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October 5, 2009

A Blanket-fort Office Sounds Cool, but is Likely Not

In this post: Jaimy shares additional thoughts on working virtually, including how to choose your home and office space and setting up fort …

Jaimy SzymanskiThis post is the second in a three-part series for LifeMeetsWork.com. Read the first post, ‘Home is Where the Office Is’ here.

Originally, I was going to draft this post from 30,000 feet, on my flight up to Oshkosh, Wis.

I thought I would maybe get an award from my parents for ‘Most Awesome Jet-setting Child.’ But, that idea was quickly crushed after I remembered I have a 17-inch, widescreen laptop that would require my lap and the person next to me to set it up in-flight. Rather than ask the hairy gentleman to my right for part of his thigh, I opted for writing in the next-best location: Blue Door’s uber-fabulous offices, where you’ll find me for the next week.

That’s the amazing part of working virtually: You never know where you’ll complete your next assignment from.

As promised, this post will tackle two important elements of starting a workshift life: Where you will live and how to set up fort – the office kind of fort, not the blanket kind. Unless, you intend on having a blanket-fort office. Which, in that case, I will demand pictures.

Let’s tackle the first biggie – where to live.

In choosing my apartment, I looked for one that was on a property with plenty of amenities and community living space. I thought ahead to the days when I’d likely feel cooped up and want to work elsewhere, without having to travel 10 miles to a good coffee shop with wifi.

The apartment complex I chose has a large clubhouse on the property with comfortable sitting space and free wireless. It’s a great place get out of the house and see some friendly faces. Another important ‘amenity’ was volume. I chose a property that was relatively quiet and that wouldn’t be disruptive during a hectic workday. Other than these two priorities, I’d advise to choose a place that makes you feel comfortable and is close to resources–you’re going to be spending a lot of time there!

After you’ve chosen your home, on to important item #2: Setting up the workspace.

Having a space set apart from the rest of your living quarters is important. Why? Because when you’re done with work you can be done. Done as in ‘close the door and not think about it anymore’ done. Devoting an entire room to your office makes it much easier to concentrate during busy times, too, and it really gives your career a ‘home base’ amidst a usually crazy mixture of work and life.

As for setting up the office itself, the sooner you can do it, the better. I realized quickly that working from a makeshift desk with my printer on the floor and papers strewn about wasn’t quite conducive to a stress-free workday. Necessary office essentials include:

Furniture: Desk (yes, I know – mind-blowing!), chair (another guru piece of advice), printer stand or other table, storage cubes, file cabinet or file boxes, lamps or other adequate lighting and décor. The latter two might seem like ‘extras,’ but I assure you they’re not. Making your work space feel comfortable, warm and inviting is important to being productive.

Tech: Printer/Fax/Copy machine (all-in-one solution will work best and is a space-saver), wireless router, paper shredder and a wireless mouse and keyboard, if you have a laptop–these two things can be a nice break for the wrists. Other than tech essentials, be sure to stock your home office with any other necessary working supplies right away. Otherwise, running to Office Max® every week will prove to be a waste of time pretty quickly.

Choosing your home and where to set up your home office are crucial to virtual-work success. You need for your environment to incite feelings of motivation and enthusiasm, rather than an urge to flip on the T.V. I’m happy to say that my home office setup definitely brews productivity – a result, I think, of the effort put toward making sound initial decisions.

Until next time then, when I’ll end this epic trilogy with a few initial lessons I’ve learned – good and bad – related to working virtually. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll wish this was a 10-part series. Most importantly, I hope to continue sharing the ups and downs I’ve already witnessed to start the conversation among other newbie workshifters.