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Designing Your Home Office

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 10 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Home Office Design Office Design

The vast majority of small business will invariably be started and run from home. If you intend to make your home a permanent base for your business, it's crucial that you have somewhere comfortable to work. It isn't advisable to try and operate your enterprise from a notebook computer balanced on your lap, or from a corner of your kitchen table. With some planning you can create a home office environment that is not only stylish, but that also enables you to work effectively.

The Perfect Workstation

The centrepiece of your home office will be your desk and computer workstation. As you could potentially be spending many hours at your computer, it's important that you take some time to plan the layout of your workstation, and which components you buy. Use this checklist to ensure you are designing a workstation that will be safe to use as well as productive.
  1. Try and set up your office in a spare room. Don't underestimate the advantages of being able to work away from the rest of your family. A separate room also enables you to literally close the door on your business when you have finished for the day. This is an essential psychological tool to ensure you get enough downtime away from your business.
  2. Buy the largest desk you can accommodate. It's a false economy to use 'computer furniture' as this hasn't been designed to support a workstation. Try and buy a desk that has height adjustment so you can have the perfect set-up for your chair and computer.
  3. Try and position your desk at right angles to the windows in your office. If you can't do this, then position your desk in from of the window. This avoids glare on your computer's monitor that can lead to eyestrain.
  4. Ensure that all the cables from the peripherals you will have are safely out of the way. It's easy to trip over a cable so tidy these away for anchor them to the floor.
  5. Think about the flooring in your office. Carpets are ideal as they give you a none-slip surface for your chair. Try and avoid carpet protectors as it's easy to slip and injure yourself.
  6. The chair you use is very important indeed. It should have at the very least height adjustment and support for the lumbar (lower) region of your back. You'll be spending hours in your chair, so take some time to choose the right one. If your chair properly supports you, sitting for long periods will not damage your health and allow you to work longer.

Design for Health

Ergonomics is the study of how we interact with our surroundings. In a home office context this means choosing the right furniture and accessories for your workstation that don't mean you have to sit in an awkward position, or compromise on the space you have to work within. It's important to design your home office so that it doesn't have an adverse impact on your health.

Luckily, laws and regulation have been drawn up that you can use as the basis of your office layout. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on these regulations. It's a good idea to get hold of a copy of 'Working with VDUs' that can be downloaded from the HSE website [www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg36.pdf].

The purpose of designing an ergonomically sound home office is to avoid what are called MSDs (Musculoskeletal Disorders). If your hands or forearms ache when you're using your computer (commonly known as RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury), or you have a stiff back after a few hours sat at your desk, these are the warning signs that you could be suffering from MSDs. These disorders are no joke. The last piece of research that was carried out indicated that MSDs costs the UK 12.3 million working days.

More information about MSDs and how you can avoid them in your home office can be obtained on the Healthy Computing website: www.healthycomputing.com, the Health & Safety Executive website: www.hse.gov.uk/msd/information.htm and Posturite [www.posturite.co.uk] where you can buy ergonomic products.

The key to a home office that you will be able to work in efficiently is to plan carefully. Choose a desk that can easily accommodate your computer and peripherals. Take some time to choose your chair. Don't buy this from a catalogue. Go to the showroom and try it out for yourself. And accessories like wireless mice and keyboards can give you even more versatility with your office design.

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