By Janin Ayala
When you begin to set up your home office, one of two things tend to happen. Either you are unable to easily identify what equipment and technology you use every day so you underestimate what you will need to get your office up and running, and quickly find yourself struggling. Or, you clearly see each individual item you may need and are overwhelmed by the thought of meeting every one of those needs down to the last staple.
In either of these cases, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find yourself running around in circles before you’re able to focus your efforts and create an office that will help you work productively.
Use this checklist to develop a well-rounded yet streamlined list of what you need in your home office. Check the items you absolutely need, and circle the items you may eventually want to add to create a prioritized list of your home office essentials.
This will apply to most since very few small business owners who have the ability to work from home can complete their work without a computer. Do your research so you can select a computer that meets your specific needs. You should consider a laptop if you intend to create a mobile office in addition to your home office.
You clearly need a monitor if you have a desktop computer, but it can also be useful (and better for your neck) to have a monitor you plug into your laptop. Depending on the work you do, you may also consider dual monitors.
Ideally, you will have space for a traditional desk where you create an ergonomically correct workstation. But, if you need to get creative, you can make a table, counter or other flat surface work.
Take time to select and invest in a comfortable chair; it is one of the most important parts of an efficient home office. Again, ergonomics and comfort count when it comes to sitting, so make sure you test out a chair before making a purchase.
Just as a good chair is important for an ergonomic home office, so is having adequate lighting levels. You don’t want to deal with headaches and eye strain from squinting or using lighting that makes it hard to read.
Telephone and/or VoIP
With VoIP technology, Internet-based phone services, and even mobile phones, you may not need a traditional landline telephone, but access to a phone service is usually necessary when working from home.
Some small business owners simply need access to word processing, spreadsheet, and email management applications, while others need additional software that is specific to their needs. Make a list of the software you will need to run your home office.
Not always required, a network router can be necessary if you have more than one computer that needs Internet access. Consider a wireless router if you have a laptop and computers located in different parts of your home.
Often overlooked, a surge protector should be a staple in any home office that uses computer equipment.
Printer or Multipurpose Machine
If you have a paperless office, you may be able to get away without having a printer, but there may be situations when you need to scan, fax and even make copies. If this is common in your business, look into multipurpose machines that can manage all of these tasks.
Backup Drive or Personal Server
Once your home office is up and running, you will need to have a plan for backing up and protecting your data. You can use cloud-based backup services to copy your files automatically, but it is also a good idea to consider having an in-house backup in place. External drives and personal servers are relatively affordable and can save your business in the case of computer failure.
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
A UPS provides backup power for a limited time in case your electricity goes out because UPS can provide you with useful buffer time to save your work and safely shut down your equipment.
Even if you aim to be paperless, there are always some hard copy documents you need to hang on to. The best place to store these documents — and be able to find them later — is in a file cabinet.
Where will you keep 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.
Speaking of storage, you may consider using a fire-safe box to store and protect your most important business paperwork. Many small business owners also use these durable boxes to keep backup copies of their data.
A shredder is a must for destroying sensitive and confidential information in your business. And for every other piece of non-sensitive paper, consider getting a recycling bin.
There will certainly be other items you need in your home office, depending on the type of work you do and how much space you have available. But if you use this checklist to get started thinking about the essentials, you are on your way to creating a streamlined and efficient home office.