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The home office
5 October 2011
Setting up a home office should be easy, right? I mean, I know how to work. I know what I need to work. I should know what should go into a home office, right? I thought I knew what I was doing until I scored a job that was 100% remote.
Until then, I'd only worked one day a week at home. It's possible to tolerate anything for one day a week. Would I last with this set-up five days a week, eight hours a day?
I googled, and came to the conclusion that people that write articles that are SEO'd for 'home office supplies' are idiots. Number one on their list? A computer.
No, really? How did you think I was going to work? Banging rocks together? Cuniform tablets? Smoke signals are most certainly low bandwidth!
After taking a few deep breaths, I moved my question to Twitter and G+, with much better results.
A standing desk
This seems to be spreading to everyone in the Python community, starting with patient zero, Jesse Noller. Every week, someone else converts. I've been poring over set-ups for months.
At the moment, I can't get one of the awesome Geek Desks, as I just got a desk which I adore. No reason I can't fake it, though. I have a slot ready, full of books, which will double as a makeshift standing desk.
This, sadly, isn't going to happen. For an office, I had two options: a small, dark room next to the laundry with no windows, or a nice open spot next to the den. I put the play room in the less favorable room, because if someone's getting shut in the dark, smelly place, it ain't me.
I may end up switching us, and I know that, as we look for a house, an office is a must. It's just not happening here.
A dedicated space
See above. This is going to be hard. What I think I'll have to do is banish all non-work stuff to other places in the house. This does mean I'll have to put off getting a tower, but it does mean that I can start to set up the mental boundaries that I'm going to need.
For the past ten years, I've worked in offices where, if your computer made any sort of sound, you were fair game for a keel-hauling. Speakers were paired with every desktop, but it was a joke. Turn them up, face dire consequences. As a result, I have spent a not-insignificant amount of money on headphones.
When Nick spoke, up I realized something. I... I don't need to wear headphones anymore. There's no one else to disturb!
I ended up buying a Bose Bluetooth Travel Speaker. Expensive, yes, but I've learned the hard way that cheap speakers eventually let you down. This thing pairs to my phone and sounds like a dream. And it travels! When momma's gone, no one gets tunes!
Good lighting is key, and happily, I have that in spades. We have tons of light in our den/office area. Natural light is scarce, but if I start to grow mushrooms, I can move to the kitchen, where we have tons of natural light.
How good is the light? Ten 100 watt bulbs in in a slightly large living room. Hell yeah!
Oh, yeah. I have shelving in spades, baby. I ended up getting the Expedit desk from Ikea, so I have sixteen cubbies for all my stuff.
This presented a problem, however, as I had to think about how to best use all my little cubbies. I realized that some of them, due to the desk, will be hard to reach, whereas others will be right next to me. I sat down, then determined which cubbies would be hardest to reach.
With that in mind, I planned at least a few of them, trying to put some actual thought into them.
As you can see, it's not done. I told you I had hella shelves.
A good chair
I ended up spending as much on my chair as I did on my desk. I strongly encourage going to a store and sitting on every chair until you find THE ONE. If they're out, don't take number two. Leave, go hit up another store.
One thing I've discovered over the years is that all desks are slightly too tall for me. Rather than pay more for a shorter desk, I've found putting a ottoman pillow under my desk made a huge difference.
I thought this was silly at first, but I realized that the kitchen was an invitation to distraction, and ages away when I'm in the middle of a meeting. Also, I could stock the mini-fridge only with things that are good for me, since the wicked snacks that lurk in the pantry are my downfall on many a homebound day.
Magnetic white board
This appeared on nary a list I found, which only confirmed their idiocy. I have a wall picked out already for a nice size white board.
Back when I was looking for a cheap white board, I found a neat hack: tile board. You can get HUGE sheets of it at Lowe's for $10-$12, and though it's not magnetic, being cheap certain counts for something.
I realized how important this was when I was doing paperwork for the new gig. No matter how modern the development lab is, HR is often left behind, doing many things by hand.
Happily, I had purchased an Epson All-in-One a few weeks ago. Was it after countless hours of research? ... No. It was an impulse buy at Target. I had the sudden urge to SCAN ALL THE THINGS. That said, the non-lizard part of my brain remembered that of all the printers out there, I love Epson the most, so this probably wasn't a totally crap decision.
Also, their inks are cheap, and you remember your ink type by remembering what picture is associated with your printer. That is genius.
A place to spread
I confess, I hadn't even thought about this. In an office, there's always a conference room open for you to spread out, if a certain stage of planning requires surface area. That's something I don't have here. Sure, I have tons of flat open space upstairs in the kitchen, but my family has the unfortunate habit of wanting to be fed now and then. I need that space open.
I found my ideal solution in a surprising space: Ikea's dining area. The Norden is perfect: attractive enough to sit out, but folds down to a narrow profile. It has storage (of which I can never have enough), and doesn't need to be moved to extend it out halfway. Of all the things I found while putting together my office, this was the prize.
A cable solution
I'm actually fortunate in this. My desk is facing the SO+'s desk, which is a mirror image of mine. The gap between the two is surpisingly good at cord management.
I am going to have to watch my charging area, though. I have a lot of gadgets that need to be plugged in, and I'm not crowding my computer's USB ports with them. To that end, one shelf is now a dedicated charging shelf, complete with its own power supply. One important thing I have to do is loop all my cords, then double-tie them. I also know now that I need more power slots than I thought I would need.
A place to stuff children
Ideally, when I'm working, the children will not be in the house. I have no desire to try working, day in, day out, with She Who Will Not Be Denied (the boy is less of an issue, since I can stick him in front of the XBox).
This doesn't mean that, on occassion, I might have to work with them around. Baby sitters get sick. Children get sick. Snow comes and screws everyone over. I need a plan for when they're around.
I have a play room for them (okay, okay, for the girl, who took it over pretty quickly), but that only works so long. What I need, I've decided, is a stash of excellent, forbidden toys that shall only come out when momma needs to get her code on. Things I'm adding to the pile: special DS games, paint, dry erase markers (to be used with some tile board of their own), a spare phone with cool games on it, and a cleaning rag.
Yeah. That last one is a threat.
A maid service
This last one, no one suggested, but I knew I would need. With one person being home all day, the house is going to get a lot more dirty. I won't be able to concentrate if I'm thinking about how we need to vacuum, dust, or scour the bathrooms.
Having someone come twice a month cost only a little more than my transportation to the old job, so I'm breaking even on this. Besides, would you work in an office where no one ever vacuumed, windexed, or cleaned the toilets?
Lazyweb really came through on this one. I think I'm on the way to a kickass home office.