Find Home-Office Happiness

Get set for success with the perfect work-from-home space

Nowadays, with laptops and tablets, we can do our work from pretty much anywhere: our bedrooms or kitchens, the neighborhood coffee shop, or even an airplane. That freedom is great for independent contractors, but it doesn’t mean you should forego having a dedicated home office. We’ve put together the reasons why a home office is important and what you should have in it to ensure success.

Why is a home office important?
Setting aside a room in your home to function as your office helps you create separate spaces for work and free time. Yes, you can work at the kitchen counter, but that’s not necessarily where you’ll be most productive, especially with the distractions of a humming refrigerator, dishes gathering in the sink, or other family members coming and going. Plus, you don’t want to be thinking of work when you’re eating Sunday brunch. A home office also provides a catch-all spot for documents, educational materials, and anything else related to your job, so it doesn’t get misplaced or clutter up other areas of your house. Aside from providing a place to focus, a home office, if it meets IRS requirements, can benefit you when it comes time to file your tax return.

Which room should I use as an office?
If possible, you’ll want to use a room in your home that has a door. Obviously, a door offers privacy and a way to close yourself off from the rest of the house when you need to concentrate. In addition, you’ll need that door in order to take the home office tax deduction. The size of the room will depend on your business, of course, but for a basic office, any small spare room will do the trick. Avoid using a guest room if you can. If you plan to take a tax deduction, your office can only be used as an office. Consult your tax professional for specifics.

What do I need in my home office?
Your work style and personality will play a role in determining the furniture you’ll require. Start with a desk and an ergonomic, adjustable office chair. If you have space, consider adding a small sofa or a lounge chair. You’ll appreciate the extra option for when you’re poring over documents or reading material or just need a coffee break. If you have clients who visit you or you need to collaborate with other independent contractors, figure out a seating configuration that works best for them.

How do I keep my home office organized?
Even the most organized entrepreneurs can slip into a bit of chaos now and then, but you can keep things in order with just a few additions. A small file cabinet works well for holding important documents. You might not have much in the way of paperwork, but you can also use a cabinet drawer to hold any miscellaneous office supplies like printer ink, extra computer cables, or other items. If you access binders or files often and don’t want them to take up space, add a magazine rack to the wall. Keep a small caddy on your desk to collect odds and ends like paper clips and a canister for pens and pencils. If you’re the type of person who jots down reminder notes or grabs business cards and then doesn’t know what to do with them, get a small cork board. Just be sure to purge its contents once in a while so it doesn’t get uselessly cluttered.