Psychology Today: Here To Help


A home based office sounds exciting. And yet, the rhythm of the traditional office based office is SO very different......

It is not uncommon for our clients to report feeling a sense of "unreality" as they prepare to work with their usual office equipment in this unusual setting.

Setting Up a Home Office

The ideal home office environment is a private room, away from the bedroom. The reality is that you may have to take over the guest room or a corner of the kitchen.

Here are some suggestions regarding the physical space of a home-based office.

Desk. Have a dedicated work space. Working on the kitchen table is acceptable, but it is hard to keep papers organized. Using the top of the guest room dresser is only a short term solution. Long term use of a bedroom dresser may create lower back problems. A desk is, after all, designed for people to be sitting and bending over slightly.

The least expensive way to get a desk is to purchase a pair of two drawer file metal cabinets at a discount stationary supply shop. Use a flat wooden panel the size of a door as the desk top. The panel can be purchased through home construction centers or large hardware stores.

Office Equipment. A level of noise acceptable for a regular office may be unacceptable if your home-based office is in operation at night near bedrooms.

Consider purchasing a silent keyboard for the PC instead of those that "click" when keys are depressed.

Do you still have a dot matrix printer? If so, consider an inexpensive desk jet.

The Red Fire Hat

The late Brandeis University psychologist, Abraham Maslow, told of his difficulty in getting quiet while trying to work in a home office. At the time, he had small children who would constantly interrupt him. One day, he purchased a fireman's hat. He told his children that when he was in his office with his fireman's hat on, it meant that he was working and didn't want to be disturbed. He wanted the children to pretend that he wasn't there.

The Fireman's Hat allows children to understand the need of adults to be alone without being made to feel rejected. When using the Fireman's Hat with young children, it is important that the hat not be used for other purposes. Multi-purpose uses can easily confuse children and adults.

Working To Time vs Working To Task

Work in a "regular" office environment is often characterized by short spurts of intense concentration punctuated by frequent interruptions. These interruptions include colleagues walking in, phone calls, etc. According to University of Southern California Professor Ian Mitroff, the average senior manager seldom has more than twenty minutes of uninterrupted time in an office environment.

In a home office environment such distractions are minimized. This minimal distraction allows for intense concentration. The downside is that one may concentrate unproductively. There is a law of diminishing returns where more time on a given task may not necessarily yield better results. Anyone who has tried to master a new software prograunderstandsds what we mean! Instead of working to "task completion," find your natural work rhythm and work to "time completion."