How to Set Up the Best Home Office

New Home Office, originally uploaded to Flickr by TypeFiend.I’ve recently gotten a few requests on how to set up a home office. For example, from reader B:

I work part of the week out of my law firm’s office and part of the week from home. I would love to hear ideas for organizing a home office that isn’t just boring filing cabinets (but I need somewhere to stash files – points for nontraditional filing cabinet ideas).

Great topic, particularly as more and more employers offer tech budgets and other accommodations to make working from home easier. (Pictured: New Home Office, originally uploaded to Flickr by TypeFiend.) Some must-haves:

- A good Internet connection. I always take my Internet connection for granted until I visit friends or family with a slow connection, and I marvel at how they get any work done at home at all.  (I think “a fast enough computer” goes without saying.)

A good monitor. If you have a tech stipend from your employer, this is the first place I’d spend it. One for your home, and if the one at your office isn’t good enough, one for your office as well.

- A printer and scanner.  As we discussed the other day, I do my best editing when I do it on paper; I also scan things frequently.  Even though I have a good filing system at home, I still am more likely to check my computer for old but important documents.

- A system to keep your work files separate from your personal files. While I did a lot of work at home when I worked as a lawyer (mornings, nights, weekends), I never really had to keep documents at home — everything was accessible online. (The firm had its own secure system; when I worked at the nonprofit we used the program Log Me In, which allows remote access to a computer that is turned on and connected to the Internet.) That said, when I brought papers home, I always brought them in a folder or redweld, and was careful to keep things together. I frequently worked with bound volumes of exhibits; instead of throwing away older versions of the volume I would bring the volume home if I thought the docs therein would be helpful.  However — if I were your employer, to be honest, I would prefer that things be filed at the office — if you quit or leave, the employer is the one who will need those files.  And I’ll bet that the odds of having something last minute and urgent come up that requires checking the files are going to be minimal enough that you can either consent to go to the office on those rare occasions, or direct your secretary to look something up and scan it for you or messenger it to your home. That said, if you’re looking for fun filing ideas, Jeri’s Organizing & Decluttering News has a number of fun options — my favorite is the stunning filing bench, pictured at right.

- I think even a home office benefits from personalizing touches such as pictures of your family.  Because it’s in your home, you can consider going a bit more sentimental, pricey, or even inappropriate.  For example, I would display pictures on my desk at home that I wouldn’t at the office (such as pictures of me in a hospital gown holding my son), or keep things out that I wouldn’t at the office for fear of them being stolen, such as a small malachite box that was the first gift my husband ever gave me, or my collection of pennies from that j-school professor who gave a penny to whoever turned in the best story for an assignment.

Another great source for this is The Office Stylist, who frequently features fun and creative offices.  Lifehacker often covers home offices, as well.

Readers, what are your tips for setting up home offices?  How often do you work from home?

 

Comments

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    PSA – I got this dress from the sale Kat mentioned yesterday. Quality is fantastic, fabric feels great, but the top half is teeny tiny. I am usually a 6/8, 34C and I got an 8 (in US sizes). My arms could barely raise away from my body, the shoulders were so tight, and the ribcage was quite tight as well. Sale is still on, but I would suggest sizing up 1 or 2 sizes if anyone is interested. But beautiful dress! Oh and length is mid-calf, skirt is quite full.

  2. PSA: 20% off of sale stuff at Lands’ End Canvas. starts for the general public tomorrow but there’s a link now on their Facebook page. I just scored some awesome black leather boots for $63!

  3. I work from home full time. One tip – don’t skimp on a good office chair. Before I started working from home full time, I never saw the point in buying an expensive desk chair since I wasn’t really sitting in it that much. After about 8 months, I started having severe back pain. Under doctors orders, I bought a good chair (Herman Miller Mira) and my back pain went away almost overnight. Worth every penny.

    Other advice:

    I also set up my office with a bunch of stuff from the Crate and Barrel Outlet and CB2 – a lot of colorful, inexpensive pieces that look a little nicer than a lot of Ikea accessories.

    I found a couple good coffee shops with wifi that I can escape to on days when I really need a change of scenery, to be around people, or am having trouble working from home for whatever reason.

    We moved all our personal and home stuff into my husband’s side of the office so I had more of a delineating line between work and home (better for tax reasons too). Now, the only personal info I keep on my side is my health insurance folder.

    Finally, you may want to read up on the tax rules for home offices to see if you can take advantage of them and what you need to do to do so.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I also have a Herman Miller Mira at home that I bought off Craigslist from a company going out of business. It is the best chair EVER – I love it more than my work-provided Aeron, which is already a nice chair. Working at home is such a pleasure with my Mira.

