Creating an Effective Home Office: Medical Transcription Edition
Like many medical transcriptionists and editors, this profession was not my first educational pursuit. My bachelor’s degree is actually in Interior Design—specifically focusing on human ecology: the study of how humans interact with their residential and work environments. One of the greatest benefits of medical transcription/editing is the ability to work from home. This appealing benefit can become an overwhelming thought though, especially if you don’t have a workable office space just yet and aren’t sure how to get started setting one up. In this two-part series, I thought I’d combine my interior design skills with my medical transcription knowledge and share some ideas on how to make an effective home office space geared towards medical transcription work. Taking the time to set up your home office while in school will benefit you greatly when you get out into the workforce.
The Basics: What You Need
1. A dedicated office space (preferably a room to yourself)
2. A desk
3. A chair
4. A computer
Dedicated Office Space
When I first heard the phrase “work-at-home,” a lot of images ran through my mind—the most appealing of which being me, sitting in a comfy recliner, a large Diet Coke beside me, working away on the notebook computer sitting on my lap. Most of us know that this is not an ideal place to get a lot of work done, but what makes an ideal work environment? Well, to start with: location, location, location!
Seeking out the perfect space to work in your house will take a bit of time, but you will be glad you did. If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated office for yourself, great! You can turn that space into an efficient, comfortable MT workspace fairly easily! If you don’t have a dedicated office, don’t despair. Try working in different areas of your house that you think might work for your office space. Natural light makes working a lot more enjoyable so, if possible, try to locate a space that has access to some. If you aren’t lucky enough to have natural light (perhaps your office space looks a bit like a cave of despair right now), that’s okay! There are plenty of lighting solutions to help. Never discount the power of a good lamp. You can even buy light bulbs now that are full spectrum so you get the benefits of natural light without a window! Even if you do have some good natural light coming in, a lamp or a few lamps will be important for evening/night work. Most overhead house lighting is insufficient for work.
Working as a medical transcriptionist also means that your office space needs to be HIPAA compliant, so definitely keep that in mind. If you aren’t sure what that entails, check out the Health and Human Services website for more information on HIPAA: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/.
If you prefer old-school references for doing research while transcribing and editing, make sure you locate an office space that allows you enough room to organize and keep your hard copy books at your fingertips. This may entail bookshelves or a desk that has book storage potential.
Once you’ve figured out the logistics of where your office space is going to be, it’s time to think about décor. You are going to be spending a lot of time in your office space so, if you can, make it your own! I love to paint rooms because I think it is one of the fastest ways to bring a certain feeling or mood into the room. If you decide you want to paint your office, try to steer clear of really dark colors. You most likely want your office to have a calming effect, not an angry or overwhelming one. Generally, you want to stick with whites, warm grays, and warm light blues. If you are looking for something to provide some energy, but not “eat you alive,” try something like a warm, happy green or a warm red. There is a website called Houzz (http://www.houzz.com/photos/home-office) that gives some really great ideas of home offices that are functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Once you’ve selected the office space, it’s time to look into what you are using for a desk. It is important to select a desk that is comfortable for you, the right height for you, and provides enough space to configure things the way you want. Ergonomics are important, especially when working as a medical transcriptionist or editor, because you will be spending lengthy periods of time at your desk. I found this great site called Ergotron (http://www.ergotron.com/tabid/305/language/en-US/default.aspx) that allows you to enter your height and it will let you know the height at which you should have all your equipment set. It also provides you with measurements, should you choose to set up a standing desk workspace. Standing work spaces are becoming increasingly popular due to their great health benefits, so if that is something you are interested in, definitely don’t be afraid to go in that direction. You can find many different variations of desks at places like Ikea, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.
One of the best desk ideas I’ve seen recently incorporated two small 3-shelf bookshelves from Wal-Mart, Target, or Ikea, and a stock table top from Ikea. As you can imagine, it is a little heftier than your usual office desk so it requires more thoughtful space planning, but I thought it looked pretty great for medical transcription work. The best part? It was DIY and cost less than $100.
In the next part of this series, we will discuss the office chair, computer ideas, and finishing touches. Happy home office planning!
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