Setting up an office at home is the ultimate in workplace freedom. From the size of your desk to the color of your walls, you answer to no one but yourself, right?
The reality, however, is that you’re likely to be sharing the space—at least sometimes—with kids or pets who leave marks on your custom, hot pink walls and stain your new office sofa with brightly colored unknown liquids. Plus, you’ll be paying the utility bills from an array of office equipment, and those energy costs can really add up.
It does take some finesse to create an office space that can handle everyone’s needs and be energy efficient to boot. Let’s take a look at the ideal home office and how to adapt it for your household.
Nothing matters more than the chair. If you have a desk job, this is where you’ll spend most of your time during the day. First and foremost, look for something with solid ergonomics. You’ll want back and thigh support, with adjustable heights so the chair fits your desk height as well as different members of your family when they use the desk for homework and other tasks. A bonus: Lots of chairs are now made using environmentally friendly fabrics.
Speaking of a desk, this is the central piece of furniture in your office. Choose something that looks good and is comfortable, of course, but that also can be configured to meet your family’s needs. It is essential to have good storage that keeps your paperwork out of everyone else’s way. If you have room, an L-shaped desk may help multiple members of the family co-exist peacefully.
Those fluorescent overhead lights in office buildings aren’t flattering, but everyone uses them for a reason: They get the job done in an energy-efficient (and less costly) manner. Using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in your desk lamp, which may be on many more hours than other light fixtures in your house, could cut energy usage by 75 percent, according to Energy Star.
One big difference between your house and a high-rise office lies in what you can’t see. An old house’s electrical system may not have been built for tablets and laptops and printers and scanners.
The folks at Energy Star (www.energystar.gov) have lots of suggestions for making your home office more energy efficient, including one easy fix: Seal holes around outlets with an inexpensive outlet gasket that you can purchase at a local hardware store.
A center power strip, for plugging in all those essential electronics, allows you to turn off everything at once at the end of the day, a one-switch solution that will also help you conserve electricity.
Window and floor coverings
Drapes, shades and blinds aren’t just pretty additions to a room. They can help prevent cold air from escaping in the summer and keep heat inside during the winter.
When buying curtains for your office, pay attention to the materials used to block light and air drafts so you can help your office reduce its heating and cooling needs. The same goes for floor coverings, according to Energy Star. Wall-to-wall carpeting and rugs will both aid your home in staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Forget the knickknacks. Want something that looks good on a desk and doesn’t take up a lot of space? Try a house plant. A little bit of greenery is a big boost to air quality because it will help purify the air. And unlike a fancy toy from Brookstone, a plant won’t get broken when your kids come in and co-opt the office computer to play Minecraft.