    • I have the low end Herman Miller chair (Sayl) for our home office. My husband and I both love them, and I’m 5’4″ and dumpy and he’s 6’0″ and lanky. We had a lot of fun deciding what colors we wanted. My favorite office chair ever!

  4. To Kat’s list of home office must-haves I would add:
    – A door that than be shut. If space permits, home offices should be in enclosed spaces without a view of the kitchen or TV :)
    – A comfortable working chair. Slouching on the couch or using the dining room chairs doesn’t really cut it.
    – Adequate desk space. My home office always has tons of personal clutter on it, which really inhibits productivity!
    – A good hands-free headset so you can take conference calls, call the office, etc. while working.
    – Adequate office supplies – obviously. But unless I think about it, I don’t ordinarily have binder clips around the house. Same with reams of scrap paper.
    – A copier function on the printer/scanner, if possible.

  5. Diana Barry :

    I work from home one day a week, so this is a little bit different from doing it every day – but I don’t have a dedicated home office. I work on my laptop on the couch in front of the tv (which is not on all the time btw). If I need to spread the files out, I do it on the coffee table. If I need to print stuff, I bring back to the office and do it the next day. I send in assignments via email. I also ask my secretary to scan/email things to me (if I need something from the office that’s in hard copy).

    Works for me bc I do most/all of my work on the computer, and don’t need extensive setup/takedown for my files.

    • A dedicated home office is really important if you hope to claim a tax deduction. Even if dedicated, you may not be able to claim due to other factors. But if you can claim, get all personal stuff out of there. Make sure the book case and file cabinet are only for business or professional purposes. Keep a separate computer for all of your personal stuff.

      IRS audits this a lot.

  6. Threadjack – What are some good tips for interviewing people? I’ve rarely been on the side of the interviewer and am having a hard time coming up with good questions to ask. I usually ask about their background, what were their favorite parts of their last job, what drew them to this job, and then let them ask questions. For this particular job, there are some specific skills that are needed, but “fit” with our group also is important, and I don’t think I’m doing a great idea of assessing that. The job is a sort of program management position. Sorry to be vague, but I don’t want to be too specific on a website and the job itself is sort of broad and free-wheeling with respect to actual duties.

    Or maybe the introverted side of me just really hates having to chitchat with people I don’t know.

    • I suggest “Fit is important to us. Can you tell us about a time in a previous job that you violated company culture, and how you adjusted in response?”

      • Hmm, that makes me think I could ask something about their current work environment and working style…

        Thanks!

      • I hate questions like this. It makes the entire interview come to a weird standstill.

        It makes the candidate feel like they have to come up with an answer when maybe there isn’t one. They might not have ever violated company culture before and even if they did I doubt people would give an honest response. I understand this may work for some companies but as someone who just went through quite a few interviews I wanted to offer the opinion that questions like this are sort of awful for the candidate.

    • karenpadi :

      I usually only ask enough questions to fill half the time. I really expect candidates to ask questions for the other half.

      My favorites (in order that I usually ask them):
      1. Ask about common acquaintances (very likely in a small market). LinkedIn can be very helpful. If they went to the same law school, ask about their professors. If you took the same professor, ask about their opinion of the professor and compare it to yours.

      2. Ask about why they are here. For law students, I usually ask about why they went to law school and what kind of career they hope to have. For laterals, I ask about why they are looking to move to a new firm.

      3. Ask pointed questions about their resume if there is a gap or if they have some interesting experience. I ignore sections on “hobbies” or “interests”.

      4. Ask about how a lateral performs a specific task. In my niche, it’s how to conduct a disclosure meeting or how to overcome certain rejections. I pick one randomly based on what I’m working on that day but it’s always something the lateral should have dealt with at least a dozen times.

      5. Ask a law student about a very general legal principal in my niche that should have been covered in the classes on their transcript. I am looking for enthusiasm and some degree of intelligence. I don’t care if they have the finer points right. Bonus points if they know the latest cases in that area. For patents, it’s something like obviousness or statutory subject matter (two recent (2-4 years ago) Supreme Court cases that they should recognize).

      6. By now, my 15 minutes are up and I ask if they have any questions for me for the last 15 minutes.

      • I like to ask how they handle controversy, since it always comes up somehow in a job. ‘tell me about a time you had a situation where you didn’t agree with the higher level decision, or there were conflicting views at a higher level. how did you handle it?’ etc. I want to know if their ego is going to get in the way of doing the job. the answer should describe a time they then gathered various viewpoints, presented options to the decision maker, and supported the party line, after sharing their views adequately, or something like this.

