Setting up your home office when you work from home is very important. It will help you stay organized, keep you on track, and generally make you more productive. When I first started working from home, I kept everything in a collection of notebooks, and worked in my easy chair. While it's comfortable to be able to do so, it's advisable to have either an area of a room or an entirely separate room that is designated as your work space.
So what do you need in your work area? Obviously, this will depend on the type of work that you do. Some work at home moms may have need of special office equipment, while others will be able to make due with just a phone and computer. Generally speaking, though, there are a number of items that every home office should have.
First of all, you'll need a desk of some kind. If you don't have an actual computer desk, just use a table or some available counter space. This should be where you actually sit while you're working. Be sure you have room for you to write, store your records, and that you have a healthy supply of paper and pens or pencils.
Secondly, make sure you have a calendar handy. This can be a wall calendar, a desk version, or a handy datebook. I actually use both a wall calendar and a datebook, so I can keep track of all my appointments even if I'm not at my desk. Of course, you also have to make sure you're actually using your calendar...there have been a number of times that I have forgotten to write down a due date or appointment, and that can cause a lot of problems!
The third thing your home office should have is a telephone with an answering machine. If you're going to be talking to clients or customers on a regular basis, this is an absolute must. It's a good idea to get a second line if you plan to be doing a lot of business calls. That way you won't miss a call, either on your personal home line or your business line. Be sure you have a professional greeting recorded on your answering machine.
You should also have room for a task list in your home office area. I know this may sound like a no-brainer, but seriously...each morning before you begin work, create your task list for the day. You'll be surprised at how much this will help your productivity! I started doing this, and was able to get much more done in less time!
A fax machine is a definite must. This is useful for faxing contracts, tax forms, and other types of communications that require signatures or timely information. It's a great time saver if you ever find yourself needing to fax a document; you won't need to interrupt your work day to run to Office Max!
I know what you're thinking...this all sounds like common sense, right? In a traditional office, you would find all of this stuff and more. But, many people (myself included) think of working at home, and instantly think that it's much more relaxed, and you can even work in your pajamas. Well, yes and no. You can work in your pajamas, for sure, (although I have found that my productivity level is best when I get dressed & ready for the day prior to beginning work) but you still have to maintain a certain level of professionalism. Without that professionalism, you will never succeed at working at home.