The number of home offices burgeons every day and the efficiency of your business is proportional to how professionally you set up and operate your residential work environment. Here are the absolutely indispensable elements to running a professional home office:
- Segregation – We’ve all heard of the kitchen table entrepreneur, but very few home offices are actually positioned there as it is nearly impossible to operate in a non-dedicated work environment. Set up a room in your house which has a door that you can close (or even lock, if you have kids) and keep all your work activities in there. Explain to the other family members that when you’re in that room it’s the equivalent of your being in a formal downtown office – so they should only contact you in the case of emergency. You should also keep your phone numbers completely separate and never do business on a home phone, as it’s highly unprofessional for a client to call and get your six year-old.
- Electronics – We don’t dip our quills in ink pots any longer. Electronics have become completely indispensable in any home office no matter what your business. The heart of your electronic home office is your computer, so spare no expense in obtaining the most capable one. Buy the biggest and clearest monitor you can afford – don’t cheap out on the RAM memory (4GB is now the absolute minimum) – and install the appropriate 64-bit operating system to make use of that memory. An advanced quad-core microprocessor will keep your investment relevant for years to come. Also buy the best quality peripherals such as scanners and printers and obtain the fastest internet connection your local provider offers. With a highly capable, well-configured computer with accompanying software services, you’ll be able to send and receive faxes, avoiding the need for the paper variety, and you’ll soon graduate to a nearly paper-free, efficient office.
- Ergonomics – The explosion of mobile web enabled devices has brought with it a commensurate level of carpal tunnel syndromes as well as incapacitating back and neck pains. The human body is not designed to work scrunched over with hands held high like a dejected T-Rex for hours on end and while tablets and laptops are great for quick and casual use, they’re ergonomic poison for long term work tasks. Contrary to conventional wisdom, desktop computers are nowhere near passé, since sitting bolt upright with elbows and knees at 90 degree angles with a monitor smack dab in front of your nose when your head is in the upright position is not just the best way to keep from ending up crippled but the only way!
- Archive & Backups – Sure you have meticulous electronic and paper records, so what happens if your house burns down? Oh, you’re fine since you work in the cloud? You should trust cloud storage with your indispensable records as far as you can throw Kim Dotcom, so the best procedure is to back up all your critical data regularly onto a USB flash drive and store it in your safety deposit box. Make copies of all required records that the IRS might come looking for up to seven years in the future and keep them securely offsite as well.
- Security – Home office security goes well beyond an alarm system. There are lots of nasties out there who spend their days doing nothing other than figuring out ways to get into your data and appropriate your money, so you literally can’t do too much to secure it all. All of your antivirus, firewalls and other security barriers need to be fully updated and active every second your computer is on and you have to get really creative and diversified in your alpha-numeric password strategy. Keep a constant eye on all your financial accounts so you can hit the panic button the instant something illegitimate happens to them. The faster you inform your financial institution of a breach, the sooner you’ll get your money back.
The very near future will look upon centralized offices with the nostalgia reserved for white disco suits, so get your home office organized today to be ahead of the wave!