  7. Interviewing thread jack
    I read an older forum where someone posted their distain for an interviewee who wore hair tie on her wrist & had a blue nail… I am a recent law grad STILL interviewing for a full time position. I had never thought about my hair tie, which I constantly have on my wrist or hair. I know its a tough market now but i wondered if I subconsciously do other things that make me an unattractive candidate. Ladies who are interviewers, what do you look at other than qualifications? Turn offs? The in sight is much appreciated!

    • karenpadi :

      Mentioning kids or significant others. Men do this way more than women. I legally can’t ask those questions so why give away the answers?

      • I had a guy mention stuff he does at his church on weekends and get a bit sappy about it = no. nothing controversial etc. of course, dress appropriately- but not everyone does. if you have a qualifications gap, address it head on and explain why it’s not a problem, do NOT try to bullsh*t your way around it.

    • PT Lawyer :

      By the time I’m interviewing a candidate, I’m pretty sure that he/she can do the job — we’re pretty harsh with the resumes. What I want to know is: do I like you? Will you drive me crazy? More importantly, will you drive my boss crazy? And lastly, do I want to have lunch with you?

      In other words, be on the ball, but also yourself. Be friendly. Have interests that you can talk about. Answer the question presented, not the question you wish was asked.

      But sometimes, it is just about personality match.

      • Completely agree. Part of it is about qualifications — but for 90+% of people interviewing, there’s nothing new to learn about this in the interview, it’s mostly based on the application file. We just had a round of interviews, and mostly what I’m looking for is fit, in terms of two things:
        1) Your interests and the position. I know others in this thread have said not to fake enthusiasm for the niche, but I really want to know if you can communicate being interested and engaged. If you can’t even pull together being interested for the interview, you sure aren’t going to bother to act interested if you get the job. So please, have questions ready. Not generic questions, ones that show you prepped for *this* interview, and ones that show that you *listened* when I was talking about the position 5 minutes ago.
        2) Your personality and the culture of this site. Be friendly and confident. Listen. Ask questions. Smile. Make eye contact. Have basic hygiene and grooming down. Clean clothing appropriate that is appropriate to the culture of this office/interview and to the current weather. It’s okay (even good) to have a little bit of personality in your interview outfit. I’m sure this varies by office, but in my book, a teensy bit of variation shows confidence and makes it easier to recall you. I’m talking about a bit of color in your blouse, or an unusual collar detail or cut on a standard black interviewing suit, or one moderately interesting piece of jewelry, nothing too wild here. But mostly, will you be a positive on the team or will you make me and most everyone else crazy?

    • This thread is going to give me a complex.

      That is all.

      Though as a former interviewer, I second PT Lawyer’s thing — just don’t be super weird. If you’re not super weird, you’re probably ahead of half of the pack.

      • Okay…I feel like that was overly snarky. But try not to be overly stiff or awkward, I know you’re nervous, but you have to be a person!

      • One other thing (and this one is actually helpful):

        Don’t lie to me! By this I mean, while you should always put positive spins on things, don’t exaggerate experience or interests beyond believability. When I was an interviewer I worked at a gov’t agency that did a pretty specialized thing. I was interviewing college seniors (and I was a recent college grad) — and it would drive me nuts when they would come in and tell me about their PASSION for what my agency did. Unless it was on their resume I never believed them, b/c no one is passionate about this particular thing (except one candidate who had actually written his thesis on the subject — him I believe). So I guess what I’m saying is, its okay to say “I don’t know” or “I’ve never done that before but I’m eager to learn” but don’t tell me its your lifelong passion if its not — its going to be obvious you’re being disingenuous.

        I feel somewhat the same way when law firms ask me “what brought you into our firm today” or “what about our firm do you like” — I hate that question because I can tell you the random thing I saw on your website while researching you, but we both know it was that you had a job available and I really, really, really want a job. So can we cut the game.

    • I used to be an HR Manager. I agree with just being normal. Have clean nails, yes, and probably take the hair tie off your wrist, because that’s attention to detail. But if you’re awesome, I won’t NOT hire you because of a hairtie on your wrist.

    • Make sure your clothes are clean. Even if you think they are clean, they might not smell so clean in a small, closed office. Yes, I just had this experience with the last job applicant I interviewed. It wasn’t awful, but I did detect an aroma of I’ve-worn-this-sweater-before. Sigh.

      • Oh god…now i’m really worried I smelled in my last interview. And I want to get my interview suit drycleaned. Or just buy a new one.

        Seriously, a complex people…a complex.

        • Haha, I know what you mean! I read the post about hair ties & was immediately mortified because I always forget its there unless I need it. I’m just so anxious to start my career & then don’t get offers so I figure something must be off….

