Advances in technology and telecommunications have given all new meaning to the term "home office."
Whether it is a computer in the corner of a bedroom or a complete business in a separate area of the house, more and more people now have a workplace at home.
As a matter of fact, nearly one-third of all households in the United States have furnished a home office, according to a recent study by the American Furniture Manufacturers Association.
And though there are standard items shared by all, each home office can be as individualized as the person who uses it.
For Patricia Madison of Fairmont, a regional manager of a large shopping chain, that meant chintz fabric accents and a table from her grandmother's home used as a desk.
"My job calls for me to travel a lot and when I get to come home, I want to be in a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere, with things that make me feel good -- and that extends to my work space," she said.
Nearly 40 percent of those in the study use their offices primarily for entertainment, to surf the Internet, send e-mail or to shop; 30 percent use it for work; and 22 percent use it to organize their home and pay bills.
Jim Dodrill is among the growing trend of those who actually run a business from his home.
"In 1997, I became a born-again Christian, and one of the things I had always wanted to do was have a home office so I could be closer to my three children. I went from corporate America to working out of my home," said Dodrill, vice president of Em-media, an advertising, marketing, entertainment and public relations company.
He said his house was set up so that an office could be made away from the family area. They remodeled it to include a separate entrance, which was important to him.
"The atmosphere is more relaxing and more conducive to productivity. The more comfortable people are, the more productive they are going to be," he said.
Dodrill feels the home office affords him the chance to work a full day, have dinner with the family, help with the children and go back to work for a couple of hours.
According to local experts, the area of a home chosen to operate a business -- a home office -- will have an impact on the success of the business venture.
"A workplace should encourage productivity when dealing with customers or clients, suppliers, family, friends and neighbors," said Vance Sosinski, assistant store manager at Office Max, Meadowbrook Mall.
This worker friendly environment must include business and communication equipment and information sources, as well as furnishings that are functional and comfortable, said Pam Heaster, owner of H.L. Heaster, Inc., Clarksburg.
Sosinski said there is more variety in home office furniture today than ever before and that "most people begin by selecting a desk."
Selections range from portable cart stands to an L-shaped work center. This investment can cost between $50 and $500.
Heaster noted that some of the latest choices in office furnishings include pieces that are both residential and business-like. "Some close up and look like something for the family room and are also ergonomic and functional when it comes time to open them up for the office," she said.
One of the most common mistakes made in furnishing a home office is not considering the size of the work area. "People will select a certain desk and find out it doesn't fit into the space they have," said Sosinski.
The high-back manager's chair is one of the most popular choices in home office furniture. These are available in leather and fabric and are built for comfort, according to Sosinski. Prices range from $100-$250.
Most office supply stores also carry an assortment of task chairs, with or without arms, to fit the desk space for $50-$100. Almost all office chairs have built-in lumbar support, he said.
Chair mats are a necessary piece of office equipment in order to save the floor or carpet and to provide static protection for the electronic equipment.
A surge protector is necessary for a home office to help protect the equipment, added Sosinski.
One of the most important pieces of home office equipment is the computer.
Jeff Honaker, manager at Radio Shack, Meadowbrook Mall, suggested that anyone considering a home office computer consider a CD-RW drive. "It will make back-up files and can also provide insurance against computer crashes."
He explained that a basic system runs between $1,200-$1,500 and includes a burner. Although there are different monitor sizes, Honaker said a 19-inch monitor is too large for most home systems.
"A 17-inch monitor is probably best. Flat screens are available now that help to reduce more glare. And they come with various amounts of memory, depending on the intended use of the computer," he said.
What some people don't realize is that some business machines are not as demanding as the family system because of the games and various programs used by different members of the family.
Heaster suggested they investigate the type of purchase they are considering, including rebates, commitments for future purchases, etc., before making a final decision.
Lifestyles writer Darlene Taylor can be reached at 626-1439 or by e-mail at email@example.com.