While there are certainly all sorts of factors and combinations to be considered, your choices really boil down to three main options. Do you have a home office that is separate from your main living area, an office that is integrated with your living area, or an office that is completely portable in nature?
The Case for a Separate Home Office
In a blog post that I wrote earlier this year on how to choose a home office location, I said that it should be distinctly separate from the rest of the home. This has several advantages.
First, it helps to create more of a mental boundary between the world of work and the personal world. There is an actual door. This way, you actually get more of a sense of being “away” from the office. Second, it helps with blocking out distractions, like kitchen noise and the TV in the living room. Third, it helps for tax purposes, as it more easily justifies the “work use of home” expenses.
This is my preferred form of a home office, but you could take it even further and move your office outside of the home altogether. That works better for some people, but it’s hardly a home office anymore.
Integrating the Office into the Home
Another option is to have an integrated home office. By this I mean that the office isn’t really a separate room from the rest of the house. Instead, it’s really just a part of it, the same way that your dining room is a part of your home.
You could have a desk situated in the corner of your bedroom, for instance, or it may be off to the side in the living room. In this way, your office is very much in the middle of the action. This can be both a blessing and a curse. For freelancers and other work from home professionals, this provides easier access to the kids and pets. You can keep an eye on them, quite unlike the separate home office.
However, this also means that you are generally more at the mercy of life’s distractions. It’s also harder to create that mental barrier between what is work and what is home.
The Office with No Fixed Address
Depending on your line of work, this could actually prove to be the most viable and most cost-effective solution: don’t have a real “home office” in the first place. Instead, create a mobile workstation that can be set up and taken down anywhere you happen to be.
A good notebook PC is at the heart of this, along with all the usual accessories that accompany it. By using a mobile office, you can set up on the kitchen counter in a pinch, just as much as you can use the living room couch or the coffee shop down the street. From Honduras to Hong Kong, you can get your work done.
The “home office” is a virtual one. While it may sound like this could create more work-life balance issues than it addresses, this configuration may be a great one for the right kind of person. And you can avoid some of the pitfalls of working from home too.
So, where do you find in this mix? If you work from home, is your office separate, integrated, or portable?