    • Appearance wise, I might note the following:
      – Inappropriate footwear (no open toed shoes)
      – Lack of pantyhose if wearing skirt (may not matter everywhere, but bare legs are too casual for formal events at my office, and I expect you to dress for an interview as you’d dress for a formal event)
      – Messy hair, especially if you’ve brushed the front of your hair but left a rat’s nest in the back
      – Peeling/chipped nail polish
      – Way too much makeup
      – Not wearing a suit, or wearing an extremely ill-fitting one (too the point it looks sloppy)
      – Cleavage or thighs. I do not want to see either, ever.

      Things I don’t care about:
      – The color or style of your suit. Go crazy, wear a houndstooth pantsuit.
      – Your jewelry, unless it’s super tacky
      – The color of your nail polish (or lack thereof)
      – A lack of makeup

      Other intangible things:
      – I want you to have a personality. It’s ok to be funny or witty. Don’t be like the girl who went to the same college as my coworker and when he asked her her favorite flavor from the famous ice cream shop on campus, she replied, “I don’t know. Vanilla?”
      – I want you to listen to my questions and what I have to say, not just wait for your turn to talk. Don’t give me canned responses.
      – Don’t overshare. I don’t really care about your divorce or your 3 sons. Men do this way more than women.
      – Don’t be shy. We’re nice, and being assertive is an important part of working here. (This may vary.)

      I think this all can be summed up as “Be yourself, unless yourself is sloppy and dull.”

      • Ok, but what if yourself is dull, but yourself still likes to eat and would still like to get a job, eventually?

      • I expect you to dress for an interview as you’d dress for a formal event

        This, all the way. I’ve had so many young women who just didn’t have a clue about business dress.
        Please cover up your tattoos, don’t wear furry things. Don’t hobble in on 8″ heels.

    • Law Clerk :

      Inability to make eye contact. This really happened in our last round of interviews!

  8. jillofnotrades :

    Some great suggestions from the post as well as the commenters. But I had to point out…did you really say “the docs therein”? LOL at that legalese!

  9. Snarky In House :

    Thread jack…

    What are your thoughts on gel manicures? I hardly ever get my nails done. As I primp to start my new position on Monday, I’m debating between a regular manicure and a gel manicure. I’d love to hear the hive’s thoughts… Thanks!

    • From observing a coworker with them, the pro is that they don’t chip much / at all. The biggest con is that you’re stuck with really needing to make it to the salon every other week because you start seeing the growth at the base of the fingernail (more obvious in a dark, wintery color, but needed that often even if you’re getting a light pink). I’m not sure if they damage your actual fingernail like acrylics do.

      Also, not all manicurists do them, making it harder to just duck in for a quick refill when you have the chance.

      They do look nice, though!

    • Anon Canadian :

      I love the gel manicures! I’ve gotten OPI Axxium, Entity, and Shellac. I get a gel mani about 4-6 times per year for special occassions, vacations, if I need to look more put together (I don’t wear make up so I find manicures help raise the bar for me). For me the manicures last about 2 weeks (10-17 days) before I need to get them done again. And I always remove and reapply, I don’t fill.

      They’re all different application systems (time under UV light, actual application, etc.) but they come off the same way. The nail tech roughs up the top coat a bit, you soak in acetone for 10-15 minutes, then a cuticle pusher is used to lift the rest of the gel from your nail. The tech should never use a file on your nails once the polish has started to come off because your nails can get damaged. The place I go is fantastic, and my nails are perfect after removal.

    • My gel manicure lasted 3 days before it started peeling and bubbling at the edges. I assume it was just a bad manicure, but given how much time it takes, I’m not likely to try it again.

      I prefer to get my nails buffed every 2 wks–it looks better with my hands/style.

    • Gel manicures look great. I did three in a row (about a month and a half worth) and my nails were wrecked…vertical splitting. I think my nails did not like the “buffing” before and the acetone and “pushing off after.” I won’t do them again. However, my nails looked fantastic. To me, a regular mani is a better deal and less of a pain. It’s annoying to have to go back to get the mani taken off once it’s done. With a regular mani, if it’s over, I can take off the polish myself, at midnight–no need to go to a salon. So…thumbs down for me.

    • TX Lawgirl :

      I have betting shellac manicures for about 6 months. I generally get french/american [read – whitish tips but not stark white…stylish french, not tacky overdone strip mall french] but have also done color. They last 2-3 weeks in general. Occasionally they peel, but not usually. I love then and my nails have stayed in great shape. [on a side note, I was expecting when I started getting them and am still taking prenatal vitamins, so that is probably part of why my nails have stayed in such good condition].

