An increasing number of workers in the United States are telecommuting, ranging from those who are self-employed entrepreneurs to those employed by companies that permit, endorse, or even require telecommuting.
Telecommuting advantages are numerous. Remote workers don’t have a long commute to the office (no commute at all, actually), which allows them to get to work quickly and easily. When they arrive, they won’t get distracted by water cooler gossip, and they can work with the sniffles without infecting anyone else. Because they don’t need to drive to work, they use less gas, which helps the environment and is a money saver.
This arrangement can work well across generations. Millennials have been called the driving force behind telecommuting, but it’s an ideal arrangement for older workers who need more flexibility in their schedules but aren’t yet ready to retire.
Overall, remote workers can focus on the job at hand in a quiet space, set up in a way that allows them to be as productive as possible.
Simple Home Office Room Ideas
Here’s the beauty of telecommuting: home office organization can be arranged according to your needs and preferences. While your coworkers have to deal with the noisy plight of open-office floor plans, you have the flexibility to organize your home workspace in a way that suits you.
Start by choosing the best room in your home for your office. Options range from transforming a spare bedroom to using a section of the basement—some even construct a separate outbuilding. What about an attic remodel to create private office space that’s separate from the rest of your house? You can even add your own office bathroom.
After you’ve decided where you’ll put your office, determine the big-picture layout. You’ll want to include a desk, for sure. How about a couch? A physical board where you can post calendars and documents? Built-in cabinets? If you will regularly (or even occasionally) have clients come to your home office, where will they sit? What will make them feel comfortable?
Strategically determine how and where to place lighting. “Poor lighting,” notes an article in The Spruce , “can reduce your energy, dampen morale, produce eyestrain and headaches, and ultimately impair your ability to work effectively.” This isn’t an area where it makes sense to skimp, so ensure you’re getting enough light in a way that doesn’t produce glare. The article notes how natural light adds unique benefits. How would adding extra windows—or even a skylight—transform your home office?
Heating and cooling is crucial, because you need to be comfortable to work at your best. And again, if you will be seeing clients there, even sporadically, appropriate heating and cooling is doubly important.
Since you’re going to be spending a good portion of your day in your office, you’ll want to make it look attractive. Should you wallpaper? Or paint and add eye-catching borders? Install plush carpeting or hardwood flooring? Add hardwood cabinets that are functional and beautiful? What pictures would add just the right finishing touches?
Making Your Home Office Comfortable
Ergonomic design can help to prevent stress and strain, and this includes how and where you put your computer, printer, keyboard, mouse and any other equipment you’ll have around your office and on your desk. The Mayo Clinic offers ergonomic office room ideas, including ensuring there is clearance room for your knees beneath your desk. If the desk is too low and you can’t adjust its height, put sturdy blocks beneath the desk legs. Too high? Raise your chair. You can even pad any hard edges on your desk.
The Mayo Clinic also advises readers to keep your mouse within easy reach, on the same surface as your keyboard. Adjust mouse sensitivity so only a light touch is needed. Don’t forget to find the perfect desk chair. Make sure the chair you select offers the support you might need, feels comfortable, and comes with a decent warranty.
Cost of a New Home Office Setup
How much will your new office cost? It depends on a few factors, including the square footage of the space, whether you’ll need to add a new wall to create dedicated office space, whether your wiring is sufficient for the added lighting and equipment, whether your heating and cooling system in your home is sufficient, and so forth.
An article on HomeStratosphere.com offers some general guidance on what you might expect to pay. Here are a few of their 2018 pricing estimates:
• New wall and accompanying insulation: $1,500
• Single room rewiring cost: $1,400
• $2 to $5 per square foot for carpeting
• $3 to $18 per square foot for hardwood flooring
• Skylight: $2,500
• New fireplace: $,3000
Homeadvisor.com points out how the “success of modern home offices, especially in high-tech industries, depends on your electronic devices.” And, really, how many jobs today don’t rely to some degree on electronic devices? Very few.
In fact, one of the technologies that makes telecommuting possible is videoconferencing. So a fast and effective computer network is typically at the heart of today’s home offices. HomeAdvisor.com shares that the national average for installing this network in a home office is $370.
Installing new phone jacks and associated wiring costs, on average: $164. This site also points out the value of having built-in bookshelves to give your home office a touch of sophistication. For that, figure a potential cost of about $2,293 .
Understanding the Home Office Tax Write Off
First and foremost, you’ll want to talk to your accountant before taking advantage of any home office deductions. In advance of meeting with your accountant, you can find some information about home office write offs at MileIQ.com , including possible ways you might be eligible to deduct a portion of your mortgage payment or rent for some renovations, along with other home-related expenses.
MileIQ explains that your home office needs to be a dedicated workspace—separate from your bedroom and living space—and used exclusively for business purposes to potentially qualify for a home office tax write off.
If you’re interested in deducting home office expenses, it’s important that you keep detailed records, including how much mortgage (or rent) you pay for your home office. (If you do rent, you may want to have a copy of your lease handy when you go see your accountant.)
Also, it’s probably a good idea to keep proof of any property tax amounts you’ve paid, along with your utility payment costs, relevant insurance payments, and any other expenses that may play a role in your home office deductions.
And you can always go to the source and see what the IRS has to say about home office deductions for the current tax year.
Funding Your Home Office Setup
If you don’t have savings to invest in a setup right away, a personal loan can be a great way to fund home renovations for an office space. If one qualifies, personal loans can be used to renovate and create a new office in your home.
If you qualify for a low interest personal loan, it could be a much more attractive option than using high-interest credit cards to fund your home office setup (or continuing to pay bills and manage your finances from your couch).
Plus, when you take out a personal loan, your home is not used as collateral—unlike a home equity line of credit. Because a personal loan is not a lien on your home, you also can get the funds in a lump sum and pay your contractors as various aspects of your home renovation are completed.
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SoFi does not render tax or legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and we recommend that you consult with a qualified tax advisor for your specific needs.