Working from Home: Carving Out Your Command Center.

 Home Office picture

Flickr Photo Credit: Arquiteta Movel

Most people who work at home find themselves performing tasks in multiple locations, not just behind their desk.

Having a central location where everything is organized is still critical however, to long term work at home success. Clients and telecommuting-friendly employers will want to know they can count on you to be efficient. And you yourself will want to feel like you are in control. This is difficult to make happen if your appointment book is buried in your child’s toy box.

First and foremost, it’s important to have a private space to keep your files and equipment organized where no one else can inadvertantly re-organize your system. This doesn’t mean that as a writer you won’t be sitting on the couch with your coffee and legal pad, or as a sales person you won’t find yourself making power calls on the patio. It does mean that you have to a place to start and end your work day feeling organized, and it needs to be a space that others don’t necessarily have access to. If you and your spouse share office equipment, fine. At least make sure it’s in a room you can close the door to when your children are out and about in the house, or when company stops by with theirs. 

While the necessity of scanners and other items are  highly dependent upon the type of work you do, there are a few things I find I consistently need, even if only for our personal use when dealing with investments and service accounts.

  • A fax machine – I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve tried to tell me this is no longer necessary. I’d seriously like to know what planet they’re on. While it’s true you can send and receive text based documents over the internet, I routinely need to sign documents or void checks and fax them back to banks, insurance companies, lawyers, etc. By the time I could get a high quality scan of the document with my signature (providing the copy I received to sign was of high quality to begin with), I could have faxed that same document several times. I agree that I use the fax less than I used to, but it is still a necessary part of our home office and likely will be for quite some time.
  • A personal copier. How many times, even with your personal accounts have you had a support person on the phone who would “love to help you if only you could fax them copy of a particular receipt or document”? Gone are the days when that required me to get in a vehicle and drive all over creation to find a place to copy and fax a document. Now, I can get it done within minutes and have the problem crossed off my list, documented and filed. Even if I didn’t work at home, I would not give up my home office for all of the entertainment equipment in the world. It saves me far too much money. 
  • A reliable printer. Seriously, whether it’s a work document or a collection of online coupons, you will need to print something at least a few times a week. Place your system configuration on econo-mode for printing, and it will cost less than you think, particularly with a laser.
  • Home computer – I’d not be able to function either for business or home economics without one.
  • Stash of office supplies – I’m not saying you need to go out and by every color-coded whoosy-whatsit on the market, but you will need a few basics to help keep you organized and functioning more efficiently. Butterfly and regular paper clips, staples, stapler and remover, rubber bands, blue and black pens, legal pads, address rubber stamps and business envelopes are a few things I could not function without.
  • Organizational tools – these are varied in complexity and cost. From the good old fashioned list and calendar, to the appointment book or PDA / Blackberry type of device. You’ll need to decide what’s best based on your personal style and start up budget.

Whatever your work at home job, be it SAHM, entrepenuer or business executive / consultant, having your command center carved out and respected will go a long way towards ensuring your success.

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