By Kim Delmar Cory
Published in the Detroit Free Press Magazine 1995
Behold the home office, lauded as the wave of our future. Seers say that, except for those involved in the service industry, everyone will work from home by the year 2000—a scant five years away.
What a concept.
“But wait,” you say. “What if I don’t have room for a home office? What if my house is too small for such an arrangement?”
It’s easy. We have two home offices in our 1300-square-foot house. Just follow these tips, and, you too, will be able to enjoy the closeness and sense of family a home office can provide.
First, you need workspace. Just look around you.
Perhaps you thought that elegant oak dining-room set would lend itself to cozy family meals, gentle conversation and the sharing of ideas and ideals.
It can be much more productive than that. In a few days, we converted ours to a workspace that would make any CEO jealous. What it lacks in drawer space it more than makes up for in sheer surface area. I’d much rather reach for a pile of papers than rummage through a drawer that might stick or accidentally crush my fingers.
A dining table is stronger than you ever imagined. Instead of a Thanksgiving dinner for eight with all the trimmings, it can hold a plastic file cabinet, reams of monthly reports, two heavy brown notebooks, a briefcase weighing about three pounds and an assortment of writing utensils.
And don’t forget the telephone, with the cord tastefully crossing from the corner utility table across a busy hallway to the middle of your workspace.
For our second office, we became even more creative in using available space. (No, it’s not our bedroom. The available space there is taken up by dirty laundry surrounding an empty clothes hamper.)
We looked around the house and —aha! We found three feet of neglected space between our piano and our floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcase. All that stood there was a small table with a plant and several framed pictures. Now standing there is a 2 ½ foot garage sale desk ($10) with paper, folders, files, a plant, and several framed pictures. Across from it stands another tiny desk holding a computer and a printer snuggled next to each other. Voila! Home office No. 2!
“But,” you ask, “what about the $300 desk sitting in the basement?” I know you figured that would be your office away from the office down there. But admit it: The basement is too cold in the winter and too damp in the summer to become an actual workspace. Besides, you feel too much like you’re in an office down there. As its name suggests, a home office should be in the home—the center of the home. You’d feel left out in the basement, far from the hubbub of home life. Plan on main-floor workspace and your family will be with you at all times.
Which brings me to this tip—your new mantra. Repeat after me: “I am working here. I am working here. I am working here.” Maybe someday they will believe you—‘they’ being any family members desiring food, clean clothing, travel arrangements and/or counseling services.
Phone companies advertise having your own business line in your home. Worth every penny, they say. Maybe if they are paying for it. So, instead, you opt for call-waiting on your regular line. That way, as the commercials show, even those emergency calls can get through to you in the nick of time. But those commercials fail to point out the 11-year-old girls calling five times in the 30 minutes you have to do two interviews before a deadline.
Another prime office element is, of course, storage space. Tall urban buildings offer plenty of it. But so do short suburban houses. Closets, drawers and cupboards senselessly filled with clothing, kitchen utensils and food items could be put to much better use. And you’ll find that you eliminate the need to do laundry or wash dishes as well—there’s no place to put that stuff!
And beds—especially queen or king-sized beds—offer acres of storage space, above and below. Bathtubs and shower stalls stand empty for most of the day; fill ‘em up! Check out the kids’ rooms: bookshelves, toy boxes, dollhouses. And laundry baskets—surely Rubbermaid had the home office in mind with it designed such sturdy, ways to carry containers.
Office storage space is everywhere, if you are creative enough to find it.
Which brings me to my final, and most important point. Once you’ve got your home office(s) up and running, you’ll find you have more office than home at home. Which means you’ll have less home but more office to clean. And whoever heard of office workers cleaning their own offices? So you’ll need to hire an office cleaning service, which means you won’t have to clean your home.
Now that’s what I call progress.