      • Love the gel manicure and have done them quite a few times with no damage to my nails.. I get a good 14-17 days without lifting or chipping. I do keep my nails pretty short and do either a plae pink or light mauve so the growth isn’t gross looking at the base of the nail, but it feels weird after two weeks…

  10. Threadjack – What are your thoughts on online privacy using time tracking programs like Toggl? I would like to track clients using their last names, but even that is confidential, so I’m worried about the site being hacked. I thought about giving everyone code names, but would become such a hassle.

  11. I am about to start a law firm job, and we are designing and building a home near work. A great deal of thought has gone into how to structure our home office, especially because I will essentially be a single mom of two preschoolers most of the week, while my husband does his work in a different city. Both of us will do a great deal of work from home, typically when the children are also home, and we will make very good salaries, so we decided that investing in an absolutely kick ass office would pay enormous returns in life satisfaction and productivity – I truly think it will also help our marriage a great deal. We haven’t done it yet, so I can’t tell you if it’s effective (!), but these are the decisions we’ve made:

    1. We have a wall-mounted board that spans one entire wall which serves as a desk surface, and opposite that we will place a “presidential” desk – a typical piece of furniture with drawers and things. The desk surface is huge and you can slide your chair up and down it (no drawers in the way). I can really spread out, and also keep ongoing projects separate in this way.
    2. Ample outside light. I’ll probably be working at night, but on Saturday mornings I’ll be glad we have four windows in this room.
    3. Tons of bookshelves. Organization is a must, so we have two walls of built-in bookshelves. His and Hers! I’ll have baskets galore in there, so there is a place for everything. I think it’s also going to be helpful that we will essentially divide the room in half – half for him, half for me.
    4. A way for me to close out my children while simultaneously keeping an eye on them. Our office looks out over the back porch and backyard, and there is an exterior door to the porch which I’ve had made into a Dutch door. So I can shut the bottom of it, keeping kids/dogs/creatures out, but open the top half, and thus supervise-by-ear. That’s also why we had the desk face the backyard – so I can keep an eye on them while they’re playing out there.
    5. We’re not going with a lot of bulletin boards/white boards on the walls. They just collect clutter and ancient notices.
    6. We’re planning on buying Herman Mueller awesomesauce chairs. We’ll also have a foldout couch (so it can serve as a guest room), and an armchair or two in the window, for doing doc review in comfort, or hosting colleagues for a meeting if necessary.
    7. No closet. This was purposeful. Stuff goes to die in the study closet. That will keep me organized! Nowhere to hide!
    8. Plants everywhere. I want it to be a cozy, light-filled space, so I don’t totally hate my life while working on Saturday mornings, as I’m sure I will be doing all too often.
    9. I’ll look to lifehacker to get great ideas for cord control and charging stations.

    • Lucky you! Sounds awesome.

    • I’m envious! I am thinking about adding a comfortable chair to my home office–currently, I move to the living room. I put a very tiny plant stand behind it for my laptop charger: now it’s both easily accessible (no fumbling around when I need to plug it in) and also completely hidden.

      I love my white boards and to keep things from looking messy, I have a strict policy of using them only for my daily to-do list. I rewrite them daily because I read (HBR?) that daily lists are a good alternative to complicated time management regimes, and it’s working for me.

    • I strongly suggest you rethink #4. That’s fine for the occasional evening when you need to cue things up for the next day or whatever, but presumably your work takes more thought than laundry. Hire a nanny/sitter/caregiver. Even if it’s just for half the day and you still work the other half, you will be amazed at how much your productivity increases when you have had that chance to do some intense work. The start you get then will carry you through and get you back to it during the kiddie part of the day, and maybe you’ll get a nanny as good as the one we were lucky to have for 2 years. Little one loved going to see her!

      • Anonymous :

        “I will essentially be a single mom of two preschoolers most of the week, while my husband does his work in a different city”

        DITTO to JenK. You need a nanny. There is no way to do work at home otherwise (unless you put the kids in daycare). BTDT.

        BTW many employers insist on full time childcare when you work at home. They’re paying you to work, not fingerpaint.

    • Anonymous :

      You should reconsider the closet. My parents took the closet out of their guest/office room and it lowered the value of the house almost $30K (going from five to four bedrooms).

      You don’t have to put doors on it while it’s your office, but don’t mess with your house’s resale value just because you dislike clutter!!

      • I agree about the closet. I do some pro organizing and what I did for my father, who has an office in a spare bedroom in their house is to use the closet to hide all the ugly stuff. We installed an electrical outlet and cable jack in it and then added some shelves to house their router, Internet gateway, printer, and charging stations for phones, cameras, iPads, etc. we did the outlets ourselves because my dad knows how, but I’ve hired an electrician to do it for another client for around$200. The shelves were a combo of an old target bookcase and some of the new modular stuff they now sell. It took about 8 hours to do everything. At first he didn’t want to do it, but now he loves it. The office feels more tidy and calm because there aren’t cords and bulky office machines everywhere. He uses a universal docking station for his laptop. It was easy to hide, so all you see of the computer is the monitor, mouse, and keyboard–and all his papers. I can’t get him to file anything. One thing at a time I guess.

