My ideal home office is a converted loft space with a large rectangular window and an ocean view.
The office I’m writing this in is a converted bedroom – what we call a “box bedroom” – that measures roughly 10ft x 12ft.
It’s not the dream, but it gets the job done.
The moral of the story is that you can’t always have the office you want.
But you can always find somewhere to set up a home office for your business.
Let’s look at how you go about doing that.
You need to be 100% realistic about your financial and physical resources.
Do Not borrow a pile of cash to build/set up your home office.
In fact, do your best to work with the space and money you have right now – it stops you from buying stuff you don’t need because you think it will make you more productive.
The same goes for physical space – you’re probably not going to be able to build on a dedicated office.
So be honest about what’s possible at this point in your business or career.
Home office basics
Before you start scouting out the various rooms in your home as potential locations you need to put together a checklist.
There are some basic human and practical requirements to take into account:
- Does the location have natural light or ample artificial light?
- Is it too hot or too cold at different points during a day?
- Can you get easy access to a power outlet/socket?
- What’s the Wi-Fi signal like there or can you set up a wired connection?
- Is it free of most interruptions/distractions?
If your potential location is lacking in any of the above you might need to keep looking.
Now let’s take a look at the actual locations you can use.
Locations for your home office
Please understand that none of what you’re about to read is theoretical.
I’ve worked from home for several years now, so I’m not just making up stuff to fill a page.
I live this lifestyle.
Family/Living room office
So…this is a “No” from me.
Let me explain why.
The pros here are that you get to sit in your favorite spot on the sofa with your TV remote within reach and your laptop on either your lap or the coffee table in front of you.
The cons are that you’re going to damage your back because sofas aren’t office chairs, you’ll be tempted to binge a favorite show, and your family probably actively uses this space too.
The guy in the image above might look comfy…but give him six hours of sitting like that and he’ll need medical assistance.
You can fit a desk in a corner of a living room – some “experts” even suggest behind placing it behind a sofa.
But you’d still have to deal with all the distractions mentioned above.
Dining room office
A dining room can also be a great location for a home office because it’s only going to be used once a day.
Just don’t set your computer up on the dining table itself because you’ll have to move it later.
Or risk it getting covered in food or spilled juice or soda.
But anyone who has a room dedicated to just eating food probably doesn’t have issues with space.
Or maybe that’s just my cynicism speaking out loud.
This tends to seem like the “ideal” solution to newbie home/remote workers.
After all, your commute is the 5 seconds it takes to get from your bed to your desk.
But the reality is that you should never, ever set up your home office in a bedroom unless it’s a barely-ever-used guestroom.
Setting up your office in your bedroom is to be avoided unless you have no other choice.
Because you end up sleeping in your office, and this will play merry hell with your mental health and sleep patterns.
You have my word – been there, done that.
This options falls squarely into the “It depends” category.
Is your kitchen used by several people during the day, including kids?
If so, then your kitchen is a terrible location for a home office.
Do you live alone/with a pet?
In that case your kitchen is likely not used a whole lot.
Just bear in mind that kitchens tend to have a lot of water vapor and grease floating around in the air – not an ideal environment for sensitive electronic equipment such as a laptop or printer.
I worked from a kitchen table once for a few weeks…I didn’t go back for seconds.
The big pro here is that you’ll probably have a lot of space to work with, depending on the size of your home.
But is your garage secure?
Basically, if somebody knows that they can break into your garage and walk away with a stack of PC/Mac equipment that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Garages are pretty easy to break into.
The next question to ask yourself is if your garage is warm enough to work in on a cold night or during the dead of winter?
And the answer is probably “No”, so you need to ask yourself are you going to be comfortable working.
This might sound like an odd suggestion, but it’s an entirely workable one – if you have a stairs leading to a second story, that is.
Most people use this space to store old coats, Christmas decorations and stuff they meant to throw out three years ago.
But once you clear all the crap away, you’ll find there’s usually enough space for a small desk and office chair to fit neatly into that particular alcove in your home.
You won’t have much elbow room, but it would be a dedicated work space.
There’s a lot of value in that.
Yes, you can actually set up a home office inside an unused closet.
This could actually turn into an interesting DIY project where you build a desk into the wall and remove some baseboards so you can roll your office chair right inside the closet.
But if you’re not DIY inclined then you will be able to find a smaller desk or armoire designed for tiny office spaces.
A closet would be the tiniest of home offices, but I know people with 6-figure incomes who love their closet offices so much they can’t face being without them.
If your loft has the headspace then it’s going to be your most private, if somewhat drafty, option for a home office.
Your office will literally be on another separate floor from everyone else in the building.
I can feel the silence from here.
And a loft office isn’t just for home dwellers – I’ve seen several top-floor apartments that actually have a ton of loft space.
You know you’ve reached peak “adult” when you have a guest bedroom in your home.
Hell, you even to the effort of keeping it clean and tidy…for about 6 months.
You then realize that you’re not going to have quite as many guests as you thought…and the room slowly fills up with junk.
Within months it starts to look like something from one of those “24/7 Hoarder” reality TV shows.
Dispose of or sell the junk, get rid of the guest bed, and stake your claim – that’s how I acquired my current office.
A tiny home instead
Sometimes you literally cannot find a spare inch of space in a home for a workable home office.
Especially if you have a couple of kids.
I totally get that.
So in situations like that you could always locate your office in your back yard courtesy of a tiny home.
You can build your own “tiny home” for maybe $2,500 worth of materials, lots of elbow grease and help from a friend.
Or you can invest in a kit home that will cost anywhere from $8,000 to $60,000.
Short listing potential home office locations
You’ll probably have more than one potential location for your future home office once you’ve surveyed your home.
So you’ll have to be really objective in whittling down your available options.
One tip for short listing is to look for the room/location that experiences the least amount of foot traffic each day.
Basically, the place you’ll be interrupted the absolute least.
Because – and I speak from experience – every single interruption makes staying focused increasingly difficult.
So I will always choose peace and quiet over relative comfort when it comes to a location to work – my productivity suffers otherwise.
Another consideration is storage space.
Do you need to store a lot of files and documents, and if so, where are you going to store them?
Is there space for shelves or room under your desk for a small cabinet?
The MVP test
Now, here’s a really good tip that can save you a whole lot of headaches…and arguments with your significant other.
- Select the location for your home office
- Set up a chair, table and computer + monitor there
- Work from that location for at least two days
What you’re doing here is using the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach used by software developers.
You’re beta testing your home office without fully committing to it.
Literally, use any chair, a cheap table and a laptop if possible – keep it as simple as possible.
At least this way you’ll notice the funny smell/irritating noise/lack of sunlight/being able to hear people using the toilet or whatever, before you go setting up a router or running cables along baseboards.
You’ll also have avoided relocating heavy furniture without good reason.
What about a door?
Some people love working in open plan environments – I did in my corporate life.
Your home office space should ideally have a door that you can close and lock behind you at the end of the day.
This is for physiological reasons as well as basic security i.e. kids/pets don’t break things when your back is turned.
But I get that’s not always an option for some people, which is why I included several “open plan” options above.
My personal preference has always been to have a door for my home office because I know just how often I’ll be interrupted if I don’t have one.
So, you have more potential home office space locations than you probably imagined.
I didn’t discuss co-working spaces because that’s already covered in another blog post.
Long story short, setting up a home office usually takes some creativity and ingenuity on your part, along with some compromise with whoever you’re sharing your home or apartment with.
But it can be done.
And you’ll probably surprise yourself with how “official” your office feels when you’re done setting it up.
Oh, and drop me a mail if you think I left anything out of this blog post.