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Home Work

The line is very blurred these days between work and home. I would estimate that 90 percent of offices I organize are in private homes. I have clients who have the luxury of devoting an entire room to just office work, and others who have rooms that do double duty as dining rooms, guest rooms and bedrooms. No matter what style or size the space is, there are a few keys to making a home office function well.

A separate phone line for business is essential. You need to be able to disconnect, if possible, from work when office hours are over, especially if you have other relationships that need attention. Caller ID is a must-have, so that you can let non-urgent calls go straight to voicemail during after-hours and weekend time. Also, during work hours, you can ignore calls that are not work-related.

If you can, don’t set up your office in your bedroom. Business and sleep don’t mix well, and that goes double for finance and romance. A guest room is a better choice if you can’t designate an entire room as an office, but if you are making significant income from your work, consider not having a guest room. Allowing yourself a real office will enable you to take a tax deduction and will, more importantly, allow you to work to your full potential in the space.

The dining table is not a great place to work because it is too exposed to constant disruption and, if you use the table for meals, must be at least partially cleared several times a day.

If you work at home, a strong, fast and dependable wi-fi signal is crucial. I’ve been to the homes of some very frustrated people whose work gets constantly disrupted by poor signal strength.

Just because you work at home doesn’t mean you have to sit on a metal folding chair at a table that is too high or too low to be ergonomically correct. Invest in a real desk and desk chair that will support you in feeling your best.

Two people working from home rarely works. It is hard enough to share a work office with a colleague; sharing with your children or significant other is a recipe for disaster. Never share a desk, never share an inbox, and  never share a file system when it comes to your work.

Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. It is easy at home to get distracted by other chores, such as watering the garden or cleaning the kitchen, but try to stay at your desk during your work hours. Try not to stay in your pajamas all day either — if you dress somewhat more work-appropriate, you will tend to feel more like working.

Lastly, if things get hairy at home, have an exit strategy. You should be able to neatly pack up your key projects, a pen and tablet, your laptop, a cellphone and any chargers you might need and head to a wi-fi enabled coffee shop for some sane and caffeinated work time. Yo el Rey Roasting in Calistoga recently won “best wi-fi hot spot” in the North Bay Bohemian, and I’ve started meeting colleagues there as a change of pace. Find a favorite table somewhere and stake out a pop-up office.