A home office can be helpful to home-based business owners, telecommuters, freelancers and anyone who wants to create a space for paying bills, working on projects or studying. Whether you create a home office in a studio apartment or build a custom addition onto your home, you can make a space that will help optimize your productivity.
Determine what space you have available for a home office.
- Your office should have its own space as separate as possible from other household activities. Ideally, this will include a door that closes out noise and other distractions. Perhaps you have an extra bedroom or a section of a finished basement.
- A folding screen or bookcase can help create a dedicated work area if you are unable to dedicate an entire room to your home office. Even a small corner with a desk can create an atmosphere.
Define the needs you have for your office space.
- You will need a desk or other surface for your computer, a chair and space for files or reference materials.
- Office machines such as a scanner and printer will also be necessities in most homes offices.
- You may want a separate waiting area if you have a business requiring client confidentiality, such as a law practice or a therapy practice.
- Decide whether you will need meeting space or space for an assistant or other employees.
Make a budget for your home office.
- You may need to prioritize purchases over time, adding equipment and furniture as finances allow.
- Evaluate whether equipment such as computers and other office machines are a better deal for you if purchased or leased. In either case, be sure you have access to reliable service for all of the equipment.
- You may be able to find furniture for your office from a refurbished office furniture company or purchase used office furniture at a garage sale or from an office that is closing, relocating or remodeling.
Decorate your office to make it as inviting as possible.
- The more pleasant and attractive your office space, the more you will enjoy the time you spend there, which has been shown to translate to increased productivity.
- Consider using full-spectrum lighting to get many of the advantages of sunlight if your office does not have natural light from a window.
Create a separate storage or archival area, if needed.
- Set aside another area in your attic, basement or a closet or space in another area of the house if space does not permit you to keep all of your files or supplies in your home office.
- Minimize the amount of space needed for paper storage by scanning documents and records to your computer. Back up these records on a regular basis.
Set ground rules with your family and for yourself about use of the space, noise and interruptions.
- Your children should have their own areas dedicated to homework and should be taught to respect your work space.
Determine whether your home office qualifies as a tax deduction.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations allow for tax deductions on that portion of a house used exclusively for business, under certain conditions and restrictions. You can find an overview of the regulations on the IRS website.
- You must use a specific portion of the house “regularly and exclusively” to conduct business to claim a home office deduction.
- Use IRS Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home (available athttp://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8829.pdf), to calculate your allowable deduction if you are self-employed and transfer this to your Schedule C form.
- You may also be able to deduct a home office if you can demonstrate that you are working at home for the convenience or benefit of your employer, rather than for your own benefit.