Anyone who has children in their life has most likely seen the work of screenwriter and producer Brian Hohlfeld. Head writer for the new animated series Gaspard and Lisa, he is well known for his work with Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise. Hohlfeld received the 2008 Humanitas Prize for Children’s Animation while story editor and executive producer for the series My Friends Tigger and Pooh. With 13 feature film credits, seven producer credits, as well as songwriting and directing, this true Hollywood veteran shares his secrets for making the most of your life/work environment including how to boost your morale and mastering the video chat.
First of all, determine how big a home office you’ll need. For most purposes, a queen-size will do. If you have lots of paper work to deal with, or if you have a spouse or significant other who insists on using your office to sleep in, you might want to step up to king size, or even California king. You can get away without using a bedframe, and, indeed, proximity to the floor makes stacking papers much easier; but you’ll find that your morale is much higher with a nice, inexpensive frame. Make sure to get one with a handy ledge, for your coffee cups, pencil holders, and alarm clock.
Furnishing your office: You’ll require the usual—a laptop, stapler, telephone, good quality cotton sheets (nothing less than a 180 count, preferably), and several comfortable pillows to prop yourself up on. A two-drawer filing cabinet is also a good idea, and it can easily double as a nightstand. Same for a mini-fridge, which will also eliminate those interruptive and exhausting trips to the kitchen. A warm quilt or comforter is optional, but is certainly nice to crawl under during those post-lunch “brainstorming sessions!”
For maximum efficiency, you’ll want to make sure that you can reach everything you need without getting up from your office. I suggest a power strip (within reach, as well, of course) into which you can plug your chargers—laptop, cell phone—as well as a printer, shredder, coffee maker, and night light. Most printers are wireless now, which makes it much easier to print documents without your feet ever touching the floor. You will, eventually, have to retrieve any printed documents, so if you can’t keep your printer within reach, I suggest combining document retrieval with meal or bathroom breaks.
Many people who work from home appreciate the fact that you never have to dress up to go to work, or, for that matter, dress at all. I find this attitude lackadaisical. Just as the British prisoners of war shaved and bathed every day to keep up their spirits, the home worker should still attempt to dress neatly and maintain at least a minimum standard of personal hygiene. That said, if you do happen to be in your “You Have Died of Dysentery” T-shirt, and your last shower is a distant memory, it will make absolutely no difference to the person on the other end of the phone.
Video chats are a boon for the Home Worker, but have the distinct disadvantage of requiring you to be dressed. I suggest avoiding them whenever possible. If, for some ridiculous reason, you absolutely could not get out of one, it’s best to put on a decent shirt, and, unless you’re in the entertainment industry, a tie. Pants are optional, unless, again, you’re in the entertainment industry, when it will be taken for granted that you’re not wearing any anyway.
Of course, some people might find the sight of your headboard on the other end of a video chat “unprofessional,” so I suggest using a simple but dignified background. There are nice ones available at office supply stores like Office Depot or Bed Bath & Beyond. Styles include “Modern Loft,” “Executive Suite,” and “Knotty Pine,” all designed to fit temporarily on the headboard or wall behind your office. But you will have to temporarily ditch the pillows.
Remember: Why work standing up when you can sit, and why work sitting when you can lie down?