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Advice for work-at-home apartment dwellers October 6, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article by Robert Sberna last week in its Rentals/Classified section that was extremely informative for those of us who live in apartments and work from home – and perhaps those of you who do not. It discusses the importance of compartmentalizing living and work areas and how to handle distractions, which are two very important topics for any home-based worker. For expediency, I am going to paste it here in its entirety with contact information for the author, but kudos to the Plain Dealer for publishing it!

Advice for work-at-home apartment dwellers

By Robert Sberna
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Compartmentalizing living and work areas can improve productivity and efficiency

Not so many years ago, working from home was a benefit enjoyed mainly by those in entrepreneurial vocations such as freelance writing.

But today, home-based work opportunities, both full- and part-time, are open to a wide range of occupations. And the number of people working at home is expected to increase, driven by advances in digital technology, rising gas prices, and family-centered lifestyle choices.

If your apartment is currently doubling as your place of business, you’re aware of the conveniences and freedoms it offers. However, the most successful home-based workers understand that compartmentalizing their living area from their workspace is vital for productivity and time-management.

“By keeping the two spaces separate, it’s much easier to stay organized and uncluttered,” said JoEllen Salkin, a Solon-based professional organizer. “Compartmentalizing helps you to be the most efficient worker you can be. You can find documents and materials quickly, rather than wasting valuable work time looking for items.”

Ideally, a home office should be located in a dedicated space such as a spare bedroom, Salkin explained, noting that the use of a separate room offers privacy and makes it easier to take advantage of the home office tax deduction. For those who live in one-bedroom apartments however, space may be limited. In this case, a work area can be carved out of the living room by using furniture or even a decorative screen.

“There’s also a psychological reason for compartmentalizing,” said Salkin, who serves as president of the National Association of Professional Organizers’ North Coast Ohio chapter. “It all ties into keeping your business life separate from your home life. By separating your office area, you know when you’re at work. But when it’s time to stop working, you want to have the feeling that you’re leaving the office.”

Along with keeping your living and working spaces separate, Salkin said it’s important not to mingle your personal and business paperwork.

“For confidentiality reasons, you want to make sure that you keep client files in their own area,” she noted. “We also recommend investing in a fire-proof safe for storage of important documents.”

Check lease for any restrictions

Before launching a home-based business in your apartment, you’ll want to read your lease carefully. Rental agreements typically forbid tenants from using their apartments for any type of professional endeavor. However, many property managers won’t object to tenants working from their rental units as long as their business isn’t disruptive to their neighbors. To that end, it wouldn’t be a good idea to have a steady flow of clients visiting your apartment. And you don’t want to engage in an activity that involves loud noises or strong smells.

If you do plan on having the occasional client visit, professional organizer Muffy Kaesberg said you’ll want to keep your apartment clean and uncluttered.

“It’s very easy to get a small place messy in a short time, so you want to stay organized,” noted Kaesberg, a Cleveland Heights resident who co-owns Organizing 4 U. “Just remember that the client is forming an impression of you by the condition of your apartment. If you can’t keep your place neat and tidy, arrange to meet your clients in a coffee shop or restaurant.”

How to handle distractions

Those of us who work from home know that the television, Internet and refrigerator can be major distractions.

“If you’re having trouble managing your work time, use a timer to stay on track. Set the timer for a certain period, and when you finish, give yourself a reward of surfing the Internet for 15 minutes or getting a snack from the refrigerator. Or maybe you can check your e-mail. But it’s important that you finish your block of work before taking a break,” said Kaesberg.

Robert Sberna is a freelance writer who specializes in the real estate and finance sectors. He can be contacted at rchas@aol.com.



1. Genesis - October 8, 2008

Interesting. I live in a very tiny (less than 200 square feet) house with my husband and two toddlers. My office is currently a desk in my kitchen/living room and believe me, it`s distracting! I`m hoping to build a separate office soon.

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