If you are running a home-based business, one of the most important factors in your success actually starts in the way your office is set up. Because you are working from the comforts of your own home, it can be very easy to forget about things like health and safety. It’s time to change that.
Below is a list of areas in your home office to look at with your health and safety in mind. The benefits of creating a healthier and safer home work environment are pretty self explanatory, and in most cases, any required changes won’t cost you much. But you may be very surprised how much more efficient, productive, and happier you’ll be with them there.
I know this from experience. I have a home office; I spend a significant amount of time there and have made a lot of the changes mentioned below, such as cleaning up the electrical wiring, moving my desk, bringing in some plants, and organizing all the clutter that constantly threatens to take over my desk. It made a world of difference….
That said, you really owe it to yourself, your employees (if there are any) and even your family, to create the most conducive home office conditions that you can.
To make this post a bit more helpful and practical, I’ve included an actual checklist at the end you can download so you can really get down to business whipping your home office into shape.
Safety in Your Home Office
First things first, let’s start with home office safety:
First aid kits- If you had an office or a workspace in a building somewhere, it would given that there would be one or two first aid kits on the premises. The same holds for your home office. In many cases, you should have a first aid kit separate from the one you use for your family. This is especially true if you have machinery or heavy equipment in your work space and/or on-site employees. It also goes with out saying that the quality and usefulness of your home office first aid kit really depends on the quality and quantity of the first aid supplies inside of it. So make sure to keep them properly stocked.
Fire safety- If your home office is separated from the rest of your house, then make sure that you have a working fire alarm installed in the area and that there is a well maintained dry chemical or carbon dioxide fire extinguisher on hand. You also need to ensure that you can quickly get in and out of your workspace without obstruction.
Electrical outlets and wires- I’m surprised that this topic isn’t promoted as much among home based business owners. If you’ve got a lot of electronic devices plugged in to one outlet on top of electricity-guzzling “auxiliary items” such as a space heater, you could have a potential fire hazard on your hands. If you can’t change the actual circuitry of your house then at least make sure you are using quality extension cords and multi-outlet strips, that you have some kind of surge protector installed, and that your electric cords are tucked neatly away, not lying in a spaghetti-bowl jumble on the floor. Finally, you need to make an effort to maintain your electrical equipment and to replace anything that could cause a fire.
Safe storage- In an effort to conserve space in your home office, you may get the urge to perch some pretty heavy items up and out of the way. Before you do so, consider what would happen if said items were to come toppling down. If the result would be pretty gruesome, then a change is in order. If you do have to store something heavy in a high place, make sure the shelf or surface it’s resting on is sturdy and can truly handle the weight.
Emergency numbers- If an emergency does come up, then you should have any emergency contact numbers on hand in an easily accessible area. You should also have some kind of phone line in your work space or at least a cell phone with you at all times.
Health in Your Home Office
Now, let’s look at how healthy your home office is:
Location in the house- I made this the first area to consider on purpose even though it may be the one factor in which you have the least amount of flexibility. It is really so important that you create some kind of separation between your home office and your living area. If the layout of your house allows, having a completely separate space and entry to your home office is ideal. If this is not feasible, be sure to create as much division as possible between your office area and your living area (especially if it is close to or connected to your bedroom). There are plenty of low-cost options, such as using moveable room dividers and screens.
Lighting- If your your body does not get enough natural light, you will have a harder time being in your home office no matter how much you love your job. Now, obviously, you have to work with what you have. If you can’t work in a space that has a window, then at least make sure you take enough breaks to walk outside a bit. You also have to make sure that any artificial lighting is not only adequate so as not to cause strain on your eyes, but also pleasant to be in. I personally can’t stand bright white florescent and LED lights, so I made sure to put several soft light bulbs around the room. Finally, make sure your setup reduces harmful glare and reflections.
Ventilation- If you can’t breathe properly, you won’t work properly, either. Even if your home office has a decent airflow, you will still gain tremendously from bringing in a couple of air-purifying plants. If you have a lot of floating dust particles then consider buying an air purifier. On the other hand, if it’s stuffy and dry you may want to invest in a humidifier.
Ergonomics- If you’re going to be sitting at your desk for a while, make sure you’re comfortably and properly doing so. Find yourself a good ergonomic chair that promotes instead of inhibits blood circulation, and sit properly at your desk. You can keep your wrists and hands comfortable as well with an ergonomic keyboard and padding.
Temperature- Implicit to the topics mentioned above is the fact that the more comfortable you are physically in your home office, the more productive you’ll be. If your fingers are cold, you won’t be typing so fast, and the same is true if you’re constantly stopping to wipe the sweat off your brow. If you are either too cold or too hot it will effect your concentration levels as well.
Noise Level- Here’s another area you might not consider. How noisy is your space? If you are working with loud machinery then make sure you are wearing ear protection. Where the noise is coming from outside your workspace, you can maybe try noise canceling headphones.
Decor- Everything you see influences how you feel about your work… and your role in it. Giving your office a much needed makeover does not have to cost big bucks. Choose wall art and decorative objects that say something about your vision and goals. Choose pleasant colors, meaningful memorabilia, and decor items that make you feel successful, appreciated, and happy. If your space lacks windows, hang artwork or photos of landscapes or moving water to help bring the outdoors in.
In short, worrying about your health and safety doesn’t start when you walk out the door of your home. If you work at home, then make sure you consider the topics above. A little investment of time and money in these areas can result in big paybacks: increased productivity, efficiency, health, and a brighter attitude.
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