From the August 1998 issue of Startups

The concept of ergonomics may still be somewhat new to big-name furniture manufacturers and scientific types. But to the Amish, their hand-crafted, simply designed stand-up desks have provided users with ergonomic relief from such bothersome afflictions as back pain for centuries.

Now you can bring colonial craftsmanship to your own thoroughly modern office, thanks to Jim Gattuso of The Amish Furniture Co. in Akron, Ohio. That's because his business works with two local Amish families to create and distribute the handmade, custom-crafted stand-up desks.

Each desk offers various options, such as height, width and the wood of your choice. Available styles include writing desks, drafting desks and computer desks. For more information, visit http://www.standupdesks.com or call (888) 40-AMISH. Cost: starts at $895.

Short Circuit

There's a home office riddle for you: What do you get when you plug too many pieces of computer equipment into one wall outlet? Can you say blowout?

"If you've got a 20-amp circuit, it holds only so many volts of electricity," says New York City architect Denise A. Hall. "And if your office is in a big room and you're using one electrical circuit for your television, your lights, your answering machine and your coffeemaker, chances are, you're going to overload it at some point."

But you can take steps to keep from blowing a fuse. Before you plug anything in, add up the total amperage of all the equipment you need to use. Standard wall outlets can handle between 115 and 120 volts. (Even if you've already plugged it all in and encountered no problems so far, count it anyway.) Does your grand total exceed the maximum? If so, it's time to call a professional electrician; more than likely, he or she will have to do some electrical rewiring so your office can handle all that high-tech equipment.

If power issues aren't a problem, make sure you at least use a surge protector, such as Curtis Computer Products' SP 9200T, which features eight outlets, Internet and telephone line protection, and an alarm that sounds when a surge occurs (cost: $54.99). Surge protectors are important because they diffuse those extra bursts of power that cause blackouts and destroy critical data, sometimes even equipment.

Once you have the wiring under control, don't overlook ventilation and temperature. Think personal comfort: If you're reasonably comfortable in the office, your PC probably is, too. But if you've set up shop in the attic or the basement (areas known for poor ventilation and extreme temperatures), try installing a ceiling fan or opening a window, if possible. Your goal is to get enough fresh air circulating around the office to diffuse the heat emanating from your equipment.

It really just boils down to common sense. With just a little bit of it, your business is sure to stay humming--and to keep overloaded circuits at bay.

Call to order

So you missed spring cleaning (again). Not to worry--there's still hope for all those distracting piles of stuff surrounding your work area. You know what we're talking about--think towering, wobbly stacks of old magazines, important papers and other documents; computer disks haphazardly scattered every which way; last year's bills; and randomly strewn highlighters, paper clips and various other office supplies you haven't uncovered for weeks. Sound familiar?

Lucky for you, a whole host of office accessories has been designed to fit your every organizational need. And to help narrow your options, on this page, we've compiled a brief roundup of some of your best bets.

Clutter keepers for the desktop, from IKEA in assorted colors: Box 2-drawer plastic unit ($12.95); Aero newspaper and magazine file ($3.95); Aero memo and pen holder ($4.95); Tiga individual disk boxes ($1.95, set of five). Visit http://www.ikea.com

Galvanized bins in two sizes, from Pottery Barn (catalog only). These silver, tapered containers are perfect organizers for CD-ROMs and magazines.
Cost: small, $29 (set of four); large, $16 each. Call (800) 922-5507.

Creative containering with mini 32-diskette holders (above) in assorted colors, from Xonex, and Stowaways tote baskets (below) from Inter Design. Available from The Container Store.
Cost: $4.99 each. Call (800) 733-3532.

Bedford File Box & Stand, for both letter- and legal-sized documents, from Pottery Barn (catalog only). European-style filing system made of wrought iron and distressed walnut-stained pine.
Cost:
$159. Call (800) 922-5507.

Contact Sources

Curtis Computer Products, (800) 272-2366, http://www.curtiscp.com