Set a dedicated Space for work – its vital
Setting aside a specific place to work from when not in your office sounds easy – it is. It will add to your efficiency and your peace of mind – giving you somewhere to go each and every day that puts you in the ‘working zone’. This space means you will be less distracted by tasks around the home, and will ensure everything is in order and filed away appropriately.
One of the major benefits of a home office space is from a tax deduction viewpoint. You may be able to claim a tax deduction for home expenses such as a computer, phone or other electronic devices that you need in order to fulfil your employment duties. You may also be able to claim a deduction for running costs.
However, you will need to apportion the costs according to whether or not the equipment is used solely for work purposes or used some of the time for personal purposes. For instance if you only use the computer 50% of the time for work (that is earning your income) and then the other half of the time the children use it for completing homework tasks, then only 50% of the cost will be a deduction. It is a good idea to keep a diary of the use of your items, if they are used for both personal and work-related activities. This enables you to have records for the tax department if these are required.
A home office also requires furniture such as desks, chairs, filing cabinets and bookshelves, and lamps. Assets such as professional libraries and technical instruments, tools and protective clothing, may all be claimed as a deduction. The cost of the asset determines the deduction available. For instance if items cost $300 or less and do not form part of a set, then you are able to claim an immediate deduction for their cost. If items cost more than $300, or form part of a set which costs more than $300, then you are able to claim for their decline in value.
Insuring your assets, tools and equipment is also a deduction, and you can claim the cost of repairing items as well.
Other expenses that are able to be claimed are cleaning, heating, cooling and lighting. Work-related phone calls, whether on a mobile or home phone can be a deduction, and phone rental can be apportioned – if you can show that you are on call or you need to phone the office or clients while you are not in the workplace.
The records you need to keep are fairly straightforward. Keep receipts or other written evidence of your purchases. You will need receipts to claim depreciation on assets, also. Diary entries are the best idea for expenses less than $10 which do not have receipts – up to $200. Phone calls should also be diarised to indicate that they were work-related, otherwise an itemised phone account should differentiate between personal and work calls. A diary can assist you to work out, over a period of time, the amount of use you make of your equipment and home office and phone, which will give a representation to the tax office.
Ideas for the perfect home office
In the 21st century it seems we are all becoming “freelance” to some degree. Jobs are less 9-5 and more “all-the-time” with advent of technology that brings work into the home. Personally, I think working from home is a great idea and can really give you a great work life balance so read on as I look at the do’s and don’t’s of the home office.
Most people who work from home yearn for a minimalist, clear sanctum of tranquillity and productivity. While this is an admirable goal, the reality of many home offices is often quite different when you are juggling house work, kids and fido the dog impinging on your office space. The key is to clearly define your office space and protect it like your first born. Keep the space clear of household items, bills, clothes etc and make sure your desk is big enough to house all your gear easily.
If you spend a lot of time working from home, consider creating a separate office space that can be hidden when not in use. I have seen many ingenious solutions that use large sliding doors from manufactures such as Brio to hide large home offices from view. This is a great idea as the office can be integrated into the interior of the dwelling but at the end of the day, hidden completely so you can separate work and home time definitively. Brio makes high quality door hardware that can be customised to suit home office builds of all shapes and sizes in a range of styles to satisfy all tastes.
No matter what field, work can be stressful at times so calming yourself is quite important. If you can, try to position your home office so you have an outlook over nature, foliage or your garden. Natural light is really important to creating a feeling of well-being in humans, so be sure to maximise this in your office. Elevating your office in a loft or attic space can work really well to provide a clear separation between work and home, giving you the best chance of focusing and providing inspiration.
If you have the space and budget, why not move your whole office outside to a dedicated office space in the garden. There are many options from fully customised pods to off the shelf modular “sheds” that give you privacy and real walk to the office feel in the morning. Indeed the shed & office structure is really making a big resurgence of late as it fulfills both work and utilitarian functions for the space poor.
Make you home office eco friendly
We all know we should be reducing our footprint on the world and around the home. Consider your home office a great place to start with these ideas.
Lets start with your choice of desk. Do you really need to buy a brand new desk? Often a re-purposed dining table can add more character and style to your home office than a specific office table. Look around at second hand or antique stores and keep an eye out for tables online that may only need a little sanding and staining to give them a new lease of life. If you do decide to purchase new, choose sustainable timbers such as bamboo, beech or pine and steer clear of rainforest hardwoods that may less ethical sources.
Add some plants to your space to lift your mood, purify the air of chemicals and generally give a more welcoming vibe to your office. Better still, consider adding an outdoor area or access to a garden to your office if you can. This will involve a little more work, but the end result will well worth it as natural light and fresh air flooding in will help you work much more efficiently. Look for quality bifold doors such as those made by Brio to let you really enjoy the outdoors when weather permits. Installing an insect screen from Brio will also let you enjoy fresh air but keep those annoying insects at bay and keep you working without distractions.
Switching off electronic devices is key to reducing power consumption. You really need to switch the power off at the wall as most devices still use significant power when in standby mode. Reducing your e-waste should also be high on your agenda. In the developed world we create over fifty million tonnes of e-waste each year which is a staggering figure. To reduce your need for new products, look after your computer and devices. Keep them clean and up to date to ensure they last longer than the average of two years.
These days it’s pretty easy to go pretty much paperless in the office. There is really no excuse not to digitise your files, they are easier to find and creates no clutter. Next time you are about to print something, check if you really need to print it. Also consider cutting back on hardcopy editions of newspapers or journals and instead subscribe to the digital versions.