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Tips on choosing your home-office location


It's fun moving into a new office. No, really, it is. We admit lugging stuff sucks, but choosing where you're going to be spending the majority of your day, arranging furniture and supplies, and decorating your walls is all about a good time. And the best part? Realizing that you, and only you, get to decide if you're worthy of the corner office with the view.

"The great thing about home offices is, you get to have it your way. Why would you set up a home office that replicates the austere pain of [a corporate office]?" says Meredith Gould, author of Working at Home: Making It Work for You (Storey Books, $9.95, 800-441-5700), who shares her Princeton, New Jersey, home office with her cats. "The point of having your own home office is so you can have fun stuff, nice décor and a comfy chair."

There is, of course, a bit more to the logistics of choosing the proper space for your new home office, whether you're carving out space in your existing abode or moving to a new place. Here are things Gould suggests you consider when choosing your location:

Electrical wiring: "Most building codes require that electrical outlets be placed every 12 feet," says Gould. "It's worth the money to install more outlets. I recommend installing them above desk level so you don't have to crawl around on the floor all the time." If your office is relatively equipment-heavy, zone wiring places all those electrical outlets on a separate circuit breaker--so even if you blow up your office, you can still watch TV.

Phone lines: Gould suggests having at least two phone lines. Make sure your phone jacks are close to electrical outlets to support equipment that requires both.

Ventilation: "In a forced-air [heating and cooling] system, there's usually a vent on the floor and one on the ceiling. Don't put your equipment anywhere near them," advises Gould.

Lighting: First, use as much natural light as you can. Then fill in with a mix of ambient lighting (ceiling fixtures) and task lighting (a desk lamp). "Some people get entranced by track lighting and recessed lighting, but it actually stinks for work. It's too bright and too focused," Gould explains.

Another no-no: fluorescent lighting. "It's very hard on the eyes. If you must use fluorescent, change the bulbs from cool to warm. They soften the light."

Another option, albeit more expensive, is a full-spectrum lighting system, which replicates natural light. The systems are sold in health-food stores or holistic living catalogs; Gould says they're best for those who need to see true color.

Sound: Wall-to-wall carpeting is the best for reducing sound, but even an area rug will help as long as you spring for good padding. Other sound-reduction tools include weather-stripping, double-glazed windows and solid doors.

Separate entrance: This is always a good idea if you have clients visiting your office. And if not? "There's a real psychological advantage to having a separate entrance. It helps separate work from the rest of your life," says Gould. It also creates boundaries, privacy and awareness for family members or roommates who might otherwise interrupt your work. If a separate entrance is impossible, invest in a separate phone line and a partition, screen or armoire so you can "close the door" on your office at the end of the day.