        The main catch is that many/most of your accessories need to be wireless. The printer, keyboard, and mouse my dad was using were ancient, and wireless versions can be found for reasonable prices.

  12. I agree with many of the comments above. I work from home exclusively, unless I am traveling. A good desk chair is crucial. My company provided an ergonomic chair, and an ergo consult. I sit in that chair for 12+ hours a day with no problems. Even if you must buy it yourself, it’s worth the money. I have one filing cabinet for personal files and one for work files. One drawer of the work filling cabinet is for office supplies. I have a docking station for my work laptop (crucial). I also have a KVM switch to switch between my home and work computers. I have three monitors total. One is work-only, one is personal-only, and one hooks up to both via the KVM switch. The keyboard and mouse also hook to both via the KVM switch. I have needed this setup because I’ve been working on my computing-intensive PhD dissertation in addition to my job. A good printer is crucial – mine is a combination printer, fax, scanner and copier (provided by my company). It’s good to have a dedicated phone line and a door is a necessity if you will be WFH regularly – especially if you have a dog!!

    If you have a S.O. who is home often during the day, you might want to set up a separate computer space for them. My husband was recently home a lot during the day (he was between jobs briefly), and would constantly make comments while I was trying to work. It was nice to have company for a few days, and then it started to drive me crazy. If you are both going to WFH a lot, you need separate spaces in case of conference call overlap, etc.

    I never leave my office to work, if I can help it. Using my monitors is infinitely better than hunching over my laptop. And I get frustrated by the slow internet speeds at most places with free wi-fi. By the time I get there, get set up, and get connected, I never get anything done. I do often wander around the house when I am on a conference call. It’s nice to stretch and get away from the desk.

    • Tired Squared :

      Out of curiosity, how do you all deal with pets at home while you work?

      I don’t work from home at the moment, but I do have an office that I used for studying/conference calls while in law school. During conference calls (and even normal, non-work phone calls), my cat and dog seem to think that I couldn’t possibly be talking to anyone other than them, so they often wandered into the office. I tried closing them out of the office, which just resulted in a lot of barking/meowing/scratching. I also tried putting beds down for them so they would stay out of my hair, but that only worked for a couple of hours. So just curious!

      • Tired Squared :

        Sorry, that wasn’t actually a response to tika55–I meant to start my own thread.

        • My dog will occasionally bark during a call. I wear a headset with a mute button and keep treats in easy reach on my desk at all times. I can usually deal with a situation quickly through a combination of those things. If I am expecting a package on a day when I’ve got an important call, I will put a note on the door asking them not to ring and to just leave the package on the steps. When I’m on a very important call, such as a conference call that I’m leading, then I shut the dog in the upstairs bedroom far away from my office.

      • I work from home exclusively when I am not traveling and most of my clients realize this. A good headset helps, but there are times when one or both of my dogs start barking during a call (thanks UPS guy!). My standard line, which rarely fails to get a chuckle is “and there is my accounts receivable department!” If the animal really can’t behave during important calls, you may have to consider a crate in a different part of your house.

      • Haha. I sometimes do middle-of-the-night Skype calls to Asia. My cat inevitably gets excited by all the talking and races about the apartment, circling past my webcam and meowing at the top of her lungs. My colleagues love it.

        • Anonymous :

          Ha, I skype from home a lot and in the summer time they can hear the ice cream truck and kids playing. There are usually funny comments, but I don’t think people mind. Especially on international calls, there is always someone at home at a strange hour.

          • Tired Squared :

            Thanks everyone! Good to know for the future–I have a talky cat AND dog.

        • haha for important calls i have to go into a shut room and lots of mute. but i love sitting in the front living room by the windows, near my parakeets and whinypants dog. apparently the budgies project crazily loud into the phone, so all my regular colleagues know when i am home. funny, last week was on a call with my regular team, and someone mentioned the birds (the colleagues were in a room with me on speaker) and i said oh sorry forgot to mute! and they were like no leave it on! it’s like bringing the outside in, a little jungle:)
          then when my dog came up to me vocalizing in her samoyed way that she wanted attention or to pee, they joked they thought it was my indigestion (i’m pregnant).

