am glad I am still in the office.

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  20. I also think standing desks are cool. Sitting down all day can be a drag.

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