Sunday, June 18, 2000

Home office

'One-room commute' has its pleasures

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

        The other day I came home from work — for the first time in 14 years.

        Since 1986, I've run my businesses from home. I started a consulting practice, built and sold one Internet company, and founded a publishing company. But I never had more than what I jokingly called my “one-room commute.”

        Until now. Even though I bought this house with sufficient rooms for me and my assistant to have separate offices, employees of my new Internet company soon filled the kitchen and dining room and took my desk every time I left for a meeting. It was time to move on.

        But I leave home with some regret. Running a business from home has its challenges, but it has its pleasures as well. You get the advantage of a truly integrated life, save time commuting, and get more flexibility in dealing with family obligations.

Set it up right
        The key is to set up a home office right. I've learned many tricks on how to run a great home office, so let me share some with you:

        • Sufficient space: At the very minimum, have a desk or table used only for work. You don't necessarily need a separate room — I worked for years in just a section of my living room. If you have to share space, though, find a place without too many distractions.

        • Phones: Once your toddler answers a call from your most important client, you'll see the necessity of a separate line for incoming business calls. If you want to be listed in the Yellow Pages or “Business” section of the phone book, most local phone companies require you to have a “business” line.

        To save money, use your residential line for outgoing calls. And buy a good, multiline phone from an office supply store, one where you can put callers on hold and conduct conference calls.

        • Fast Internet connection: If being on the Internet is important to your business (and if it isn't yet, it will be soon), I strongly recommend getting a fast Internet connection, either DSL or cable modem. This enables you to be on the Internet continually without tying up a phone line.

        • Lighting: In addition to overhead and indirect lighting, get a task light for your desk. Don't put your computer monitor directly in front of a window (you'll squint all day). Watch for glare from other windows.

        • Temperature: This is more than just a matter of personal comfort. If you have equipment in your office, you need a stable and moderate temperature. I crashed a hard drive because my office was in a room that got very cold at night and condensation formed on the drive.

        • Storage: You're going to accumulate stuff — a lot of stuff. You need some place to put it. Buy an office-type storage cabinet or put shelves up in a closet.

        As of last month, I now leave home to go to work. But I couldn't stand to commute, so I rented an office just a nine-block walk from home.

        Rhonda Abrams is the author of Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom. To get free business tips, register at or write her at 555 Bryant St., No. 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.


'Plastic' holders could get new clout
Old, new economies reflected in father, son
AK Steel stokes Middletown economy
Kmart setting pace for online shopping
Dot-coms under pressure with no money, employees
- Home office
Publishers putting Ohio into print
Virtual reality new way to learn
What's the Buzz?