      • My dog sometimes farts during conference calls (I’m always on a speaker phone). Or she’ll wake up from a nap, stretch and groan loudly. Embarrassing. I always want to say “oh that was my dog” but perhaps they’ll just think I’m trying to shift the blame…

  13. Oooh, let’s make printer/scanner/copier recs. GO!

    • My office has a fujitsu scansnap scanner. It only scans, but it does it incredibly quickly and efficiently. My job would suck so much more if we didn’t have it. I use it 6-10 times a day, and for giant piles of discovery.

    • Looking forward to any responses here – just discovered last night that my Canon printer does not support scanning on my new MacBook Air. :( It’s one more thing that is making my transition to being a Mac person challenging….

      • I use Mac and I use Brother printers. I don’t currently have one with a scanner, but I have used them in the past, and I always find them reliable, and easily compatible with Macs. They sometimes cost a little more, but it’s worth it when it is reliable longer, and I find I buy ink less often than for Epsons or Canons, so that saves a lot of money in the long run.

      • I’ve used Cannon with Mac for years.

        • My Canon multi-function printer (about 3.5 years old) works for printing and faxing but for some reason the scanning function isn’t supported. Is your Canon a multi-function machine?

          • breuckelen :

            Are you trying to use the Canon software or are you opening Image Capture (which should be in your Applications folder)?

  14. Advice on women’s health needed.

    A few months ago I started noticing that my breasts felt more tender than normal, so I did a self-exam. I don’t normally do self-exams, because I have benign cysts (had a mammogram when I was 21 to determine they were benign), so there isn’t much point. I went in for my yearly exam a couple of weeks ago and mentioned it to the doctor, she said it felt benign, but I should get an ultrasound to be sure. I got the ultrasound last week and they said that they were pretty sure it was benign, but there were a few blips so they want to aspirate it to be sure, and if it doesn’t aspirate then do a biopsy.

    I’m un/underemployed and have very bad, individual insurance. My insurance won’t pay anything to get this done (it will count toward my $5000 deductible). I don’t have the several thousand dollars that I’m sure this will cost (no one can tell me how much it will actually be). In fact, my estimate is that it will be close to 10% of our combined yearly income. Because I do have insurance, I’m not eligible for any aid.

    I can’t tell how important it is that I actually have the procedure. They made it sound like they were 99% sure it was benign but just wanted to verify, but I can’t tell if they were just trying to keep me from being scared. I just moved here, and I picked this place randomly from the list of people covered by my insurance. I don’t want to go heavily into (more) debt just so that they can cover their backs, but I also don’t want to not get this done if it’s actually medically necessary, and I have no idea how to find out which it is. I’ve tried asking, but I don’t get any straight answers.

    • That’s tricky. On the one hand, breast cancer is generally rare in young women (you don’t say how old you are), on the other hand, it tends to be more aggressive in younger women. If you google “Gail risk model” you can find a tool that helps you determine your risk based on family history, age at first menstrual period, child bearing history, and some other characteristics – but it is only for women older than 35. Family history is a pretty signficant risk factor, especially if any family members who had breast cancer were 50 or younger when diagnosed.

      I’m just pulling this out of my a@@, but I wonder if you told the doctor/clinic about your insurance situation, maybe they could moderate the fees? Or maybe they could point you toward some lower cost options? Teaching hospital?

      It’s really a shame that you have to make a decision between your physical and financial health.

    • I definitely suggest telling the folks at the clinic about your insurance and financial situation. I think there are tricky ways that medical insurance billing people can code your charges to try to get them covered, and if that doesn’t work they might cut the costs significantly.

      My doc did this for me (cut my bill in half) when I had terrible insurance, and I got the impression it was a regular thing.

      Good luck with everything!

      • Seriously talk to the clinic/provider about your insurance situation. With that high a deductible, it may make sense to pay out of pocket (cash) and usually they can give you a better rate. If not, they can certainly work with you on a payment plan.

    • I agree with previous commenters that you should be straightforward and discuss this with your medical provider. Many hospitals offer financial aid for people who need treatments they can’t afford. The doctor herself also is probably able to discount or bill in a way that will lower your cost. And if she knows you’ll be paying out of pocket, she won’t order things that aren’t medically necessary.

    • Thank you everyone for your advice. I finally got some straight answers from people this afternoon, and it sounds like they are fairly worried and I do need to get it done. Also, I was finally able to get the price (after a week of asking) and it’s lower than I expected, although still a lot. So I’m getting the procedure done tomorrow. For the first time, though, I’m actually worried that it might be something. So now I’m working on staying calm.

    • Anonymous :

      Check for low income options / sliding scale. Planned Parenthood or a teaching hospital in your area should be able to check this out. If it seems serious you can then decide whether you’d like to continue with whomever you’ve chosen.

      I grew up in a rural area where the county health department might even have been able to handle this. Just look around and you’ll find something!

