Genealogy: Organizing your home workspace for productive genealogy

Genealogy: Organizing your home workspace for productive genealogyBy Barry J. Ewell

The foundation of your home office is your work space.  This is your desk, chair, and functionality of being able to work comfortably with paper, computer, etc., in doing your research and other tasks.  The following are a few basics to remember.

  • Do try to arrange your space in an L-shape or triangle, with a swivel-style desk chair in the middle of the configuration. With a spin of your seat or a slight roll backward or to the side, all essentials are within arm’s reach. 
  • Don’t skimp on comfort, especially when it comes to your desk chair. Choose one with a cushioned seat and back, adjustable height so your feet are flat on the floor, a back that tilts and curves, and wheels on the bottom to get around easily.   Be sure to consider comfort and ergonomics. Applying ergonomics in your home office can spell the difference between working healthy, productively, and safely, while helping you avoid repetitive stress injury.
    • If you write often on your dining table, the constant bending may affect your back. If you are sitting down in front of the computer for long periods of time, working with a rigid, nonadjustable, or “executive” type chair can lead to physical complaints. The forces and pressures challenging your body’s health from using a computer demand an appropriate ergonomic chair.
    • The wrong desk and chair can make you susceptible to ergonomic disorders such as backache, headaches, eyestrain and other irritations and inconveniences. Fatigue, loss of concentration, and irritability can also be attributed to the use of the wrong furniture.
  • Do group equipment and furnishings into different centers of operation. These might include your computer, phone/fax, mail handling area, and worktable.
  • Don’t be stingy about storage space and lighting. Put in as many cabinets,cubbies, and shelves as you can without crowding your workspace. Illuminate individual work areas with their own direct lights.
    • In buying lighting, match the type to task. Ambient lighting, which lights up the room, should be uniform and moderately bright. You may also want to have overhead lighting and floor lamps. Also keep the room from getting stuffy by providing the proper ventilation to room. Choose a space with windows that you can open to keep air circulating.
  • Do plan with portability in mind. Cordless phones and laptops allow you to move your work close to your children, if necessary. Other portable conveniences are furniture on casters, baskets that can quickly be repositioned when needed, and a rolling cart to easily transport files and correspondence so you can work in the kitchen, family room, or even outside for an hour or so.
  • Don’t set up your office where it should be; put it where you want it to be.  Yourofficeshouldfirst and foremost be a place thatyouliketo be,whereyoucan be inspired to work and be your creative best.  You may have a spare room in yourhouseforyour office in the basement; but your allergies to molds may prevent you from staying andworkinginyour office. The space underthestairsmay be a good spotforyour office, but it does not have enough electrical sockets to support all your electronic equipment. The spare bedroom may have a good view outside, but the room is too small to accommodate all your files and materials.Yourspacemay be too cramped in the little nook so that your cabinets couldn’t be opened because the printer table blocks it.
    • Set-up shop away from the busy areas in your home. Make sure your home office is as far as possible from potential distractions such as the kitchen, front door, family traffic and a lot of noise. This is especially important if you have children and will have child care in the house during the day. If you can see or hear your children and they can see you, it will be difficult for both you and your kids.
    • If the room that you want is not ideal to your needs, make the necessary changes based on your wants and needs as you’ll be spending a lot of time there. Go to the hardware or office supply store and check if they have the right storage system for you. You can also hire a carpenter to build in a desk and bookshelves to accommodate an unusually shaped room. The home office market has grown enough to make the furniture solutions much more interesting than they were even five years ago.
  • Do personalize the room.  Hang up children’s drawings and other favorite artwork, propping family photos on the desk.   Paint the walls your favorite color, including a knickknack or two, and adding other special touches. These not only make for a cozier space, they can help reduce stress.
  • Don’t do everything at once if money and/or time are tight. Start with the bare-bones basics, adding on when you can afford more. You may even consider hiring a professional designer to help you make improvements. Most charge between $75 and $150 an hour for a consultation, and it would not take long to toss around some design ideas.
  • Project 25 percent more space than you currently require, especially if you’re remodeling your home to accommodate an office or buying a new house with work-at-home potential.
  • Organize your supplies. Similar to a corporate environment, you need to arrange your supplies in a way that promotes efficiency. You need not lift two stacks of bond paper just to get to your business stationery located at the furthermost end of your cabinet. Hide supplies that you do not need everyday such as extra rolls of tape and piles of bond paper; but keep within reach a small cache of supplies at your desk or near enough that you can reach them. Stack extra supplies under your desk, out of kicking range. If space permits, keep extra supplies in a cabinet or cupboard. If it makes you more comfortable and efficient, consider hanging the phone on the wall near your desk to help free some desk space.
  • Limit the things in your home office to items that you need for your work, research, etc. Clear out all of the old clutter in your home office area. If you set-up your home office in your attic, make sure that you have enough room for all your requirements. It is difficult to work in a place filled with stuffs irrelevant to your business. However, if you cannot remove these things from the room, make sure that you move them out of your vision. Create visual and psychological separation by enclosing the area with a screen or a decorative barrier could be a way to address this problem. Tidiness of the office environment can help improve your productivity.
  • Generate a list of the minimum furniture you require to avoid buying things that you do not need. Space, for one, is a problem for most home offices. Oftentimes, you willneedtofurnishyour office vertically to maximize every squareinchofyour office.  Buy furniture for its functionality, not for image. If furnitureisnotappropriate for the way your people work, it becomes impractical.    The following is an example of some of the items to consider as part of your home office:
    • Your desk: Generally, the bigger the better, with lots of room for a computer monitor, keyboard, and telephone, and plenty of space to spread out your work.
    • Your chair: Although you may be able to get by with used desks and shelves, second-hand file cabinets, and cheap tables, do purchase a new, high-quality chair. Chair padding breaks down over time, so avoid buying a used work chair.
    • File cabinets: To keep your home office organized, you need lots of filing cabinets for all the paper you generate. File your paperwork early, and file it often!
    • Bookshelves: Bookshelves are a great way to store all kinds of work materials — not just books.
    • Work tables: If you have the space, a work table or two can provide a much-needed work area for those times when your desk just isn’t big enough to accommodate a project.
    • Storage: Closets, garages, attics, and the like all make great places to store or archive your product inventory, paperwork, or other work-related materials. Don’t forget: You can write storage space off of your taxes, too, if you take the home-office deduction.
    • Lots of office supplies! Stock up for several months’ worth of supplies at a time if you have the space. Or stock items on a just-in-time basis by ordering via the Internet or by phone.
    •  Computers. Choose a computer that will support the software you use for genealogy.
    • Printer and scanner: Printers come in two main flavors: laser printers to print text and color ink-jet printers for graphics and photos. You may want a scanner to input photos or graphics.
    • Internet access:   The Internet is where you (and your business) need to be. Here are four popular ways to connect to the Internet.

Related posts

Join Genealogy by Barry Newsletter