Top 5 physical requirements for working from home

Working from homeAs more and more of us move from the corporate office to the home office, I find that we’re all battling with a workspace-within-my-personal-space issue.

By working from home, you just increased your accessibility–to both clients and your family–by tenfold. And the fact that you’re sitting at home, banging away on your keyboard in the exact same way you used to surf the Web at night, makes it a bit difficult for the other people in your life to realize that you are, in fact, earning a living.

Establishing a physical workspace will help.

So, here, in my experience, are the top 5 tangible objects you need if you’re going to be successful working from home:

  1. A door
    I know this one may sound a little strange. I mean, who don’t have a door? But you’d be surprised how many folks try to utilize a workspace that is open to the general flow of the house. You need a way to establish a boundary to your workspace. A door is the best way to do this. Maybe even a door with a lock. Me? I use your state-of-the-art hollow frame door, and I close it whenever I walk into the office.
  2. An office chair
    You’re going to be parked on your heinie for a good part of the day in your now-well-defined workspace. Your chair will be your saving grace. The longer you can sit comfortably, the better off you’ll be. Don’t skimp. This is your body and your health we’re talking about here. Get the best possible chair that you can. Me? I went for the Mirra Task Chair. A little spendy. True. But much less than the Eames Management Chair over which I was drooling.
  3. A desk
    Don’t try to use a coffee table as your desk. It just won’t work. You’ve been conditioned through years of schooling and corporate life to understand the importance of the desk. It’s both an emotional and physical support for you. Don’t deny it. Again. Don’t skimp. You’re going to be banging on this thing on a daily basis. Me? I went for an open, table-style desk with a return. This gives me plenty of space for two machines with two monitors. And I’m not banging my legs into storage units as I swivel back and forth.
  4. A laptop
    While it’s good to establish your workspace boundaries, that needn’t mean you’re tethered to a desk. Spend some cash to get the best laptop you can. This is the most important tool you will likely purchase for your business, so don’t cut corners. You’ve done well if you get squawks from clients like, “Did I fund that purchase?” Well done. Me? I went for the MacBook Pro. It allows me to run both the MacOS and Windows, so I’m prepared for any type of client request or file format. I also have a Dell Tower that I use for more intensive Windows work.
  5. A monitor
    I know you love your shiny new laptop. You’re all excited about the hours you’ll spend at your local Starbucks or wi-fi spot, banging away. But, fact of the matter is, you’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting in your house working, too. And for that, a monitor is critical. I find myself sliding over to my PC all of the time, instead of my laptop. Why? The monitor. I’m constantly looking down at my laptop. It’s uncomfortable. So, a monitor for my laptop is my next critical purchase. I’m telling you, it makes work easier. Trust me.

How does my top 5 sync up with yours? Am I crazy in some of my suggestions? I’d love to hear your take.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Career, Culture, Tips, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Top 5 physical requirements for working from home

  1. Toby Lucich says:

    You missed mini-fridge.

  2. Jason Alba says:

    This is a great post for anyone that wants to try and work from home. I 100% agree with what you list here. The only two things I would add are:

    1. a headset for phone calls. I’m on the phone more that I work from home and prefer to call using Skype and a headset whenever I can, and

    2. the right software. Don’t use notepad to program or a cheap/free graphics program to do graphics. I’m sure you know what you use most, make sure you have the best software to accomodate it and make that task(s) pleasant.

    Jason Alba
    CEO – JibberJobber.com

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  4. Aurynn says:

    #1 I don’t know about, as I live on my own, but I can see how a private workspace with a door that people must knock on before entry would help a lot with distractions.

    #2 is a definite. I’m looking at Aeron chairs, now. Ack. *grin*

    #3. I went with a really nice L-shaped desk, glass surface, from Office Depot. Not very expensive and very nice to work on. A coffee table, would just have created incredibly bad posture incredibly quickly.

    #4 and 5 go together for me. My primary workstation is my Laptop, and later I bought a large, good LCD to run dual displays with. This frees up my workspace a lot, and I can physically separate tasks – Communications on one, code on the other.

    My next purchase is actually going to be an armature for my laptop. Like you, it’s really uncomfortable to be looking down at the laptop, or back and forth from the laptop to my LCD. So a swivel arm for the laptop, anchor it to my desk, and no more height problems.

  5. Alex G says:

    I’ve been sitting on an Aeron for over 6 years now.

    http://dwr.com/productdetail.cfm?id=1812

    The Eames chair is cute, but hardly suitable for sitting 16 hours a day in.

    The chair is the most important tool as this is where you spend most of your time while working. It’s one thing where I wouldn’t never try to save money and I’ve been swearing by Aerons ever since I’ve been sitting in front of the monitor full time, which is 8 years now.

  6. Rick Turoczy says:

    Sorry. I got a bit behind on the comments. Let me try to catch up.

    @Jason Alba: I sit around in my headset–uber geekily–all day, either listening to music or sitting on calls. That’s definitely at the top of the list after the first 5.

    @Aurynn: Nice call on the armature. That’s a great way to get a two-screen system going, without purchasing two monitors.

    @Alex G: Absolutely agree with your “most important tool” comment.

    The Aeron is definitely a good chair. I spent a significant amount of time planted in one during the Web 1.0 dotcom days–given that it was the only chair any self-loving dotcom in its right mind would purchase.

    I seriously considered the Aeron for my home office, as well. The Mirra, however, was far superior, for my body style, in terms of lumbar support and the way I tend to move around while I work.

  7. Drew Thaler says:

    Good list. I’d emphasize for #5 that a large, high-quality monitor is a terrific investment. Computers have to be replaced every few years (if not more often), but a good monitor will last a decade.

    Seven years ago I spent a whopping $1500 on an early model of the Apple Cinema Display … I know, crazy, right? That’s as much as a new computer. But this display has outlasted quite a few computers and it’s still going strong. There are better displays out there now, and it’s now a secondary monitor rather than a primary, but it’s got the same nice resolution and display size as the day I bought it.

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  10. It’s actually scary how well your 5 requirements sync up with mine. I have a MacBook Pro which I hook up to a 24″ Dell LCD at home (it’s glorious and worth every penny). I sit in a Mirra chair as well. There’s that old adage that says “buy a good bed and a good pair of shoes. If you’re not in one, you’re in the other.” I figure, add a desk chair to that if you sit at the computer a lot. There’s a door to my room, and I bought a decent desk (though it’s going to be replaced with something nicer once I have more space to work with).

    All 5 points are well said.

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  12. Rick Turoczy says:

    @Drew Thaler: I’ve been coveting the cinema display myself. It’s the carrot motivating me to clean off my desk and straighten my office.

    @Patrick Haney: Maybe I’m your alter ego? You’re the really good designer and I’m, well, not.

  13. Lisa says:

    Being both a work-from-home designer and a writer, I feel the inexorable attraction to articles about workspaces.

    I think we’re all keen to view how and where others work. When a glimpse of Al Gore’s crowded office with its multiple monitors was making its way around the blogosphere, I sent the link to my husband, saying “some women wish for diamonds…” Obviously, not me.

    I appear to collect desks. Currently I have a narrow table I use for sorting stacks of paper and a tiny little desk that fits into a corner that I use when I absolutely must concentrate.

    Mostly, though, I work on my laptop, sitting on an old, very comfortable, chaise. So I would put a sofa or comfy chair on the phys. req. list. And a pair of scruffy dogs, to sit on one’s feet.

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