Establishing Your Home Workspace

Planning Your Workspace
You will greatly maximize your chances of putting together the most productive, functional, and visually appealing workspace at the lowest possible cost if you take the time necessary to plan your workspace well in advance of actually setting it up. Planning your workspace enables you to take into account all of your needs and avoiding costly mistakes.

First, determine if there are any renovations that must be done. It's always easier to get these completed in advance of setting up shop. After renovations or if no renovations are needed, completely clean the space and all surfaces--walls, ceiling, and floor--and do any painting.

The next step is to take measurements of the room and make a scale drawing on a large piece of paper, noting on your floor plan windows, doors, electrical outlets, telephone jacks, cable outlets, and lights. Once you have an accurate, scaled floor plan, you can move on to purchasing equipment and furniture that fit your space and suit your needs. After you have purchased all or most of what you need, install the furniture and equipment according to your plan.

This may seem like a time-consuming way of setting up your workspace, but you want to do the job only once, do it within your budget, and get exactly what you need to start your business right. The extra time spent planning your workspace now will ultimately save you time and money down the road, as it won't be necessary to interrupt business to redo your workspace or lose productivity because the space does not suit your business needs.

Hiring a Designer
Most home workspaces are basic enough so that they can be planned without hiring a professional. However, if you intend to spend a substantial amount of money to create a workspace in your home or you have hired an architect to build an extension to your home, you might want to consider hiring an interior designer with home office experience. A key point to remember is that the ultimate goal of the designer is to create the perfect workspace to suit your specific business needs while saving you at least enough to pay his or her fee. That's right: in the end you will most likely find that a professional designer can save you enough money through his or her experience, contacts, and trade discounts to cover the fee, especially on contracts in excess of $25,000. Additionally, the finished product will probably be far superior to what you can plan and design yourself--unless, of course, you're a contractor or a designer.

To find an interior designer with experience in home workspace design and planning, consult your local Yellow Pages directory, ask friends and associates if they know one, or visit the website of the International Interior Design Association, at iida.org. Typically, a designer might be helpful for businesses that will be receiving visits from clients, businesses that will be employing several workers, or businesses that require specialized professional facilities, such as a dentist's office with a waiting room, an X-ray room, etc. Otherwise, you can very likely design your workspace yourself.

Creating an Environmentally-Friendly Workspace
You will also want to be sensitive to the environment. Integrate your home business recycling with your household recycling for convenience. Find out how you can use recycled products in your business. Also, let your customers know that you support recycling and environmentally conscious business practices. In fact, include this information in all of your advertising and business communications, because you will certainly not alienate customers in an increasingly environmentally conscious society. In fact, you will very likely attract a few new customers simply because we all know that taking care of our planet is not only right, but necessary for this and future generations. Heidi Schimpl, Community Programs Coordinator at the North Shore Recycling Program in North Vancouver, British Columbia, advises these simple and inexpensive practices in your home office to save money and contribute to a healthier environment:

  • Place paper recycling bins in convenient locations such as beside your desk, areas where you pack and unpack shipments, and near file cabinets. The more convenient you make recycling, the more you will recycle.
  • Hang on to paper that has been printed only on one side and use the other side for printing draft documents and other materials that are for your eyes only, as well as for use in your fax machine. You can also cut paper that has only been printed on one side and staple the pieces together for use as note and memo pads.
  • Purchase and use unbleached office paper with a high-recycled content; if available, 100-percent post-consumer waste is the best.
  • Purchase and use ink and toner cartridge refill kits to cut down on waste and save money on cartridge costs. If your printer and toner cartridges are non-refillable, contact the manufacturer about recycling them; most cartridge manufacturers have programs for recycling.
  • Edit documents on screen rather than printing draft copies.
  • Reduce fax-related paper waste by using a computer fax-modem or scanning and e-mailing documents.
  • Turn off lights when not in use and purchase energy-efficient office equipment with power-saving sleep options rather than power-wasting screensavers. Look for Energy Star office equipment.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs and reusable items, such as rechargeable batteries and mechanical pencils and pens.
  • Purchase office supplies in bulk to cut down on packaging waste. Purchase only what you need, regardless of what's on sale.
  • Use environmentally friendly packaging materials rather than polystyrene foam peanuts and minimize your use of packing materials.
  • Use large windows and skylights to provide light and heating, rather than lights and heating, whenever possible.
  • Install insulated windows to keep heat in and cold out, to reduce energy consumption.
  • Use workstations and office furnishing built from sustainable, earth-friendly materials.

Additional helpful information and tips about recycling practices and your home business, as well as environmental information, can be found on the North Shore Recycling Program's website, at nsrp.bc.ca. Green Sites Online, at greensites.com, also offers recycling information, resources, and links.

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