In setting up a new office, your first decision is where to put your desk. Computer equipment must be close enough to an electrical outlet that you don't need extension cords to plug in that equipment. Ideally, your computer should have its own electrical circuit to shield it from fluctuations caused by other electrical equipment going off and on. At the minimum, don't put the computer on the same electrical circuit as the air conditioner or heater. Also, your computer, monitor, printer, and even the phone line that goes into your modem must be plugged into a top-quality surge protector.

Another consideration is light. Don't place your monitor where light -- either natural or artificial -- will reflect off the screen. Unfortunately, this may rule out placing your desk right next to a sunny window, but your eyes will thank you. For artificial light, it's better to have several adjustable lamps rather than one bright overhead ceiling fixture.

Avoid putting your CPU on the floor under your desk -- it's too easy to bump into it with your foot which can jostle the hard drive. Put it in a more protected area. If your office air is very dry, or you generate static electricity by walking on your carpet, you may get a small shock when you first sit down at your keyboard. Unfortunately, your keyboard is getting shocked too. The solution is to place an anti-static rubber mat underneath the keyboard. You touch this before touching the keyboard to dissipate static charges safely.

Your Desk as Control Central

Now that you've decided where to put your desk, let's look at the details of desk configuration. A poorly designed desk area causes office clutter and wasted time. Ironically, the picture-perfect, minimalist offices you see depicted in magazines -- the sleek glass-top table with nothing on it but a laptop computer and no files anywhere to be seen -- are the worst clutter magnets. These office set-ups are designed to showcase the furniture. No functioning office can look like this -- at least not for long.

The key to working efficiently and avoiding clutter is to make effective use of your immediate desk area. Any space you can reach without getting up from your desk chair is prime real estate and should be used to the maximum.

The ideal desk shape is an L-shape or U-shape. Most modern desks don't contain the traditional "return" that can be pulled out on one side, but if you are stuck with a standard rectangular desk you can improvise: Put a smaller table to one side of your desk, or even a low file cabinet can do double duty as a work area. This gives you extra work space so you can spread out when you need.

The space above your desk is prime real estate too. Your desk should have either shelves above it or a hutch -- you need a place to put files currently in use, reference materials, and the supplies you use every day. This frees up enough desk space that you can put your printer at your desk, which will save you time.

Another space extender is a swivel shelf for the phone, which attaches to your desk and can be moved, up, down, left, and right. This keeps your phone handy without wasting valuable desk space.  If your desk lacks a pencil drawer, you'll need a desktop holder for pencils, stapler, paperclips, etc.

A good chair is one of your most important business tools. You need a wheeled chair of adjustable height with good lower-back support. Lastly an acrylic chair mat increases the maneuverability of your chair.

Filing & Storage

Obtain enough file cabinets to hold your papers. You should have at least one file drawer that you can reach without leaving your desk chair

-- it can either be under your desk or beside it. If you keep extensive old files saved for legal or historical reasons, save money and space by putting files in boxes and storing them in a closet, or in an off-site record storage facility.

Filing supplies -- purchase hanging folders to keep interior folders standing tall and permit them to slide easily in the drawer. Avoid legal size folders if possible -- they take up more space.

You'll need a place to keep supplies. A cabinet or credenza is ideal, but open shelves will suffice. Save time by keeping extras of everything on hand -- you don't want to run out of laser toner 30 minutes before that proposal is due! Keep your inventory of paper sealed and  dry -- many papers will curl and jam during printing if they're exposed to moisture during storage. Tape shut the half-empty paper package or even wrap in a plastic bag.

You need at least one book case, not only for books, but for trade publications and computer manuals.

Phone Lines and Peripherals

If you have broadband, you won't need a second phone line for internet access. But if you have a dial-up connection, you must have that second line -- you can't afford not to have one. Giving callers a busy signal when you're downloading your E-mail is unprofessional.

You definitely need a printer and probably a fax and scanner.   Fortunately, there are reasonably priced multi-function machines that will do black & white printing, make copies, send and receive faxes, and even scan documents. A multi-function machine is fine for most offices, if most of the copying and scanning you do is from loose sheets. But if you copy often from bound material, you need a flatbed copier.  Same goes for scanning -- if you want to scan things from books, the scanner in a multi-function machine won't work; you need a flatbed scanner.

Another drawback to a multi-function! machine is that if your fax goes down you're also lost your printer and copier and scanner. So there are advantages to buying these machines individually, and it's affordable because prices have dropped dramatically in the past few years. Ditto for color inkjet printers. They're affordable, and the output doesn't smear like their predecessors' did. Last but not least, in this age of identity theft, you need a paper shredder.



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