In recent years, the workplace has been transformed by technology and the rise of the telecommuter. Many Americans are working primarily from home now, while others are taking advantage of corporate policies more amenable to telecommuting. The New Yorker recently cited a 60 percent increase in those who work from home, citing Aetna as one company where almost half the staff work outside the office.
The popularity of the home workplace begs two major concerns that anyone working from home must address. First, How do I create my ideal home office? Second, at what point in my day must I put on pants? How you choose to answer the first question can drastically transform the rest of your workday.
Your goal in designing a workspace will be to carve out a specific spot dedicated to work. It should be a nook comfortable enough to encourage you to stay put during work hours and focused enough to inspire productivity. Yet it’s equally important to consider the flip side of the equation: When it’s time for your home to revert to more traditionally domestic activities like entertaining and relaxing, you won’t want the nagging presence of the job to keep you from logging off.
When setting aside space for your home office, separation from the rest of the home is key. Unfortunately, extra rooms are a luxury many urban homes don’t provide. But Matthew Mercier, co-owner of the home-design retailer Vastu in Washington, D.C., says that walls and doors only begin to delineate space.
“A physical barrier is far from the only option for creating a sense of division among spaces,” says Mercier. Strategically placed floor coverings can be used to physically separate a work area from living space. Additionally, where work and living space meet, you can use other visual cues, such as a contrasting color palate, to create visual demarcation.
Important as it is to separate your work space, Mercier suggests moving past traditional ideas of what an office should look like. He suggests there’s “a world of options beyond the standard desk chair on casters.”
Classic Aeron office chairs work, but does one belong in your home? Buy the chair you want to sit in — and look at, he says. Make sure it reflects your personal style and how you prefer to work. That frees you to explore hundreds of textile options beyond the limited, institutional palate of traditional office chairs. Mercier suggests Knoll’s Saarinen Executive Open Back Chair as an example. Do you create your best work balanced on a fitness ball or walking at a treadmill desk? His takeaway is: Your home office doesn’t need to look like a corporation commandeered your home.Find LGBTQ-Friendly Resources
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While you can personalize your home office to your heart’s content, there are a set of rules you should follow. Those come from the IRS.
Jon Tucker, an accounting firm tax director, has solutions. First, the good news: home office furnishings may be deductible. If you’re a self-proprietor, he believes you may get more bang for your buck by gradually writing off the cost over the course of their prescribed lives (usually about seven years).
As for deducting the cost of the space itself, the rules have recently changed. Deductions used to be based solely on the percentage of your home that the office occupies (e.g., if it takes up 20 percent of your home, you could deduct 20 percent of your rent and utilities). Now, you can choose instead to simply deduct $5 per square foot of home workspace (often a money-saver).
For those not self-employed but simply working from home, things get fuzzier. For an office to be deductible, you need to be working at home at the convenience of your employer. That means the perk is your company’s more than your own. Furthermore, your workspace must be used exclusively for work. What does “exclusively” mean?
That’s between you and the IRS.
A Place for Everything
Another challenge to overcome is organization. In the wired world, home offices can become a tangle of cords. Mercier counters that accessories like wireless keyboards, speakers and printers will minimize your clutter.
What about going paperless? Tucker maintains that PDFs of important documents can be compactly stored on an external hard drive, eliminating file cabinets entirely.
Ultimately, the goal of the home office is to honor both concepts of “home” and “office.” Smart use of space and smart editing can create a productive business space that won’t be an eyesore (and will be tax deductible).
As for when to put on your pants? That’s entirely up to you.
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Last modified: May 28, 2019