How to optimize your home office

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(StatePoint) The old 9-to-5 isn’t what it used to be. As more companies embrace telecommuting, a growing number of employees are finding that even in the professional realm, there’s no place like home.

Here’s how to set up a home office for success.

• Commission floor plans. It’s a good idea to have plans drawn up by an architect. Knowing your exact square footage has tax-savings implications: If your home office is your principal workplace, you may qualify for a home office tax deduction (for what the IRS calls “business use of your home”) based on the overall area of that space. Plus, an architect may be able to see beyond walls to find potential spatial configurations you might not have considered.

• Define your workspace. Working from home may be an escape from the monotony of cubicle land, but it’s still important to define your workspace. If it’s not possible to turn an existing room into your office, consider using an uncluttered portion of your basement, attic or garage. A tax deduction applies only to space used exclusively as a home office, so simply putting a desk in your living room doesn’t make you eligible, nor will it prevent distractions.

• Get comfortable. Don’t just grab an extra dining room chair. Chair designs have improved thanks to ergonomic research over the last half century. Choose one that will keep your posture vertical and your mind sharp.

• Get lit. Ideally, your home office will have at least one window, but also invest in a swing-arm desk lamp to provide ample illumination for concentrated tasks.

• Clear clutter. Avoid toppling stacks of documents and make the recycling bin your new best friend. A small filing cabinet should be able to hold all your records, and many home furnishings can be repurposed if a filing cabinet feels too corporate.

• Grow something. Not only are there health benefits associated with keeping plants indoors, they’ll be there when you need to take a break. A little gentle pruning can prove meditative, and can be a good way to refocus.

• Keep a schedule. Online newsfeeds and day-to-day housework can be distracting. Approach working at home with the same level of professionalism you’d bring to an office setting. Display a clock and wall calendar for visual reminders of deadlines.

• Communicate. Responding promptly to emails and calls lets co-workers know that you’re reliable. Substitute face-to-face time with FaceTime (or another video-enabled communication service). Thanks to such technology, you can share space with co-workers a continent away.

• Take breaks. Anyone familiar with water cooler chatter knows that offices are highly social. That’s an aspect of your day that can feel like it’s missing. So step outside every few hours; wave to your neighbor or walk to a coffee shop.

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By adopting a few design strategies and organizational habits, you can get your best work done from your home office.