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Home office: ensuring efficiency and privacy

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th December 2008 03:00 AM

Today’s home offices are busier than ever. Gone are the days when all we needed was a writing desk, small filing cabinet and a few envelopes and stamps. Many home owners now have separate home offices, fitted with computers, printers, fax machines, photocopiers, scanners and more.

Today’s home offices are busier than ever. Gone are the days when all we needed was a writing desk, small filing cabinet and a few envelopes and stamps. Many home owners now have separate home offices, fitted with computers, printers, fax machines, photocopiers, scanners and more.

By Fred Ouma

Today’s home offices are busier than ever. Gone are the days when all we needed was a writing desk, small filing cabinet and a few envelopes and stamps. Many home owners now have separate home offices, fitted with computers, printers, fax machines, photocopiers, scanners and more.

How is your home office doing? Do you have a clear desk, comfortable seating, good lighting and a place for everything? Or is it an overwhelming cluttered space, full of papers and unidentified objects?

Home offices need not be disorganised, boring and sterile. Even an office at the basement with poor natural light can be transformed into a bright and cheerful environment with good lighting and decorative accessories, says Jacquie Kimbugwe, an interior designer with Life Dreams.

Before you get started on improving your home office, Kimbugwe says it is important to identify all activities that take place in there.

For example, are you simply paying a few bills, filing some statements and sorting mail? Or do you also like to use the space for your children to do homework, browsing on the internet, sorting photographs and wrapping gifts?

If you are running a home-based business, it is imperative that you try to keep it separate from your household office, even if it is just in another area of the room, Kimbugwe adds.

“For your home office to function properly it should be comfortable, with functional and ergonomic furniture. It should also be free of paper clutter.”

Like Kimbugwe, Edmund Ssesanga of Kitchen Concept, suggests investing in office organising products to keep paper clutter at bay, so that you can enjoy your office, instead of fearing it.

Below Kimbugwe and Ssesanga offer a list of the typical activities that take place in today’s home offices.

lSorting mail and paying bills: Purchase an organiser with slots or trays to divide up bills, mail, envelopes, stamps and address labels. As soon as a bill comes in, place it into the appropriate slot.

Experts’ tip: A mail organiser with a small drawer for stamps and small office supplies will keep your desktop neat.

lAccessing office supplies: Your everyday office supplies should be kept at arm’s length on your desk or in the drawers.

For instance, it is important to get a pen holder so you waste less time searching for pens. This also reduces the number of pens being lost. You will love being able to start the day without having to search all over for a pen and reduce being frustrated by not losing pens as much.

Experts’ tip: Avoid messy drawers by purchasing drawer organisers with compartments. lChecking your schedule: Get a calendar for your desk. The calendar makes it easier for you to see your schedule and future appointments weeks in advance, while talking on the phone. It enables your family and friends to see which days you are not as busy.

Experts’ tip: Use a magnetic dry erase message board to write brief notes and reminders.

Dealing with action items: You might feel more comfortable keeping your action papers on your desk in a ‘neat’ pile, for fear of losing or forgetting them. Unfortunately, papers left out can be easily misplaced or even accidentally thrown away. There are many different options available for organising your day-to-day papers, including desktop trays and step-up files. Consider your options and invest in organising products that will work for you.

Experts’ tip: Spend a few minutes each day reviewing action files on your desk.
-Filing papers: A file cabinet is essential for storing important documents and statements. If you do not have a cabinet, consider purchasing a file crate or box. Stackable file crates are convenient, affordable and take up minimal space.

In addition, a fire-proof safe is recommended for important documents, such as birth certificates and passports.

Experts’ tip: Make copies of important documents and store them either off-site or in another section of your home.

-Make sure to get an answering machine so that clients and other callers can leave a message for you. People usually like to be able to leave a message even if a person is not available at the moment. You can leave a professional message on your answering machine regarding information about your company and a website address.

Experts’ tip: Spend a little more money to get phones with extra features. Speaker phones are always good to have in an office when doing conference calls. And keep the local telephone directories handy. They can be stored in a letter tray near the phone.

-Handling school papers: If you have school-going children, set up a system to handle their incoming and outgoing school papers. You can use a portable hanging file holder, cabinet or wall pockets.

Experts’ tip: Show your school-going children where they need to place their school papers each day.
-Using technology: Identify the equipment you need for your home office. If you have space and budget constraints, go in for a multi-function printer with an integrated copier, scanner, fax machine and photo-printing capabilities. You will save space and money.

Experts’ tip: Consider purchasing a fax/printer organiser with drawers and trays to hold office materials.
-Miscellaneous list: You need a few lamps to keep around in the office just in case you need more light. You also need a few clocks to be able to tell what time it is without having to look all around the office. You can set alarms on the clocks to remind you of times for breaks and appointments.

It is quite fun to have a home office. Do not be afraid to decorate your office. This is not a corporate office, so decorate it as you wish. Use colour and accessories to liven up your space. And remember to have a nice comfortable chair so you can get more work done without complaining of a back pain.

Home office: ensuring efficiency and privacy

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