A well-designed office can boost productivity
Your farm office is your silent partner, working with you—or against you—every day. A few moments spent assessing how well it functions can pay off in increased productivity and profits. Here are seven things every farm office needs, according to Terri Lonier, business growth consultant and an assistant professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Columbia College Chicago.
- A Layout that Works. Since you likely spend many hours in your farm office, it pays to make it comfortable and enjoyable. Desks with L- or U-shaped designs function like cockpits, keeping everything within arm’s reach and eliminating the need to get in and out of your chair repeatedly. Assess what works for you and refine your layout accordingly.
- A Defined Space. If your farm office is in your home, either all or part, be sure there is a way to assign a specific physical boundary to it. The best is a door. But a divider, bookcase or other physical demarcation also helps. In today’s 24/7 world, work can easily overtake one’s life. Reserve some space—physical and mental—for new ideas to emerge and grow.
- Meeting Areas. If your business requires meetings with employees, consul-tants or vendors, set aside specific space for these gatherings, if possible. Separate meeting areas reflect the professionalism of your business and can be a neutral space away from the privacy of a personal office. Equip them with tools that encourage interaction, such as whiteboards, bulletin boards and calendars.
- Office Seating. Some farmers spend nearly as much time in their office chairs as they do asleep each night, so consider a good office chair an investment like a mattress. Modern office seating comes in many mate-rials and styles, often with ergonomic features to support your back and legs, which enables you to conserve energy for other tasks.
- Technology that Pays Off Immediately. Understand your business needs and don’t be lured by the latest gadgets. If you can put a piece of technology to work in your business with an immediate ROI, it’s wise to invest. Otherwise, wait—it likely will be better, faster and cheaper in six months. Also consider the full cost of ownership, including items such as software/applications, peripherals, supplies and training.
- Access to Information. Farms are greatly influenced by local, national and global information. Understand what information you need and how you best process it. Are you a visual learner who responds to television or Web video? Or do you prefer to read? Are you an auditory learner who takes in information best by listening—perhaps to radio or podcasts? Reflect on your preferred learning style and outfit your office with the appropriate tools and technology.
- Tools that Save Time. Time is one of a business owner’s most valuable assets, yet it is often overlooked. For example, is your Internet access too slow? Do you need a better filing system so you’re not frustrated when you can’t find invoices or documents?
Because farm offices are almost always part of other buildings, producers should pay special attention to making offices as soundproof as possible, says Derek Hille, president of Office Space Planners, Portland, Ore.
Hille says farmers should count on spending between $200 and $800 per square foot for a farm office.
Pat Bowling of American Home Furnishings Alliance in High Point, N.C., says farmers might be surprised to find that new furniture has connections for computers, iPads and phones already built in, along with surge protectors.
Farmers might think about designing an office that can accommodate two or more co-workers. "It gets back to the point of versatility," Bowling says.