Caring for Computers

Computers are now the most vital component of a home office. Here are tips on integrating them into the room and caring for them:

  • Try not to position your computer in a carpeted room. Static from the carpet may damage the computer's circuits. If you must keep the computer in a carpeted room, buy an antistatic mat or use an antistatic spray to reduce buildup on the carpet.
  • Occasionally wipe your keyboard with a clean, lint-free cloth. You can use an antistatic cleaning fluid if necessary, but spray it on the cloth, not on the keyboard.
  • Air must circulate freely around the computer to avoid building up heat. Never block the slots that allow cooling air to circulate.
  • Smoke, humidity, and dust can harm your computer. Try to keep the appliance clear of such conditions. Cover the keyboard, printer, and peripherals when not in use.
  • Be sure to use three-prong electrical outlets for your computer. The three-prong plug grounds the equipment.
  • When you buy a computer, check your homeowner's insurance policy to find out if you're covered if your computer is stolen or damaged.

A home office can be as small as a folding file or as large as a room. If you're running a business out of your home, you'll obviously need much more space and equipment than a family looking for a corner to file papers and tend to correspondence.

The important thing to remember about creating a home office is to make it suit your family's needs. For example, if your children need to use a computer, you'll want to set up space that can be shared -- not a corner in your bedroom. Likewise, equipment and supplies should be selected for versatility.

Creating Office Space

  • Use a wall or part of a wall to set up an office. If you're extremely short on space, mount shelves on the top portion of a wall to store files and use a table that can be folded down.
  • Use a screen to set off a corner of a room and create office space. While not ideal, it may be the best space you can find.
  • Find a niche -- under the stairs, on a landing, or in an odd-size room or hallway. Use a roll-down window blind to enclose the niche when not in use.
  • Convert a closet into an office with a folding door. If there is no power inside the closet, have it wired to provide good lighting and an electrical outlet. This works particularly well in a guest room closet. Keep a portable wardrobe hanger on hand for guests when they arrive.
  • Replace a double bed with a sofa bed in an extra bedroom to allow space for your office.

Outfitting a Home Office

Equipment is almost secondary to some of the intangibles that a home office must have to work properly. Along with good lighting, make your office a place that you like. This doesn't require a lot of space. In fact, sometimes it's easier to plan a small space than a large area. If your office ends up looking like a sterile cubicle in a high-rise, you're not going to want to spend time there.

  • If you intend to outfit a room, draw up a floor plan before purchasing equipment. Use a 1-inch scale, and draw in windows and doors. Then plot various design arrangements for such items as your desk and computer.
  • Plan your work space so you have room to keep items such as the phone within reach while still retaining space to jot notes.
  • Make sure you allow room for file cabinets to open. They're deeper than a desk.
  • Use bulletin boards to hold reminders, calendars, and a "To Do" list. Put the board where you can see it easily.