It used to be incredibly unlikely for most American workers to perform their jobs out of their houses. A few might work from home on days where there’s an emergency, such as tending to a sick child. However, most of us got in a car or on a bus, and went into work. Like many things about modern labor in America, the location where we perform our work is changing. As of 2015, nearly 4 million Americans were working from home at least half the time. The home has changed from an office of last resort to one where many Americans spend most of their working hours. That means we have to put in some time and effort towards making our home office as productive and pleasant an environment as reasonably possible.
Do you have a comfortable, supportive office chair in which to sit while you type reports on your company laptop? If not, look into purchasing one. We might assume it’s perfectly fine to use the old plastic chair in the living room, or a rickety old wooden chair in the dining room. Those are OK temporarily, but they’re not great for the body long-term. Your neck and back need support. It’s also helpful to have a swivel chair that provides more freedom of movement as it works to correct your posture. A rolling swivel chair is even better, because that means you can move from your computer to the printer or fax machine without having to repeatedly get up and then sit down again. Make sure you have a sturdy desk, as well. You may feel fine working at your dining room table, but it’s not a great permanent solution. For one thing, you should feel different when seated and working than you do when you’re sitting down to a spaghetti dinner with the family. The ability to focus on your work is key.
Many at-home workers meet with employees in another office by using video conferencing. It saves people the trouble of having to drive to an office multiple times a week just for a one-hour meeting. Think about what your coworkers will see when you pop up on the screen for video conferencing. If there’s a pile of dirty dishes visible in the sink behind you, move your laptop to a different location. Ideally, all they’ll see behind you is a white wall, or maybe one of the colorful canvas prints you hung up there. Try to project a warm yet professional vibe.
If at all possible, create your own home office in a separate room with a door. The door gives you privacy, but it also makes it easier to claim a home office tax deduction. A door isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s an easy way to meet the exclusivity standard set by the IRS. That means your home office can’t double as a kid’s playroom or a guest bedroom. If all this sounds confusing, that’s because it is at least a little confusing. If you have the budget for it, look into hiring a tax accountant for your home business. That will ensure you’re doing everything by the book, and doing everything by the book is vital if you want to avoid getting audited.
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