If your company has granted you permission to work virtually, congrats. You can get a surprising amount done without the distractions of the office. But now you've got your work cut out for you: you've got to first create an environment that will help you be productive and focused while you work.
First, find a space. If you're lucky enough to have an extra room lying around, you can set that up as your home office. Otherwise, look at the spaces around your home to determine where it would be best to set up shop.
You might consider converting that rarely used guest bedroom into your office, says Lisa Fulmer, a marketing communications specialist. "As nice as it is to accommodate the occasional overnight visitor with their own private space, you'll get so much more out of that room by accommodating yourself and your dreams for working from home," she says. "If you want the room to do double-duty, buy one of those modern foam loveseats or chairs that convert to a small bed."
If the guest room isn't an option, says Fulmer, try a closet. By taking off the sliding doors, shelves, and hanger rod, you can add a desk and storage to create an instant office. If you have even less space, consider using a rolling cart that you can take wherever you like to work, or convert an entertainment hutch into a work space. "Even if you're using an open-shelf entertainment center, you can keep it from being an eyesore with coordinating baskets, trays, and storage cubes," Fulmer says.
Determine what you need. Now that you have your space set, you'll need to set it up with your computer, storage, and office supplies. Choose the items you need the most and put them within arm's reach. If you file papers, says Janet Bernstein, certified professional organizer and owner of Janet Bernstein Organizers, LLC, then keep your filing cabinet close by. And make sure you know where everything is stored so you don’t waste time hunting for it or buy duplicates when you already have a stockpile of office paper. "If you're very visual and tend to forget where things are once placed in a closed cabinet or drawer, then consider organizing your office with open shelves and/or cubbies. Everything can still be organized if items are appropriately containerized and labeled," she says.
Make sure you have items like pens, notepads, and your printer within close reach, and that you have extras, especially of printer ink, which seems to run out just when you need it most.
Get (un)wired. Your next priority in your home office should be getting your technology up and running. In addition to setting up either a desktop or laptop to get your work done, consider what else your work requires, such as printers, headsets, and telephones.
Wires can be a headache, so go wireless where you can, says Jot Dhaliwal, founder of Kirpa Marketing: "For a home office, I would recommend as many wireless and Bluetooth devices as possible. I personally use a 13-inch Macbook Pro with an external monitor. By having a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, I can convert my laptop into a "pseudo desktop" when I am at home. If I need to be on the go, I can just unplug the laptop from the monitor. ... The key is to minimize clutter by not having as many wires all over your desk space."
Adding extras. Now that you've got the basic components of your home office, add a few photos and desk toys to personalize the space. Also consider plants as not only decorating accessories, but also air cleaners, says DeAnna Radaj, an eco-shui designer and creator of DesignLEAN. "If you have a lot of electronic equipment, have at least one LIVE plant to help detox/clean the air & remove toxins," she says.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.