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Space Quest

Follow these steps to find a place for your home office space.

Ready to do your high-powered entrepreneur thing from home? Or maybe you've already joined the millions who have opted for this popular work style, and your current space feels cramped, cluttered or wrong for reasons you can't figure out. Perhaps you've already created a home office that works, but your lease is up and it's time to move to a new home.

Convenient and predictably more comfortable than someone else's warren of cubes, a home office lets you have it your way while dramatically reducing wardrobe, commuting and day-care expenses. And get ready to notice how working from home reduces psychological wear and tear. Now, instead of sneaking off for those mental health moments, you can sack out in the comfort of your own executive suite--which just may be the living room adjacent to the closet you've converted into a diminutive but powerful high-tech office.

But none of this can happen without careful planning. You'll need to develop a relatively high level of awareness about your work style before you can create a truly effective work environment. Lucky for you, those who have already explored this brave new world of work have pretty much figured out how to choose and configure a home office space. Here are some steps to follow and crucial details to consider.

Evaluating Your Work Style
Before rushing to plug in the computers or install extra phone lines, take some time to determine how and under what conditions you work best. Work style has to do with the practical realities of how you produce--the pace, flow and rhythm of your workday. Can you work effectively with all hell breaking loose around you or do you need monastic-like silence? Do you roll out of bed at the dawn's early light or do you prefer cutting deals under the cover of darkness? Do you need to wander around as you plan your next move or do you stay pretty much glued to your desk? What does all this have to do with creating functional work digs? Your work style will determine where to locate your home office and what you'll need to put in it.

If you live alone, the degree to which you pander to your preferred work style is constrained only by available space. It can get a little more dicey once others enter the picture. If you're married, living with a significant other or have kids on the scene, you'll need to recognize--and account for--their presence in or near your workspace. Clearly you don't want to set up your office in a corner of the rumpus room if your kids have claimed the entire area. Nor will you want to take over the spare bedroom next to the bathroom everyone uses because it has the one and only shower stall.

If this seems like an obvious "duh," you'd be surprised by how many people stake out what seems to be prime territory, only to be driven nuts by family and even neighborhood traffic patterns they never noticed before. This is why even after you've found what you think is the perfect homebased space, hold off staking a claim until you've spent at least an entire day--and preferably two--in your chosen environs. Better to find out that you can't escape the sounds of neighborhood kids after three o'clock in the afternoon before you start drilling shelves into the walls.

Work style also has to do with whatever space you'll need to work at peak efficiency. Can't live without two computers, three printers, a scanner, and top-of-the-line full-sized stereo equipment? You'll be needing quite a bit of room, so forget about squeezing into the pantry off the kitchen.

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