Home offices are hot—and they’re taking up more space than ever. Today, homeowners are incorporating office equipment into all sorts of places, such as kitchens, kids’ rooms and even the family room. In fact, there isn’t a single spot that can’t function as a home office when you’ve got a wireless networking system in place. From far-off areas like the patio, attic and garage, you can use your laptop to answer emails, surf the web and zip a memo off to the printer in the den. But no matter how convenient a wireless network may be, you’ll still probably want to dedicate a room for the rest of the office equipment. Before you start wheeling in a bunch of boxes though, consider how the room will be used. For example, depending on whether your home office will function as the headquarters of a full-fledged business or as a place for occasional telecommuting, you’ll certainly need to have a telephone system as well as a robust networking setup. On the other hand, if you envision your home office as a spot for the entire family to use, a blend of businesslike systems and casual entertainment components is probably the way to go.
Setting Up Shop
Efficiency and productivity in a home office all boils down to the wire behind the walls. Start building your office by hiring a home systems installer to put in high-speed Ethernet wiring. If your home is already built, expect that holes will need to be drilled into the walls, ceiling and floor. Knowing where you’ll be putting the desk, computer and other equipment will help minimize the amount of drilling that needs to be done. Based on the layout, the installer will mount Ethernet jacks to the walls.
If you plan ahead, the same wire that networks your office equipment can be used for a corporate-style multiline telephone system. Incoming business calls can go directly to the office lines, while incoming personal calls can be directed to the phones in other rooms.
Finally, if your office will share the home’s furnace and air conditioner, stereo and security systems, consider having a home control system installed. From a keypad, a computer or even your PDA, you’ll be able to adjust the temperature, unlock the back door for a delivery person and have music piped to a pair of bookshelf speakers.
Fun for the Family
If your home office will be used for serious business or on a part-time basis, try to incorporate other types of systems to get more use out of the room. For instance, with the addition of a TV and surround-sound system, the home office could also function as a home theater. Look for low-profile electronics like a flat-panel LCD or plasma TV and built-in speakers that won’t interfere with the office environment. A computer screen, along with a nice set of speakers, can be used to watch movies. You can also give your office TV its own DVD player or ask your installer to network the player in your family room to the office TV. The latter solution will save space but may cost more to implement.
Finally, if your home office has windows, consider covering them with electric shades. The small motors that move the shades up and down can be controlled via a remote. In an instant, you can darken the room for a movie or kill the computer glare caused by sunlight.
As many homeowners have discovered, the hard drive of a computer is a great place to store music, digital photos and videos. However, a computer is not usually the best place to watch and listen to your favorite media. With the addition of a media adapter (or server), you can transfer entertainment files to the stereo and TV in your office—or anywhere else in the home. What’s more, you can finally organize your media so it’s easy to find and enjoy. Just be sure you finish your work first!
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.