From the April 1998 issue of Startups

Want an ergonomic workstation that accommodates both the standers and the sitters of the world? Try the Biomorph Interactive Desk from Ground Support Equipment (U.S.) Ltd. in New York City.

Two of the four models available, the Personal Desk and the Exo Desk (pictured below), have real home office appeal. These desks modernize offices without compromising comfort or appearance. Even better, the heights of both the monitor and keyboard levels are instantly--and easily--adjustable. By providing overall comfort, Biomorph desks promise enhanced productivity for users.

Additional features include contoured lines and rounded corners, incorporated wire management, and uncomplicated integration of computer hardware. For more information, call (212) 647-9595 or visit http://www.biomorphdesk.com. Cost: starts at $695.

Color Me Creative

Feeling burned out and uncreative? Perhaps the culprit is one you least expect: the palette of colors surrounding your work area. Something as simple as the paint on your office walls can impact your mood and senses--and your business.

"Unfortunately for almost everybody, we don't pay attention to what color does for us," says Samuelle Easton, a color psychologist in New York City. Easton points out that although a single answer won't be right for all of us, certain properties of color can be used as a guide.

"An appropriate color will make the environment much more comfortable, ergonomically functional and productive," she says. "If the colors are inappropriate, they can be distracting and increase anxiety."

To discover the color that's best for you, consider your lighting source and how it shifts throughout the day. For instance, you might not want to paint a dark color on the wall surrounding a window, because the human eye has difficulty adjusting to extreme contrasts.

You don't have to be an artist to design a color-friendly office. "I suggest people explore color and play with it," Easton says. "As long as you feel good, you'll be productive and creative."

Made In The Shade

Although different colors convey different feelings to different people, common perceptions include:

Red, orange, yellow: earthy, friendly, approachable, energetic

Blue-indigo: refined, authoritative, classic

Blue-green: more relaxing than the yellow-greens

Bright colors: enthusiastic, energetic

Muted colors: conservative, casual, demure

Light colors: friendly, casual, feminine

Dark colors: dramatic, masculine, authoritative

A Place Of Your Own

If an overloaded kitchen table constitutes your home office, it's probably time to start thinking about designating a formal area in your home for your business. But because determining the prime location can be tough, we asked home office designer Dan Ridings, co-founder with Wendi Smith of Home Systems in Lafayette, California, for some suggestions.

"I think it's a very personal choice," Ridings says. "You're talking about a person's home. It's a home office, but first it's their home, and they want it to feel right and look right."

With that in mind, consider your most probable options: a spare bedroom, a converted garage, the attic or perhaps even a portion of a larger room. But before you narrow that list down further, consider the following, says Ridings:

  • Do you see clients at home? If so, think about spaces with separate entrances, such as the garage.
  • How much money can you spend? For many, converting the attic or garage into an office seems the ideal option, yet these spaces also require larger budgets. If you consider these areas,"You're going to spend some money on the remodeling, as well as the office equipment and lighting," Ridings says. Moving everything into a spare bedroom is a cheaper alternative yet still affords a door for privacy.
  • How much time do you spend in the office? If you're only there part-time, working in a far corner of the master bedroom or other area of the house will probably work for you. "If people are there from early morning until late at night," says Ridings, "they have to have a dedicated space that has some privacy from the rest of the house."
  • Are you easily distracted? Depending on your answer, either choose a quiet spot in your home or a more open space. If you have the house to yourself all day and like to work in privacy, consider a self-contained workstation in the living room that folds up neatly when you're done.

Look, Ma! No Wires!

What do you get when you take a monitor, a hard drive, a modem, a printer, a telephone and a fax machine and put them all in one office? A tangled mess of wires, of course.

To conceal the chaos, consider the Access 5000 Raceway from The Wiremold Company in West Hartford, Connecticut. It hides your wires beneath a snap-on cover that blends in to your existing decor.

The Raceway mounts to a variety of surfaces, including brick, concrete, drywall and plaster. If you want to make changes later, simply snap off the cover and rewire. And you can place your equipment where you want--not just in front of predetermined wall outlets.

Sold nationwide through major electrical and communications distributors, the Raceway starts at $5.50 per foot. Call (800) 621-0049 for more information.

The Home Stretch

Back pain, wrist discomfort, neck and shoulder problems--these are just some of the physical stresses associated with poorly designed workstations. And since even mild cases can lead to severe afflictions, ensuring the proper setup is vital to the health of both you and your business. "Studies have shown people are more productive when they have ergonomically appropriate offices," says Tom Albin, manager of Ergonomics Services for 3M Office Ergonomics in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It's usually inexpensive and easy to integrate ergonomics into the office. "People who work at home tend to work long hours," says Albin. It's vital, therefore, to find the most comfortable arrangement. Consider the following:

  • Get up and stretch at least hourly, says Albin. Also, vary your positions--try reclining or standing in addition to sitting up straight. When typing, sit with your shoulders relaxed and your elbows hanging loose at your sides.
  • Purchase the right chair. Features to look for include: a five-pronged stand, adjustable seat and height, lumbar support, and adjustable arm wrests.
  • Make sure you have enough room to pull up to your desk and work comfortably. "You can get into all kinds of trouble if you don't have leg and knee clearance under the workstation," warns Albin.
  • Minimize eye strain by focusing on distant objects every few minutes.
  • When using the keyboard, align the tops of your knuckles with the tops of your forearms. Improper positioning, such as bending your wrist while typing, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Reduce glare. Lower the overhead lighting in your office when using the computer, and use a desk lamp if you need additional light while reading.
  • Adjust the monitor height so it's at or below eye level. View the screen at no closer than 20 inches.

Contact Sources

Home Systems, (510) 283-6638, homesystems@worldnet.att.net

The Wiremold Company, http://www.wiremold.com