What Should You Consider When Setting Up a Dedicated Home Office?

Whether you're transitioning from an in-office to telecommuting position with your current employer or waving goodbye to the rat race to pursue a work-from-home opportunity, you may be wondering about the best way to set up your new home office. Having a dedicated work space can be crucial, not only for your business planning and productivity but also for your ability to deduct certain work-related expenses on your federal income taxes. However, for those not blessed with hundreds of square feet of unused floor space, this process can be a challenge. You may even need to perform some minor renovations in order to carve out a private and work-friendly space. Read on to learn more about the best space-saving options for your home office as well as what you'll want to consider when setting up and outfitting a dedicated home workspace.

What factors will you want to consider when designing your home office?

In order to be eligible for the various home-office deductions available and gain a private workspace where you can concentrate on the task at hand, you'll want to take some concrete steps when designing your home office and even remodeling your house to accommodate your work needs.

The first is to establish a dedicated space. If you tend to do your work on the couch or on a cleared-off corner of the kitchen table, you'll have trouble deducting a proportional share of your mortgage, utilities, and other housing expenses due to the "mixed use" of your office area. If you're not able to cordon off an entire bedroom, you'll at least want a devoted area in your bedroom, in your living room, or even in the space under the stairs that is used only for work purposes. If you have a large walk-in closet and are willing to give up some of your shelving space, you may be able to inexpensively build out part of your closet into a separate room, complete with electrical outlets, light fixtures, and even a coaxial cable connection for your Internet. 

If natural light is a necessity for your workspace, and you live in a part of the country with temperate weather for much of the year, you may want to consider whether building an outdoor room would be a good option. These rooms can often be incorporated onto existing decks or patios and are easily heated or cooled with a small space heater or portable air conditioner. Because they're completely shielded from the elements with glass or plexiglass windows and solid wooden framing, you won't need to worry about keeping your electronics or important papers dry, and such rooms can be locked and secured just as easily as the rest of your home. 

What space-saving options will give you the most bang for your buck? 

When shopping for home-office furniture, especially for a smaller space, it's important to avoid "single taskers"—furniture or accessories that are able to perform only one function. Hidden storage compartments beneath your desk may become your new secret weapons, allowing you to put papers and other important work out of reach of pets and children without wasting valuable floor space on standalone filing cabinets. You'll also want to take advantage of your vertical space by installing shelves or cubbies over your working space, helping you keep certain items close while still placing them out of your immediate reach. 

Depending upon the confidentiality of the work you're doing, you may also want to consider hooks or bulletin boards that will allow you to clip and display important papers rather than leave them piled on your desk. A portable bulletin board with clip can be a great way to stay organized when sorting through dozens of different documents with non-numbered pages at once, and switching from a bulky desktop computer to a laptop with a docking port and separate screens can remove much of the weight and size of your computer without compromising its function.

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