One of two things can happen when you begin to set up an office setting in your home. You'll either underestimate what you'll need to get your office up and running, or you'll overestimate. You can quickly find yourself struggling in either case.
Use this checklist to develop a streamlined itemization of what you need in your home office and things to consider. Check the items you absolutely have to have, and circle those that you think you might eventually want to add.
Few if any small business owners who have the ability to work from home can complete their work without a computer. Do your research so you select one that meets your specific needs. Consider a laptop if you intend to create a mobile office in addition to your home office, or if your work often involves visiting clients' or customers' locations.
You'll definitely need a monitor if you have a desktop computer, but it can also be useful—and easier on your neck—to plug one into your laptop. You might also consider dual monitors, depending on the work you do.
High-Speed Internet Access
The days of being able to work with a dial-up connection are long gone. A broadband connection is essential if you're going to work efficiently online.
Ideally, you'll have space for a traditional desk where you can create an ergonomically correct workstation. You can make a table, counter, or other flat surface work in a pinch if your space forces you to get creative.
A Good Chair
A comfortable chair is one of the most important components of any office, so take time and care to select and invest in a good one. Again, ergonomics and comfort count, so make sure you test the chair before making a purchase.
Adequate lighting levels are critical to productive and comfortable work space. You don't want to have to deal with headaches and eye strain from squinting in lighting that makes it difficult to read.
A Telephone and/or VoIP
You might not need a traditional landline telephone with all the VoIP technology, internet-based phone services, and mobile phones that are available, but access to phone service is usually necessary when you're working from home. If nothing else, you should have it for backup.
Some small business owners simply need access to word processing, spreadsheets, and email management applications, but others need additional software that's specific to their enterprise. Make a list of what you'll need to run your home office.
A Network Router
Although it's not always required, a network router can be necessary if you have more than one computer that requires internet access. Consider a wireless router if you have a laptop and computers located in different parts of your home.
A Surge Protector
A good surge protector is an often-overlooked item, but it should be a staple in any home office that uses computer equipment.
A Printer or Multipurpose Machine
Depending on the nature of your business and even if you have a paperless office, you might be able to get away without having a printer. But there will probably be many occasions when you'll wish you had one to scan, fax, or make copies. Consider looking into multipurpose machines that can manage all these tasks.
Backup Drive or Personal Server
You'll need a plan for backing up and protecting your data once your home office is up and running. You can use cloud-based backup services to copy your files automatically, but it's also a good idea to have an in-house backup in place. External drives and personal servers are relatively affordable and can save your business in case of computer failure.
An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
A UPS provides backup power for a limited time in case your electricity goes out. It can give you some useful buffer time to save your work and safely shut down your equipment.
A File Cabinet
Even if it's your aim to be paperless, there are always some hard copy documents you'll need to hang onto. The best place to store these documents so you're able to find them is in a well-organized file cabinet.
Where will you keep your pens, sticky notes, paper, folders, ink, business cards, and other supplies? Consider purchasing a bookcase or shelving to store unused items in your home office.
A Fire-Safe Box
Speaking of storage, you might consider using a fire-safe box to protect your most important business paperwork. Many small business owners also use these durable boxes to keep backup copies of their data.
A Paper Shredder
A shredder is a must-have for destroying sensitive and confidential business information and documents. Consider getting a recycling bin for other non-sensitive papers.
There will certainly be other items you'll need in your home office, depending on the type of work you do and how much space you have available. But you'll be on your way to creating a streamlined and efficient home office if you use this checklist to get started thinking about the essentials.