Increasingly, home working is looking to be a growing trend, either from choice because we have discovered the joys of no commuting, improved work life balance and better productivity, or because employers have decided it is no longer necessary to fund expensive office facilities. Many tech companies, such as Facebook and Slack have already announced that employees can work from home permanently. Across the country property developers are thinking about how to transform offices into residential housing and many city dwellers are considering moving to more spacious homes where they can have designated work spaces. The home office is here to stay.
During the past few months many of us have unexpectedly found ourselves working from home. In some cases this was under the most demanding of conditions in which we were joined by our partners or house mates also trying to work, or simultaneously trying to care for young children or home school older ones. As a short-term solution many of us have found ourselves working on the dining room table, or sitting on a dining chair with cables trailing across the floor; none of these are a long-term solution. Dining tables are usually the wrong height for use as a desk and dining chairs are not ergonomically designed for long term seating or working at the computer. In an office our employer will have carried out an assessment to ensure that our workspace is correctly designed to protect us from back injury or shoulder strain and it is necessary to take the same care when designing home office space for long term usage.
Creating a dedicated office space in your home can, however, be tricky. Ideally your office should be separate from other household activities, preferably with a door which closes out noise or other distractions. A spare room, a basement or garden room can be ideal for conversion, yet many of us don’t have the luxury of dedicating an entire room to office space and a quiet corner may be the only choice. A good interior designer can often spot an under-used space in your home; the end of a landing, a nook in dining room, an overly-large spare bedroom can all be utilised for office space.
Screening can be useful to create a dedicated workspace; bookcases, folding screens, half or three-quarter height false walls can all provide that feeling of separation and mean that you don’t spend your non-working hours looking at your laptop and files. If your room is too small for additional screening then simply decorating the area around your desk space in a different colour creates the appearance of a separate work space zone.
If the room needs to be multifunctional then good storage is key. A spare bedroom or dining room cluttered with files and a printer is not a good look and will make guest feel unwelcome and is not relaxing at the end of the day; the ability to make work-related paraphernalia disappear is therefore vital. Purpose built cabinetry in which to hide the laptop, printer and files is an ideal solution, this can include a drop-down desk which also maximises space when not in use; however, these options are more costly. Storage can be as simple as using attractive and unusual solutions such as baskets or trunks to store office accessories and installing your printer inside a cupboard or drawer. An alternative could be storing all work items in a dedicated trolley which can be hidden in a cupboard when not in use. A more permanent solution would be to build an entire floor to ceiling cupboard enclosing storage shelves, a desk and chair on which the doors can be closed at the end of the day.
Wall-to-wall shelving is the dream when it comes to a home office, offering maximum storage, and is ideal for a dedicated space; however, it does have a tendency to look messy if not styled properly. To avoid this, keep to a strict colour palette and use boxes and box files to contain clutter. A tidy workspace will be much more relaxing and will aid concentration. Unusual shelving, wire racks and baskets are a good alternative to plain shelving and can all help to personalise the space. If you have space, purpose-built office storage, such as a dedicated filing cabinet, will help you to keep order. If your budget permits, purpose-built cabinetry is the optimal choice enabling you to design the storage to fit your own specific needs.
If space permits, moving the desk away from the wall, facing into the room, gives a much more spacious feel. Again, if the room is dual-purpose, placing the desk behind a sofa, or sofa bed, of the same width serves to hide the desk to some degree. Extending a counter top the full length of a wall can ensure sufficient space for two or more workstations providing space for some supervised home schooling alongside your own workspace.
If working permanently from home you are likely to spend a lot of time in your office, so make sure it is a pleasant place to be and that the décor contributes to the way you want to feel. Brightly painted walls and furniture or a rug, such as that in the image above from the Sonya Winner Rug Studio (https://www.sonyawinner.com/collections/modern-colourful-rugs/), can feel energising whereas more neutral colours will evoke a more restful, contemplative space. If spending much time on the phone or video conferencing you will also need to take care that your workspace has sufficient soft furnishings, or other sound absorbent materials, to provide suitable acoustic properties.
Good light and a view to the outside world will make your workspace much more pleasant, so locating your desk next to a window is the ideal position. Where this is not possible, or for working on dull days, it is important to ensure good task lighting is available. Good ventilation is also important as CO2 will build up in a room with a closed door.
At the office, your workspace tends to reflect the culture and design sensibilities of your company. But your home office is still part of your home, you should therefore invest in making that space feel comforting and reflective of your personality. That might seem frivolous, particularly when many of us are stressed and trying to do our best under difficult circumstances; but it is precisely for this reason that incorporating your personal style into your office is key. You want to feel good showing up to your desk in the morning and you don’t want your workspace to be an eyesore that causes you stress. But there’s another reason to think about aesthetics: Zoom. Since everyone can glimpse into our homes on Zoom calls, our workspace can send important signals about who we are and how we approach our work. It’s worth designing our workspaces not just to make ourselves happy, but also to articulate who we are and how we approach our work to those who will see us on videoconferences. Now might be the perfect time to invest in that bookshelf or piece of art you’ve been eyeing.
If you need help to design your own perfect home office then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.