Failing to set up a dedicated small home office is cited as one of the top ten mistakes made by home business entrepreneurs. Here’s the A-Z of what you need to succeed in your new small home office…
ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. Says Telkom, ADSL technology turns a telephone line into a multi-tasking access medium and offers speeds up to seven times faster than normal dial-up speeds. To install an ADSL line in your small home office, visit your nearest Telkom Direct shop or call 10219 and order your ADSL line.
Instead of letting them pile up around you, pack reference books, telephone directories, computer programme packages, CDs, DVDs, files and other paperwork into a bookshelf, and keep your small home office neat and tidy. For bookshelf ideas for small spaces, see these beautiful space-saving overhead bookcases.
If you don’t have space for a bookcase in your small home office, or if you need extra storage space, get an office cabinet. For inspiration, see Martha Stewart’s Ideas for Cabinets and Hutches. If you’re a dab hand at DIY – or know someone who is – you can even build your own mobile filing cabinet.
Here are some questions to bear in mind when selecting a computer for your small home office:
- Will you be travelling frequently, or working out-of-the-office?
- What are the particular computing requirements of the type of business you are running?
- What is your budget?
- PC or Mac?
You will need a Microsoft Office package – including MS Word, MS Excel, MS Outlook and MS Powerpoint – as well as an accounting package and any specialist computer software required by your type of business.
Space is often at a premium in small home offices. Get a desk with:
- Lots of clear, flat surface space
- Good leg room
- Drawers for documents and stationery.
We spend many hours sitting in our office chairs and, according to Spine-Health, a website which provides doctor-written resources and information about back pain, it’s important to avoid developing or compounding back problems by selecting an ergonomic office chair which supports the lower back and promotes good posture.
External hard drive
A smart yet simple piece of technology, an external hard drive is a digital data storage device. For extra storage space, or to perform backups of your entire computer, simply plug your external hard drive into your computer via USB cable.
Fax machines still come in handy. To cut down on costs, all-in-one printer/scanner/faxes are a sensible – and popular – option for small home offices.
A USB flash disk is a portable memory data storage device. Use to free up space on your hard drive or to transport files to meetings.
Fire-proof document box
Fire-proof document boxes are found in the offices of every attorney and accountant, and for good reason. You would be wise to get yourself one; should your office (horror of horrors!) go up in smoke your vital documents will be safe.
Following on from the fire-proof document box, investing in a fire extinguisher would not be remiss.
When the ADSL lines goes down, or when you’re working out-of-the-office, mobile broadband access, via a mobile modem will keep you connected. Speak to your cell phone network operator.
A must-have item! Punch and file all your paperwork – don’t leave it lying around your desk
Internet Service Provider
In addition to an ADSL line and 3-G mobile modem, you’ll need to find an internet service provider (ISP). When choosing an ISP, think about your business’s exact needs:
- What is your estimated bandwidth usage – do you use the Net just to access emails, or do you do a lot of internet browsing?
- How many email addresses do you require?
Don’t overlook this one – remember to insure your home office property and contents in the event of fire or theft, etc.
No office should be without a couple of in-trays. But remember, use in-trays as a temporary resting place for paperwork, only!
Setting up a small home office seems like one expense after the next. Isn’t it good to know some things are free, or at the very least, very cheap? Recycled jam jars make wonderful storage units for bits and bobs, like rubber bands, paper clips, staplers, pens, pencils etc.
Using a notebook is convenient when on the move, but working on it for long hours can expose your wrists to micro-trauma in the form of carpel-tunnel syndrome. It’s far more comfortable to work with an ergonomic keyboard and mouse – and even a notebook riser – when camped out in the office.
Working in bad light can lead to eyestrain, headaches and fatigue. Natural light is best, so open the blinds and let the sunshine in! If you’re working after-dark, make sure you install plenty of good (but not too bright) electrical light – both overhead lighting and adjustable desk lamps.
These days, doing business without a mobile phone is impossible. Talk to the cell phone networks and get yourself a cell phone contract which caters for the needs of the small business owner.
Do you have more than one computer in your small home office? Consider networking. Networking is the practice of linking computers together, so that they can share data and hardware, such as printers and scanners. A networking system in a small home office is called a Local Area Network (LAN). There are generally two types; client-server networks and peer-peer networks. Speak to an IT consultant to find out which option is best for you. Read Microsoft’s Home or Small Office Network Overview.
Hollow ottomans don’t only provide useful storage space; they double up as footstools or stools for sitting. Feeling industrious? Build your own Ottoman…
A good quality printer is a must for any small home office. Your budget and the space you have available in your home office will influence your purchasing decision, but also consider the following:
- Will you be printing loads of full colour pages? If so, an inkjet printer is for you.
- Will you be printing mostly text pages? Choose a laser printer.
- Doing a little bit of everything? For the multi-tasking entrepreneur working from home, a multi-purpose printer-scanner-fax could be the answer.
Establishing a start-up can be a costly exercise. To save cash, take time to make sure that you get yourself the best possible deal. Get quotes for all the products and service you wish to procure.
These include industry journals, trade and business magazines, manuals, as well as telephone directories. Don’t forget to keep a good dictionary on your book shelf.
Shelving and Storage
An organised office is an effective office, so keep your work space (and your mind) clean and clear. Check out these fabulous home office storage and organization solutions and these 21 ideas for organising home offices.
Scanners are useful tool for your home office. If you don’t opt for a multipurpose printer-scanner-fax, consider getting a stand-alone scanner.
Stock up on basic stationery – pens, pencils, eraser, ruler, paper clips, stapler, staples etc.
While many small businesses operate off a mobile phone only, many customers still prefer to call a landline number. Your ADSL line can also accommodate a telephone and Telkom’s Closer packages are designed to complement their ADSL packages.
There’s nothing worse than shivering in a freezing office in winter, or sweltering in summer. Keep your home office at an optimum temperature for work – cool in summer with an airconditioner or fan, and warm in winter with a heater.
You can never have too many USB cables, so stock up!
Working alone at home means no receptionist to take your calls when you’re busy. Make sure you set up voicemail on both your landline and cell phone, recording a warm and clear message to let customers know that you’re unavailable, and asking them to leave a message.
Meeting clients in your small home office? Invest in a comfortable visitor’s chair. And your visitor’s chair needn’t be corporate issue – take a look at 10 of the best funky chairs.
Says interior design and dècor website, HouseBeautiful, if you’re to thrive in a small space, you’re going to have to throw things away. But banish the grey plastic bin from your thriving office! Instead choose something along the lines of these 50 favourite waste paper baskets…
Being a small business owner means you’re in charge of everything. This also means you have much to manage. Keep track on things by plotting schedules and tasks on a whiteboard. Or use your whiteboard to sketch out your creative ideas.
Computer cables are the bane of every office. When you (or your IT guy) sets up your LAN, make sure you have wifi. This way, you can connect your computer (and other wifi enabled devices) to the internet wirelessly.
Personal photocopiers are smaller versions of the office copier. Thinking of getting one? Here are some tips:
- Get a flatbed copier if you need to copy from resource books or manuals
- Get a copier with a paper capacity of at least 250 sheets. The automatic document holder should hold at least 30 sheets.
- Take note of the copier volume (recommended monthly usage).
Yoga ball office chair
Exercise as you work – use a yoga ball as an office chair, or at least have one in the office on which to bounce every now and then. Here’s why…
To be super-productive, aim for a minimalist office space. Go zen – opt for understated furniture, plenty of storage space, good natural light and simple office processes and procedures for keeping your workspace free of paperwork and clutter.