From the September 2000 issue of Startups

Is a disorganized home office putting you in danger? Piles of paper, dangling cords and stacks of newspapers may seem harmless, but are they really? Here are five ways to increase your home office safety (and get better organized, too):

1. Store magazines, newsletters and other reading material in stacking bins or crates that stack on the floor. By keeping this information in one place, you'll save time looking for the information you need. Safety reason: You won't trip over magazines and risk breaking a limb.

2. Set up your office logically. Your fax supplies should be near your fax machine, computer manuals near your computer and your electronic equipment on an ergonomically correct computer workstation. Leave plenty of room for extra chairs if clients visit your home office, and avoid blocking space heaters and vents with furniture. Safety reason: Crowding is a fire hazard, bruise-inducer and stress-inducer due to lack of space. Blocked space heaters and even halogen lamps can overheat and cause a fire. Finally, poor air circulation due to blocked vents can make you sick.

3. Create a "work circle" while sitting at your desk or computer workstation. Within that circle, keep frequently used equipment and supplies. Anything used less frequently than once a week should be stored on a secondary work surface or a nearby shelf. Safety reason: You'll avoid straining your back and muscles reaching for frequently used items.

4. Use the right products for the right tasks. A wrist rest with sections for pens, pencils and other supplies keeps everything you use often within reach and reduces the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome. A dining room chair shouldn't do double duty as a desk chair any more than a TV tray should serve as a computer desk, so use an ergonomically correct chair and a desk that's at the right height for your keyboard. Safety reason: You'll avoid fatigue and repetitive stress injuries, and you'll keep your productivity high.

5. Bundle your computer, printer and other electronic cords with a strong, plastic tie, or place them inside a long tube with a slit cut lengthwise. If you move your equipment often, use colored stickers to match one end of the cord to the slot where it belongs on your CPU. Safety reason: You won't trip over loose cords.


Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com and the author of Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).