Outfitting Your Office
Although you'll need business-specific furniture and shelving for retail and other operations, the basics will be very similar for all businesses, especially those that are office-centered. You'll need furniture, filing space, storage space, shelf space, and sitting space for at least yourself, if not your customers, too.
You may already have some of the furniture you need. If you're outfitting on a budget, however, check out used office furniture stores and classified newspaper ads for great bargains. But whether you're buying new or used, be sure to measure the space you have available inside the office, and the doorways and halls through which large pieces of furniture will have to be moved, before you head out shopping. That beautiful rolltop desk isn't going to do you any good if it won't fit through the office door. In fact, just to be sure, take your tape measure with you.
Even if you're on a budget, consider splurging on something for your office that you really love, like a piece of art or something that's going to be really useful (like an oversize desk). You'll be spending a lot of time in the office, so you need to make it a place that's both welcoming and functional.
Although it might sound frivolous, consider what will make you happy to spend the entire day in your office. Would a bird feeder outside your office window help? How about a comfy floor cushion for the dog, who might be your main company during the day while the kids are at school? Don't overlook these items, because they can add a great deal of enjoyment — and, therefore, motivation — to an ordinary day at the office.
Desks and Chairs
Whatever you choose for a desk, make sure that it's computer friendly. Desks can be high-end and very stylish, of course. Think about your needs: If you're an architect whose clients will be visiting, you need your office to reflect your style. This could include a matching set of cabinets or bookshelves to go with the desk or even a custom-made set of furniture.
At the other end of the scale, a door slab stretched between two pine bookcases might be enough to get you started or you could opt for a simple pressboard work surface that's available inexpensively at an office store. These come with holes in the backboard for the many connection cords to slip through as well as keyboard holders and monitor shelves.
You'll also need a comfortable office chair that suits your computer table or desk. Office supply stores keep many on hand — sit in them all and slide the chairs up to one of the display desks to ensure that you find it both sturdy and comfy. Be sure the seat fits, both from back to front and from the seat to the floor.
If you're buying a used office chair that's on wheels, ensure that it meets today's safety standards. Older chairs that have only four floor supports are vulnerable to tipping if you lean too far in them; you need at least five floor supports — look for the “star” pattern.
Buy the highest quality that you can afford. Your chair affects your posture and your back, so if you're uncomfortable, you'll not only be less productive, you might even be risking your health. Also assess whether you'll need chairs in your office for clients: Make sure the chairs are close to the same height as yours (to make conversation comfortable) and pleasant to sit in (unless you want to keep the meetings very short).
You'll likely need at least one, if not several, bookshelves in your office, if for nothing else than the raft of manuals that come with the electronic equipment you'll need. Maybe you have a few professional books that you like to have on hand, and you need a nice spot to stack that monthly trade journal.
Bookshelves range from the most basic pressboard styles to those that look more like pieces of furniture. A fairly expensive solution is to have built-in shelves installed — but keep in mind that once they're in place, they can't be moved, which might limit your flexibility as the office grows.
If you're going to have plenty of work, research, or client files, you'll need to start off with a substantial file cabinet. Consider what kind of documents you'll be storing, and choose either legal or letter size (or one that can accommodate either). A regular desk typically comes with at least one file drawer, which is ideal for those active files that you need within easy reach of your phone or computer, but you'll most likely need at least one filing cabinet for less urgent files.
Other Handy Items and Extra Supplies
After you've spent hours at your desk, a little change of scenery can help remotivate you. An easy chair where you can comfortably read a report or trade journal is ideal if you have the space. You might also want to invest in a small stereo, so that you can listen to music if that helps you work or feel connected to the outside world through news and talk shows. Choose one with a remote control so that you can turn down the volume when the phone rings.
Additional tables can be very useful if you work on projects that require spreading out and if you have room in your office for them. Sure, you could use the kitchen table, but you'll quickly tire of cleaning off your project papers whenever it's family mealtime. You'll also need space for equipment such as computer printers or fax machines.
While you don't want to rival your local office warehouse for extra office supplies, be sure to always have extra printer ink or toner cartridges on hand, as well as a good supply of paper. You also want good stock levels of any other office supply that's essential to the business — such as courier envelopes. But be sure that you can store these extra items where they won't be damaged by moisture or heat.