Magazine article Communication World

Setting Up an Office at Home

Magazine article Communication World

Setting Up an Office at Home

Article excerpt

Setting up an Office at Home

When the earthquake hit northern California last fall, several office-based communicators suddenly found themselves working as home-based communicators. Some were obviously prepared for the task, ready to imitate most of their normal work routine under abnormal conditions. Others were less fortunate.

It doesn't always take a natural catastrophe to prompt communicators to set up home offices. Sometimes, the tremors come from other sources - corporate downsizing, for instance. Rather than being merely locked out of the office for a few days, the victims of downsizing may be looking at months of working outside their old office environment. Again, some are prepared for this possibility, while others are not.

Still others choose to take themselves out of the corporate work place and set up practice as communication consultants. The variations on locations run the gamut from spare bedrooms to leased office space. But again, some people are well prepared to handle the transition, and others find themselves fumbling as they realize the familiar office surroundings just aren't there anymore.

What do you need to set up an office at home? Here are a few suggestions that might help you establish your own checklist for setting up a home office.

ANSWERING MACHINE - Make sure you buy one that can be controlled from a remote location, so that you can call your own phone and collect messages while you are out of your office. It should also be on a separate telephone number from your regular home listing, so that it doesn't get cluttered with calls from the neighbor's kids.

COPIER - The office copier is one machine from the old office that most communicators will tell you they miss most. Good personal copiers for low volume work can be found in the US $600 to $1,000 range - expensive, if you are only setting up an "emergency" home office.

If the copies are mostly for personal use or business emergencies, you might want to check with second-hand office equipment stores for an old dual spectrum copier. It's easy to find these for less than $50. (I got mine at a local Salvation Army store for $8!) These copiers require a special two-sheet copying paper - where the "dual spectrum" name comes from - that is still sold at most office supply stores. Warning: the copies will fade rapidly if left in sunlight. But for a temporary, inexpensive copier, they will still do the job.

FACSIMILE MACHINE - Once considered a luxury, fax machines have achieved international popularity as the prices have plummeted in the last five years.

An inexpensive single-sheet model is being sold in electronics stores now for US $300. More conventional office-model faxes that have extra features (automatic redial, sheet feeders, improved error-checking, automatic paper trimmers, time-delayed transmission, etc.) still run in the $900 to $1,500-and-up range. As a bonus, most faxes will double as copiers, at least for turning out quick, one-sheet copies in a pinch.

If you know nothing about fax machines, the critical thing to watch for is "Group III compatibility." Group III is the current world standard for faxes; some discounters are still pedding older model Group II faxes that are slower and have poorer resolution. A Group IV fax standard is in development, but it is very new and very expensive; don't expect it to make your Group III machine obsolete for at least two or three more years.

Don't assume that, just because you aren't sending many faxes now, that condition will continue when you're working out of a home office. As soon as other people know you have a fax hooked up, you'll start receiving faxes from them.

Candy Gilpin, a 10-year IABC veteran who decided to set up her own communication consulting business in Columbus, Ohio, last year, says she got a fax machine for Christmas. "Before that, I was making runs down to my neighborhood print shop. …

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