The main elements to address in any home office are:
- Efficient Equipment Layout
- Good Lighting
- Adequate Storage
- Sufficient Phone Service
The first 4 elements will be unique to your job, your home and your family, and it's difficult to generalize any hard and fast rules other than making sure you carefully consider each element.
But on the fifth item, Sufficient Phone Service, there is general agreement on what would be ideal for a working home office: three separate phone lines.
- 1 For Family Calls
- 1 For Business Calls
- 1 For Business Faxes
Of course, 3 separate lines gets a little pricey, but you can get a lot of service out of 1 or 2 lines by getting a flexible phone system like the one we installed.
We ended up bringing two phone lines into the house, but we wired phone service to 14 locations in the house, including 4 in the home office alone.
During the rough-in, we made sure to wire phone, electrical, coaxial and even fiber optic (for future use) cables to both the center of the office (for the desk phone and computer) and to the walls (for the fax and for a second office phone).
For convenience, we also ran wiring from the desk area, under the floor, and over to the wall to connect desk equipment (like the computer) to things resting on the counter along the wall (like the fax and printer)
Our Phone System
We felt comfortable going with two phone lines because of the flexible phone system we chose, one of several now available for home offices.
Each extension can be programmed from the main station in the office for a variety of features.
On the show for example, we programmed the fax machine to kick in only when we pick up a ringing line, hear the fax signal on the other end, dial in the fax extension and hang up. Then the fax machine takes over, receiving the incoming fax. That's one way to effectively share a line between voice and data.
The key is to get the most flexibility you can out of your phone system to get the most use of limited phone lines.
Taxes and the Home Offic
If you use your home office regularly and exclusively for business purposes (though there are severe restrictions), you may be entitled to a tax deduction for the business use of your home and depreciation of your equipment.
Your tax adviser or the Internal Revenue Service will provide the best counsel on whether you qualify, but there are several IRS publications that lay out the ground rules in this area:
Publication 529 (Miscellaneous Deductions: Home Office, Depreciation sections)
Publication 587 (Business Use of Your Home)
Here is a computer rendering of the plan we used to lay out the cabinets in the Home Office.