Making short work of setting up a home office

The following four-page special report offers advice and tips for setting up a small office/home office (SoHo); If you decide to leave the security of the corporate office for the adventures of working from home, there are several issues to consider.
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So you have had enough of the boss trying to steal your ideas. You are fed up with spending half your life commuting in a crowded cattle truck. Or maybe you have convinced your boss to let you do more work from home or to set up a small branch office.

Welcome to SoHo. A SoHo is a small office/home office. And making the transition from the work place to the home space can be a scary one.

Space is limited, budgets are tight and normally there is no one there to help you. You are the purchasing manager, facilities manager and information technology manager all rolled in to one.

The first thing you have to do is steal yourself to spend at least 50 per cent more money than you had originally intended. If you scrimp and save, you may create for yourself a working environment from hell. In the long term, this will reduce you productivity and end up costing you money.

The most important part of your office is probably the furniture. Technology keeps you efficient but without a reasonable filing cabinet, a suitable desk (or table to use as a desk - often a cheap and efficient alternative) and, most importantly, a good chair, you might as well throw away your computer.

When you're setting up of your office: create enough space for your important fixed items like computers, printers and fax machines. Plan around them. Don't forget that if you have a computer you will also need space on your desk for papers. One last tip, ideally set aside half a day two months after you have moved into your office, to reorganise. Spend an hour or two getting things right and, for the next year, they will pay you dividends.

The next essential in this modern world is getting the right computer. That does not necessarily mean the most powerful. If you need just a little word processing and maybe email, then you really do not need one of the up-to-date computers. You could do worse than look at a second hand machine, especially if it is from a friend who knows it works fine or from a reputable dealer (they will probably offer you a limited warranty).

While you might not be able to use the latest model of PC, older computers will run older word processors from a couple of years ago just fine. And these will provide excellent results on a decent printer.

In six months time, if you need a more powerful computer at that time you will know more, and the value of your old machine should not have dropped too much, maybe pounds 100 or so. The new computer you buy will also be more powerful than if you had bought it six months previously (or a lot cheaper - computers change incredibly fast).

If you do feel you need to buy a powerful new computer make sure of the after-sales service. Check how long the warranty lasts.

Does the company come to your premises to fix the computer or do you have to take it to them? Can they lend you a PC if yours is broken (only a very few do this)? Don't forget that if a company says it will be on site within 24 hours, that is all they are guaranteeing. If it is not a very simple problem it may take days to fix.

Finally check that you do not have to ring premium rate numbers for advice on the computer and the software supplied with it. You do not want to be left on hold at 50p a minute or more every time there is a problem.

Finally the other essential of business life - communications. If you live in an area served by cable TV it is usually cheaper to sign up with your local cable provider. You may well want two lines, one for your phone and the other for a fax and modem. While you might get away with one line, blocking it for 20 minutes when you are trying to find some commercial information on the internet will not amuse your business contacts.

While a second line may cost quite a bit to install (however a second line put in at the same time as a main line is usually a great deal cheaper), line rental is really pretty modest and a very sensible business expense.

Setting up a SoHo can be great fun. Just give yourself sufficient time and money to do the job well. Fit out your space with good equipment and expend the necessary energy to organise things properly and you will be able to enter you office every day with a bit of pride in what you have achieved.