    • I do breast surgery. But this isn’t meant to be true medical advice. Sorry this is late, but a couple of thoughts:

      1) All breast imaging is classified according to a specific system called the BIRADS system. Your mammo and ultrasound were classified. Asked them what it was. If it’s a BIRADS 2, you essentially don’t need a biopsy. If it’s BIRADS 3, you could probably repeat the ultrasound in 3-6 months to watch for stability. If it’s a BIRADS 4, that’s when it gets tricky. The standard of care for BIRADS 4 lesions is tissue diagnosis; i.e. core biopsy. BIRADS 4, based on a lot of studies, has somewhere between a 2 and 80% chance of being cancer (NOT HELPFUL, I know). To help further characterize, some radiologists will further break it down to 4A, 4B, and 4C. If yours has been broken down, and it’s 4A, I think repeat imaging would be sufficient if you didn’t have a strong history and you were willing to accept that risk. 4B or 4C, I would suck up and get biopsied. If you had a BIRADS 5 lesion, we’d be having a whole different conversation

      2) Someone knows how much this costs. No one wants to bother to put you in touch with a person because that person probably is in some office off site, and doesn’t interact with the public. You can also call your insurance. If the radiologists have a contract with your insurance, your insurance will be able to tell you what the charge is.

      3) To ball park, I bet this is between 1-2K dollars (don’t quote me). But that depends on what they do and insurance contracts, etc.

      4) Repeat after me: I’d like to talk to financial counseling. As a surgeon, I know that practically every institution has a financial counsellor, especially these days when the economy is so bad. Plenty of my patients are in your shoes and are paying a monthly pay down, etc. Even with insurance, many places will factor in your deductible to making charity decisions. You may have to physically come in and talk to someone, and bring pay stubs, etc, but really, most hospitals don’t want to send people to collections or bankruptcy. But you may have to be persistent.

      It’s a tough call. You are probably at low risk for being malignant (assuming your age — I feel like your other posts make me think you are in your mid20s. sorry if I’m off). We as a health care community tend to be overly cautious and as a result overly aggressive in biopsying women’s breasts, because of the fear of missing a cancer, and consequently the risk to the patient and for malpractice issues.

      5) It may be an additional, ultimately unnecessary cost, but you may want to see if there is a surgeon who has done a breast fellowship in your area. I talk to women about all of these complex issues all day, and am comfortable with the decision making process women are undergoing. He or she may be able to break it down for you. As a gross (GROSS) generalization, breast surgeons tend to be the most touchy feely of surgeons and willing to discuss.

      I know this is late — hope you are hanging in there.

      • I posted this without reading all the replies — thinking good thoughts for you. Its a bummer you are doing it Friday cause you’ll have to wait through the weekend, but try to distract yourself. And it’s okay to ask your physician for an anti anxiety med for this if it’s making you crazy. I have written countless prescriptions for 1-2 pills of lorazapam in this very situation!

  15. PM in NYC :

    Any CFAs here?

    • Did not complete yet, studying for Level2 in June.

      • Hey anon, I’m curious about the current nature of your job and the career path you’d choose once you’re done with level3 – only if you don’t mind sharing. I’m currently working as a project mgr (lot of business analysis) on the IT side of an investment bank, but I’m totally unclear about how I’d transition and what my career options would be. I’m preparing for level 1 for this dec (got a masters in engineering, sadly I need this long to be able to prepare thoroughly and understand finance) but I always tend to do better if I can settle on a particular area and find my niche. Do you have any advise/tips for me?

        • Hey, sorry didn’t check back this thread again. I am bit caught up at work right now, I will respond back to you on the weekend thread later tonight. I work in a somewhat similar job profile as yours, so will share my thoughts on CFA.

  16. Does anyone have any good recommendations for companies/sites/stores that make computer desks that don’t scream DESK at first glance?

    I work from home 3 days per week and the most comfortable area to work in is my dining room. However my maing living area is very open, so you see the dining room from everywhere except the bedrooms. I don’t have a need for a ton of top space as I work in databases and spreadsheets all day so I rarely print or actually write on anything. I would love to use a Parson style table, but i am trying to come up with something that can somewhat hide my computer cords. I’ve seen some parson’s tables in some really fun colors, but I think a nest of cables would ruin the look.

    I had a compact office cabinet from Crate and Barrel but it’s gone now and I’m investigating other options before buying another one.

    Any ideas are greatly appreciated!

    • I am in a similar situation and use a Linear office armoire from Room & Board. It has holes in the back to hide computer cords. My version has a drop down top that I can close to hide my papers and file drawers for papers. Mine holds my a computer, printer and phone and when its all closed up you can’t see any of it.

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