More and more people telecommute, meaning that there is a growing number of work-from-home job opportunities. However, working from home imposes the need of a functional home office. Murray Lampert has put together a San Diego home additions checklist of must-consider questions to help you decide on the type of home office project to meet your telecommuting needs.
Question #1: Why do I need a separate home office?
The answer seems only logical – because you want it, because everyone has one nowadays, and because it’s really cool. Nevertheless, you have to go a little bit further than that, because the reason for having your own home office can determine the type and cost of the design.
Is it enough only to remodel/renovate?
Renovation is an excellent choice if you have unfinished or underused parts of your home. Also, if certain rooms are too large for your needs, you can add non load bearing walls to divide a large space into two functional ones. The focus will, therefore, be more on renovation and remodeling. Also, the new design needs to be made to maximize the functionality of your home office.
There are two vital non-design related things to consider – will your home office have enough light and will the designated space have enough outlets for your gadgets. If you don’t think about these things, you won’t really get a functional home office, but rather a large pantry.
Is a room addition my best choice?
Compared to a major home renovation, a room addition is by far a more practical solution to meet your home office needs. If you need a separate room for your home office because there is not enough space anywhere else, consider some of the room addition types your home office can be accommodated in a bump-out addition, or you can turn a sunroom addition into a lovely sunlit home office.
Question #2: How much space do I need?
We’re not talking about your inherent need for personal space – we’re talking about how much actual minimum space your home office needs. How do you calculate that? Start by measuring the combined dimensiong of your desk and office chair. If you don’t have a desk yet, consider how much space you need ON your desk. Some professionals, like freelance writers, need only a laptop or a desktop computer on their desk, whereas a software engineer might need an additional monitor or two. Artists, architects, and other creatives might need a large, specialized desk to accommodate their work needs.
Apart from the basics (desk and chair), consider other items you wish to put in your home office, such as more furniture, appliances and gadgets, plants, and so on. Put simply, your home office needs to have enough space to accommodate all items, whether horizontally (on the floor) or vertically (on the wall or on the shelves, for example).
Question #3: How much furniture do I need?
Again, this depends on your profession. You will typically need one chair, unless you are building your home office for two. General advice is to keep the space as uncluttered as possible, meaning that, unless your job requires it, the only pieces of furniture you need in your home office are a desk and a chair. You should invest in a good chair – after all, you spend hours sitting in it, so it should be an ergonomic one. They are usually bigger than regular chairs, but are absolutely worth it.
Of course, you might consider having a shelf/shelves or separate drawers for gadgets, stationery, printer, etc. If you believe in 15-minute power naps, a stylish sofa is definitely the way to go.
Question #4: What electrical equipment and gadgets do I use?
This is another profession-specific question. Nevertheless, bearing in mind that most home-based jobs require working online (more specifically: submitting work, communication with clients and customers, doing research, etc), there are only two basic items of electrical equipment you’ll likely need:
- Laptop or desktop computer
- Internet connection
Depending on the size of your desk or your personal preferences, you can easily decide between a laptop and a desktop computer. Laptops are generally more convenient and less space-consuming. Moreover, even software developers and engineers feel that modern laptops satisfy all their professional needs, whereas some might need an additional monitor.
As far as the internet connection goes, Wi-Fi is still the best choice for obvious reasons – there won’t be any tedious cables and wires and you won’t have to think about separate outlets for each of them. Not to mention that cleaning around the many cables lying around can be a real drag.
As for additional gadgets, they are really a matter of individual preference. What you have to bear in mind is that each of them will occupy a certain amount of space and may need an outlet for recharging.
Question #5: How much light do I need?
Apart from people who suffer from migraines, virtually everyone likes working in a well-lit space. And not just that – it is common knowledge that people are at their most productive if they work in a space that gets a lot of natural sunlight. This means you have to consider how many (and how large) windows your home office will have. If you are considering a room addition, make sure it gets enough light. Otherwise, you will be trapped in a relatively small space that will soon make you feel claustrophobic.
Question #6: Do I want any plants?
Having plants in your work space can help you with a number of things – plants cleanse the air, give out the much needed oxygen, which altogether boosts your concentration and productivity. There are a lot of plants you can put in hanging baskets or small pots so you can simply keep them on your desk or window sill. Others are fairly large, so you need to account for the space needed to accommodate them.
Question #7: Where would be the best place to have a home office?
When determining where to set up your home office, consider these two critical points:
- The noise level of the space
- The position relative to the rest of your home
If the main reason you want a room addition functioning as your home office is to get some much needed peace and quiet, check if you can have the room addition at the back of your house, or at least fairly far away from the kitchen or the living room (a.k.a. the main gathering points in every home).
However, a great number of freelance professionals are actually stay-at-home parents who oftentimes have to check on their children even when working. If this is the case with you, you might want to consider adding a new room nearer the kitchen (to check on the food that’s cooking) or close to the main entrance (to check on who’s coming) or at least somewhere overlooking your backyard (to check on the kids).
Question #8: How much money can I afford to spend?
Finally, this question may be the most important one. Why? You may be aware that simply constructing a new room often isn’t enough – you might need to consider its interior design, which may mean hiring another contractor and incurring additional costs. The safest bet would be to hire a design-build contractor, so you could have all services comprised under one comprehensive quote, not to mention cut down on the amount of time needed for the project.
When doing your own calculation, consider the following:
- Cost of the room addition or remodeling
- Cost of the furniture you need
- Cost of the equipment and gadgets you need
- Cost of an additional wiring job
- Cost of a separate design job
- Prices of plants and plantscaping service
- Building permits (some room additions may require one)
- Installation of additional windows and per-item prices
Once you’ve calculated all the possible costs, you will have the most approximate overall cost. If it seems too much, you can detract some of the items that are not absolutely essential to your home office and you will come up with a more affordable solution. Either way, consult your local design-build contractor for an initial quote and an estimated price of the entire project. But before that, make sure you have the answers to all the questions on our checklist and you are ready to have your very own home office designed and built!