Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Setting Up Your Home Office

Getting your home office set up properly doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. Just follow the guidelines below.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a rush to get a home business underway, a lot of people will simply clear space in a room, dust off an old table, and roll over a kitchen chair. While this enthusiasm is admirable, this kind of office set-up can hurt a business in the long run by hindering productivity and even affecting health.

Setting up a home office properly does not have to be expensive or time consuming. By following the guidelines below, you can easily create an atmosphere that is professional, healthy, and productive.


Choose a space that is devoted solely to your office. Avoid working from a dining room table or using a space - such as a table in the family room - that has to be dismantled at the end of the day. By having a separate work are you can get organized and establish a system for working efficiently. Devoting part of your house exclusively to business may also enable you to take the home office deduction.


Since many home offices are in spaces like basements or attics, ventilation might be poor. A stuffy room can make you drowsy and sap your productivity. Encourage air circulation by setting up a fan and opening windows. Also, try to select an office space that is comfortable all year round. An attic that is warm and toasty in January may be swelteringly hot in July.


If your home office was originally a dining room, family room, or other common area, it is likely you're using lighting that was designed more for socializing than for working. Effective work lighting should be a combination of ambient lighting that casts light over the entire room, and task lighting for reading papers on your desk. Ideally, you will also have access to natural light from a window or skylight. Watch out for over-lighting - glare can bounce off your computer screen and cause eye strain.


Some residential dwellings do not have sufficient power for a home office. Avoid future problems by taking an inventory of all electrical items in your office to determine how many outlets you need. Equipment that draws a lot of power, such as a copy machine, may require a devoted circuit. Try to avoid overloading one or two outlets, since this creates a fire hazard.


Since home offices are often "extra" rooms, they can quickly become a repository for old exercise bikes, boxes of books, and other household items that need to be stored. This clutter is potentially bad for home office productivity because it creates a sense of disorder in your workspace. Try to find another spot for storing household extras and use your workspace only for business.


Even if you avoid household clutter, home offices can quickly become chaotic if you don't have sufficient storage space. Consider buying twice as much file cabinet space as you think you will need, since too little space can hinder productivity. Keep a small cache of supplies near your desk so you don't have to get up every time you need a pen, but keep supplies you don't need every day out of sight in a closet or cabinet.


A poorly designed office can tire you out, and worse, cause you to suffer aches and pains such as repetitive stress injuries. Set up your workspace to maximize your productivity and minimize your stress. Choose a desk that fits your body and your work style. Purchase a desk chair that is comfortable and offers adequate support - remember that you'll be spending most of your time there. Place phones, computers, and other equipment so that you can reach them conveniently without twisting or moving in a way that may hurt your body.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All Rights Reserved

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks