Create a Safe Home Office
With the increasing use of the Internet and technology, home offices are becoming commonplace. Telecommuting, running a business from home and just needing space for a computer - or two - have led to an explosion of special rooms and spaces in homes.
Home offices allow parents to work while still being with the family. The home office workspace is bound to be visited frequently by your children.
Parents spend much time and effort child-proofing their kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms, but home offices pose just as great a danger to children. Think of all the electrical wires, cords, outlets and pinching drawers that fill your home office.
With some basic precautions, you can make your home office safe for all members of your family. And with a little thought, this place is not only safe, but also welcoming to children.
Organize the cords
Start by dealing with all of the cords and wires that snake around your office. Tuck them behind desks and cabinets. Use cord gatherers and cord shorteners to secure them together or use cord clips to run them along a baseboard to an outlet. Wind up any cords for window blinds and secure them out of reach to prevent strangling.
Cover it up
Purchase covers for your computer monitor, keyboard, tower, fax and printer. Cover everything when you are done. Out of sight is out of mind for exploring fingers. Place your keyboard on top of the monitor and close the sliding door on your tower if you have one.
Safety straps are available to secure your computer equipment to the tabletop so it cannot be pulled off. Also, cover all open outlets with outlet covers. Purchase power strip safety covers.
Secure drawers and cabinets
Get a desk with locking drawers or install child-proof locking mechanisms on the drawers. Secure the drawers and cupboards of computer desks as well. Buy file cabinets with locks and keep your drawers locked at all times. Shutting a finger in a heavy metal drawer can cause serious damage.
File cabinets also can tip over on a child. Secure anything taller than a two-drawer file cabinet to the wall with tip-resistant furniture brackets. Bookcases can be especially dangerous because their shelves beckon little climbers. Secure these to the wall as well.
Put safety first
If your office chair has casters, be careful when rolling across the floor. Small fingers and toes can be run over easily. Using a plastic floor pad can make your chair roll easier and make it more difficult for a child to wiggle a finger underneath a caster on carpeting without you realizing. Make it a rule that the children should not play on the floor pad.
Consider using a plastic container with a snap-on lid as a garbage can if you routinely throw away staples, paper clips and other objects a child could swallow or be harmed by. Keep paper shredders in a closet or out of reach and never leave them plugged in.
Stash items out of sight
Keep pens, pencils, paper clips and staplers inside the desk or up on a shelf. If you are unable to secure the drawers, keep these items in small plastic containers with lids. Place all CDs and disks in boxes out of reach. And keep important papers in files in the file cabinet. An errant toddler with a pen can cause incredible damage.
If you have a separate answering machine unit, put it on an out-of-reach shelf with your telephone next to it. Since phone cords are choking hazards, be sure to keep the cords out of reach as well.
If you have a bulletin board, be sure it cannot be reached by a child. Keep extra tacks in a plastic box in a drawer and not on the bulletin board where they can easily fall to the floor. Place document-sorting systems out of reach on the top of file cabinets or shelves.
Create a play area
Make a special area of your office child-friendly. Place a basket of books and toys on the floor and include a small child-sized table and chair if you have room. Add some crayons and coloring books, stickers, puzzles and possibly a small chalkboard on the wall. A magnet board made from a cookie sheet is another great option.
Keep a special box of toys in the closet to pull out for when you absolutely have to talk on the phone or finish some pressing work. Hide an emergency box of animal crackers in a drawer to use as a last resort. A few throw pillows and a blanket on the floor makes a comfy reading spot as well as great possibilities for tents.
With a little effort, your home office can be a place where children are welcome, safe and entertained while you get your work done.
Brette Sember is a mom of two who writes from her home office. She is the author of more than 30 books, including How to Parent with Your Ex and The Complete Credit Repair Kit.