The first timers guide to setting up a productive home office

If you want to start a business or already have, or if you are lucky enough to have an employer who is willing to let you do your job from home, but you don’t know exactly how to make it happen then stay with me for a few moments, this guide should help.

If you want to make the most of your home office and you have to spend a lot of time there to do it, then I would definitely suggest making it comfortable and relaxing with no distractions. There are many steps you can take to get the job done. Of course there are different options for everyone based on your various budgets and needs, but this will be a good guideline on how to get settled in.

The first step is to decide if you have everything you need or if you need to buy some additional or upgraded supplies. These could be anything from a new chair to save your back and help you sleep (in bed after the work is done), to grabbing a stack of copy paper at staples or wherever you prefer. Here is a basic list of the absolute necessities of a home office in 2016:

This is essential if you plan on really getting down to the grind stone and producing. If your chair does not have a good ergonomic fit, you will not have a very good day at work, whether you’re in your pajamas or not. Some do not realize that a bad mood, bad attitude, uncomfortable back and the feeling of nerves in the wrists, hips or legs can all be factors of a bad seat or a bad mattress (for another article). If you already have a computer and a kitchen table and the budget is next to none to get started, I would highly recommend a desk chair to get the job done.

You may be able to do what you do on a tablet alone, however most of us are going to need either a desktop or a laptop. I know there are also the Microsoft Surfaces of the world and all of those are excellent, just think about how much you may really need a mouse which you could add to the kit if you wanted to go with a Surface or other keyboard enabled tablet. A desktop is a great option for the home office; in fact most people have a home pc of some sort as well as either a laptop or a tablet. I personally use every option except a desktop computer at this point in time. I did have one, two and even more desktops running at once in the past as performance machines, grunt workers, servers and the like, but with technology at the point it is at now and where it is going in the near future I am not sure I will ever need a desktop again. A server on the other hand, I may need my own at some point, but that is a decision that would be more about personal security concerns and quality control. There are many very high quality web servers available to you that are safe and reliable with very reasonable cost.

This is easy; first off I do not recommend a printer stand-alone. I would get an all in one print/copy/scan which will usually also handle fax if you need it. These can be had day in and day out very inexpensively if you need one to start working, and you can always pay for more features options and accessories to tailor it to your business needs or upgrade to a better one down the road. Many people need to fax for their business on some occasions and these three in ones are almost always up to that task as well, however if you will be faxing on a daily basis, I would go ahead and get a stand-alone fax machine and probably also a second home land line to have a consistent “faxability”.

Here you really need to decide, do I use a card table, an old piece of furniture or an actual desk to handle the day to day? You can definitely get away with a good wood table or a desk; it really is up to you. For the purpose of this I will say a desk is great if it is big enough for all the things you usually use to “get your job done”. You know the cameras, paperwork, models, calendar, tablets, calculator, stapler and magnifying glass, what have you. For my purposes I always end up with a large table at a good height for me to sit for hours without having to run around the yard to stretch back into human form. If you are handy with power tools or know someone who is and will help you for some beer and pizza or wine and a movie than a great option is to custom design a desk that suits all of your needs. You can optimize your performance and space by going this route. Of course if you want to feel like an executive from the start and you have the finance to get it done (and no, I do not mean finance it if you can’t buy it outright, but that is a totally different topic), then you could always go a more “Oval Office” approach and set up every piece of furniture and décor you could possibly need to handle a video chat meeting alone or even ten world leaders right in front of you in your home office. If you just want to stick with the basics but still want to feel powerful, go ahead and order a red “emergency phone” to sit near you and handle all of those major life shifting crises on the spot.

Now we get into what I will call the true basics and it consists of a few things that you need to have or do. These will make or break your at home work station or office I can assure you and they are as follows

We kind of hinted at this above, but it is absolutely essential. This is probably about the easiest part for everyone; you can use a cell phone, a corded home phone or even a cordless phone, add a headset attachment for any of those options if you do a lot of moving and shaking throughout your day (either literally or meetings and deals, even customer service).

Keep in mind that although you have a phone corded or cordless rechargeable plugged into the wall, with many providers these days that does not necessarily mean that you have a land line. You know the kind of phone that will be able to call out and get calls even when the power is out at your house. It is a very good idea to have an actual powered through the pole landline at your house to make important calls in bad situations but more importantly so that you can get help in the event of an emergency. There are not a lot of options to get a “landline” but it can be had.

This is a no-brainer right? You are reading this via your internet connection right now. But wait, maybe you are not; maybe you are reading this at one of the thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots, your friend’s house or even using the data on your cell phone or tablet plan. How ever you are reading this, while it is “possible” to run a business of free Wi-Fi or at the library, it is absolutely not going to be easy or highly productive. Now I know it is still better than not doing it at all, and 50 years ago everyone did it the hard way, but to have yourself a home office in 2016 means having your own internet service connected for you to use twenty four hours a day seven days a week to take care of any and all business related matters.

I am willing to bet that many of you may just plug into the wall from time to time (I know that I do). This is probably not a good idea in a home office setting or even using your devices at a local hotspot for free web. You can bring a surge protector anywhere, I even had one that plugged in the middle of the two parts of my laptop plug a few years back that was small, light, protected from surges and even protected telephone lines and acted as a splitter. It was also very inexpensive and gave me peace of mind that I would not lose my laptop to a power influx. In a home office every single wall plug piece of electrical equipment that you are using should be surge protected (unless otherwise stated on the equipment from the manufacturer). Most surge protectors will pay an “insurance” type payment to you if your equipment fry’s while plugged into their device (given you register it, of course). I’d say it’s a good bet to spend a little on one, there are even fancy flex options and many more features can be had if you look around a bit.

Now I have two more items that you probably have with you right now, but maybe you don’t at exactly the right moment when everything is happening at once and you have to remember it all “or else”. But what two items are they? Well…

Two items are as one in the home office, absolutely essential to “taking care of business”. Unless of course you have a highly accessible quick reference photographic memory, in which case, bravo and applause because you truly do have a gift. Now for the rest of us poor humans just trying to spin the lucky wheel of life until we finally make it by the tips of our fingers make sure you have pen and paper or at the very least a pen or a sharpie to write down all the important data on your arm (you got to do what you got to do). When you are on the phone talking with reps about the quantity of oranges to purchase and looking at customer data for the last month and you have to come up with a quick calculation or the load will be sold to your competition the power of that pen and paper will truly show.

Hopefully this guide has given you the knowledge and confidence to take on the shift from that tough time wasting commute  to walking to the coffee pot and then to your office (maybe even in your underwear or Forever Lazy, just don’t let that name impact your work). There are ways to get by on a bare minimum office setup that can be as simple as sitting down in the living room with your laptop a phone and pen and paper (I have done it) or you can take it as far as an executive office suite, you can even convert your attic or basement into a fully functional “war room” office setup if that’s what you want or need. The possibilities are endless and the home office is forever expandable so if for now you have to sit at a local Wi-Fi hotspot with your smartphone and get it done with the bare minimum, then definitely do that because the whole point of this is to work at your pace on your time and advance it as far as you want to in your own way. The home or mobile office is a dream for some, that dream is achievable though to anyone who is willing to give it a go. I can assure you that if this is the path you want to take then you will succeed. Be confident, never give up and do what you have to do to get ahead.

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