Setting up a home office

Furnishing your home office

Striking the right balance of home office equipment is one of the tasks that you would not have to think about in the office. However, it is also part of the fun of working from home – everything can be exactly as you want it to be. Don't get carried away populating your office with gadgets that you won't have any use for though. If specialised equipment such as high quality printers are required, it can be cheaper to use local services.

Basic requirements for a functional office

Almost every home worker will require at least several basic things to get started: a decent chair, a desk, probably a computer and some way of communicating with clients/employers.

  • The first and most crucial step is to get a decent chair. Possibly the most underappreciated of piece of office furniture, a chair can become your best friend or worst enemy!
  • Choose an adjustable seat that provides lumbar support, wheels for mobility, and armrests to ensure that working at a desk is as comfortable and healthy as possible. Make sure you sit with good posture to avoid backaches, neck aches and fatigue.
  • A good quality desk is another sound investment. There are many all-purpose desks that provide storage, a large workspace, compartments for computer towers and printers, and stands for monitors, without taking too much room.
  • If you will be spending a lot of time typing, choose a desk with a retractable keyboard tray, for maximum comfort. Make sure it is large enough for both a mouse and keyboard.

Computer systems

Most people will now need to use a computer system when working from home. If you are travelling a lot then it makes sense to purchase a laptop instead of a desktop computer.

  • It is important to think about what you will be using it for before purchasing a system. Video editors will need expensive graphics cards and processors that people just writing letters and spreadsheets will not.
  • Make sure you have more than enough hard disk space so that you don't run out of digital storage. Also, regularly backup data on removable storage, such as CD or DVD (you will need to purchase a CD or DVD writer, or ensure your computer comes with one).
  • In terms of software, Microsoft Office is a good place to start for general use. It contains an excellent word processor, spreadsheets, databases an email manager with integrated calendar and address book and tools to create basic websites.
  • Invest in a well-known security package that includes a virus scanner, firewall and junk mail filter. Norton Internet Security and ZoneAlarm's AntiVirus Suite are both good packages. If you have an employer, they might be able to provide you with specialist software that you may require.
  • Printers, fax machines and photocopiers can be useful tools in the office but they are large and expensive to purchase and maintain. These days, there are a number of relatively cheap all-in-one printer/scanner/copy/fax machines tailored for consumers that will be able to cope with the needs of most.

Internet connections

If you wish to contact people via email and make use of the internet, it is worth investing in a broadband connection. It is much faster than dial-up and allows users to stay constantly connected, without taking up the phone line.

There are a number of cheap broadband suppliers (ISPs) that offer monthly subscriptions catered to business needs, although a standard consumer package will be sufficient for most people.

Home office phone systems

A telephone with voice mail or an answering machine is crucial for homeworkers as it provides a means of communication with the outside world. Even if email and the internet will be the primary means of contact, it is good to have a phone for backup.

Most providers offer special business deals that are good value for money. A cordless phone, or Bluetooth head-set could be useful if you will be moving around a great deal. Consider using a dedicated line or personal mobile if you will be sharing the house during your office hours, for a greater air of professionalism.

N.B. Once you have all your electrical equipment in place, you should invest in a quality surge protector that guards telephone and broadband cables, as well as electrical lines. This will reduce the risk of losing critical data stored on a computer hard disk or suffering damaged equipment to an electrical spike.