Web Work 101: Setting Up Your Home Office

Dawn's Home OfficeI started working from home occasionally when I worked at Intel. It started on an ad hoc basis when I was waiting for a delivery at home or for conference calls in the very early morning or late at night to talk to people in other timezones. When I started working from home on a regular basis, it didn’t take me long to realize that my existing home office setup wasn’t going to cut it.

It’s hard to know what you’re going to need of your office when you’re first starting out, so, for the second of our Web Work 101 series of articles, I asked some fellow WWD bloggers and my Twitter friends what tips they might give to people setting up a home office. Here’s what I learned.

Simon’s biggest mistake was assuming that his home office was adequately equipped for full-time working when it clearly wasn’t. An unstable internet connection meant that he frequently had to venture out and find somewhere else to get online. For printing and faxing, he had to pop out to a print shop. All these interruptions really put a crimp on his flow at the start.

When I started out, I underestimated the importance of having a reliable phone with amazing battery life, headset and speaker for the marathon conference calls that were a requirement of my job.

This doesn’t mean that you need to have every tool, gadget, or office supply your first week. As @jasonglaspey says, you shouldn’t scrimp on the things that you know you will need, but take some time to think about whether you really need some of the less frequently-used tools.

Meanwhile, @zuggy recommends spending the extra money on a good chair, and likes having a couch or another chair in his office for a change of pace, especially when reading. Productivity will tank if you are constantly uncomfortable. A second monitor to expand your screen real estate is another good productivity investment.

You are now also the IT department for your home office. As @zuggy mentions, you need to make sure that you have reliable backups of your data. Personally, I backup my laptop to Amazon S3 about every 6 hours (I’m a paranoid ex-sys admin).

Separating office space from play space and work from family was another common theme. Keep the office far away from the television and other distractions while creating enough privacy to have serious business conversations. (Thanks @joewevans, @kevinfox, and @Ron_Barrett.)

@sarahgilbert stresses that “if you have kids, make sure that your door to the office locks from the inside and outside.” You need to be able to keep little people with sticky fingers out of the office regardless of whether or not you are working.

People like light. Good lighting and large windows are a great way to make sure that you enjoy working in your office. You want to avoid prison cell or dungeon decor at all costs.  (Thanks @TiEsQue and @Ron_Barrett.)

A huge thank you to all of the people who contributed tips to this article!

If you’re setting up your own home office, feel free to ask questions in the comments. Established web workers: What was your biggest mistake in setting up a home office? What advice do you have for new web workers on their first office?

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