How to Organize an Office That is Functional and Effective

Until I started working from home, I hadn't given much thought to how to organize an office .... and until then, I didn't realize how important it was.

It didn't hit me until I was spending so much time looking for things instead of working and I wasn't getting as much done as I usually did.

The reason? I just wasn't organized. I was working on the dining room table, having to pack things away every night and I had nowhere to store things.

I had to do something about it. I learned very quickly how to organize an office and I realised that it wasn't all that complicated. But the impact on my productivity (and my frame of mind) was fantastic.

These are the things I did ... I hope they'll help you too.

Dedicated Workspace

Obviously if you have a spare room that you can devote to your business that's great. But most of us don't have that luxury. I certainly didn't

... so I "set up shop" in one of our bedrooms ... with one difference ... my "office" fits on one wall.

It actually works very well as it is compact and functional. I have everything at my fingertips which means I am organized.

And most importantly, I'm less stressed because I can focus on the doing rather than searching for things.

How To Organize An Office - Basic Start Up Kit

Once you've defined your work area, you need to "furnish and equip it". I'm only using those words loosely. I definitely do not mean that you go out to buy anything fancy.

Try to use things that you already have around the house.

Starting an online business from home can be done very, very economically.

This is what I call my basic start up kit:

  1. Desk
  2. You need a decent size desk (or table for that matter) which will comfortably house your computer, printer and a few odds and ends.

    Make sure that the desk is the right height. If not it could cause all sorts of back problems.

  3. Chair
  4. A typist chair (on wheels) with a back and no arms is best. Make sure that it is ergonomically sound as you will be using it every day.

    I strongly suggest you get one of those plastic mats to put under your chair which protects your carpet from wear and tear and makes it easier to roll back your chair.

  5. Computer
  6. Tip #3 for how to organize an office: you need a decent computer.

    The choice of computer ie laptop vs desktop is entirely up to you and should be based on your specific needs. The same applies for whether you choose a Mac or PC.

    These are all based on personal preference, need and your budget. Remember you don't need a Rolls Royce.

    If you are buying a new computer, I strongly recommend that you jot down what you are going to use your computer for, before you start looking around.

    Go with a shopping list! Don't let the sales person blind-side you and don't assume that the computer has everything you're looking for.

    When I bought my last laptop I assumed it had a memory card reader and CD/DVD reader and writer. Was I wrong! So now I'm stuck with external devices which are inconvenient, cumbersome and cost me more additional money.

    If you don't have an understanding of the technical side of a computer, don't be afraid to seek advice from someone who really knows.

  7. Internet Connection
  8. You don't want to sit around waiting to download information, so a high speed connection is very important.

    This is not something that you want to scrimp and save on as time means money and the longer it takes for you to do the job, the more it'll cost you.

  9. Backup
  10. Probably the most important tip I have on how to organize an office is about your backup.

    Make sure you have adequate
    computer backup.

    Although your business may be online there's still tons of stuff you'll be saving on to your computer's hard drive.

    There's nothing worse than losing everything when your computer crashes ... and believe you me, this does happen and it will!

    Backing up at the end of every day is probably the safest way to go.

  11. Printer
  12. I found that I definitely need a printer but I don't need a very large one. My printer sits on the corner of my desk and also photocopies and scans which is very convenient.

    Some people still use a fax but they are very few and far between.

  13. Four Drawer Unit
  14. A four drawer unit to store stationery etc is a real must and will make your life much easier. Make sure that it fits under your desk.

    It can be located on either your right or your left - your personal preference - as long as it's in easy reach when you need something.

  15. Shelving
  16. Three shelves on the wall above the desk is more than adequate especially in the beginning.

    Make sure that they are very sturdy as files weigh a lot. If they're not strong enough the shelf will buckle or the brackets will come away from the way ... something you definitely don't need!

  17. Safety
  18. I wouldn't be doing you any good if I'm talking to you about how to organize an office if I didn't mention safety.

    Just because you're working from home doesn't mean that this can and should be ignored. Occupational health and safety is just as important at home as it is in the workplace.

    Check your local government's website if you're not sure what to do.

  19. Files
  20. There are two different kinds of files that you'd require: lever arch files that you use for general filing and more long term documents and manila folders where to store documents that you use on a day-to-day basis.

    It is best to also keep these on your desk and in easy reach. You want to avoid having to move from your chair to get anything.,

    If you label the folders you'll be able to find things at a glance. I also colour code my files to make it easier.

  21. Wire Rack
  22. Wire racks are very useful. They house manilla folders in a vertical position. Best to have this on your desk as well.
  23. Phone
  24. Don't forget the almighty phone! Here again, depending on your circumstances, you may choose a land line or a cell phone or both.

    Whatever you choose is up to you but remember, you don't need to install a telephone line in the room you're using as your office.

    Just get a hands-free phone and put it on your desk. They're great and will give you lots of flexibility at no extra cost.

  25. Stationery
  26. You don't need much here: some pens, pens, a punch, stapler and basic stationery (notebook, printer paper etc).
  27. Shredder and Trash Can
  28. My last tip on how to organize an office is to buy a shredder and a trash can.

    Both should fit under your desk. You can get very reasonable shredders these days and it doesn't have to be too big.

    Having said that if you'r not getting rid of confidential documents, you may not need one. I do find, however, that having a shredder is really good even if you're only getting rid of personal information.

    What with so much identity theft these days, it's better safe than sorry. However, this is entirely up to you.

So there you have my tips on how to organize an office. I hope they have given you a few pointers and that you find them useful.

Let me know how you go. And if you have any tips you'd like to share, please do so by going to my contact me page. I'd love to hear from you.