ESTABLISH A PERMANENT HOME OFFICE FOR HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY
Lockdown in 2020 sped up a paradigm shift in office working. More and more people now work from home – whether they’re self-employed or remote workers. Many are enjoying a hybrid situation where they go to the office once or twice a week for meetings, and spend the rest of the week at home in their slippers, cracking through the workload.
Unless you live alone, you need a private space to work in. Especially with video calls to colleagues. Especially if you have a family.
Most of us won’t be buying new homes to get that home office space, so we’ll need to find that space in our existing homes. Whatever your situation, a separate space where you can take video calls and focus on your work is optimum.
Are you lucky enough to already have a dedicated workspace in your home?
Have you taken over half of the spare bedroom, or kicked the kids out of their playroom?
If working from home has become permanent for you, your office space needs some permanence as well. Temporary office situations are bound to make you tense. Especially if you’ve been moving your laptop from the dining table to the couch, to the kitchen counter… all in one day.
Maybe you have a desktop PC rather than a laptop. Maybe you need more surface area to spread out documents or floor plans. If everything is digital and calls can be scheduled during school time, some of us are good with a small desk in a living room alcove (guess where I’m writing this from). Always keep your space requirements in mind.
First, grab yourself a good internet connection and a coffee machine. Now, let’s look at what you would need to set up a productive and efficient home office. What do you need to establish your permanent home office?
MAKE A LIST
To figure out what you will need in your home office, look at the type of work you do. What equipment/items would you need to do your tasks? Make a wish list. Make two. What would make your home office perfect? Start with the basics. List 1 is the physical requirements: furniture, services, equipment/devices, and storage.
I’ll use my husband, Shawn, as an example. He’s an Environment Concept Artist for an international game developer. Shawn’s List 1 includes:
- A sit-stand desk
- Height-adjustable ergonomic chair
- Shelves to display books, art/decor and action figures
- Large wall-mounted monitor on a tilting and extendable bracket
- A digital drawing tablet monitor
- Desktop PC tower (laptop won’t cope with the graphics card and programs he uses)
- Keyboard + mouse
- Gaming mousepad
- Waste bin
- Storage for stationery and art supplies
- Fibre internet
- Bluetooth speakers for music/podcasts
- Ample power outlets for all the devices
- Cellphone charger
- Block-out curtains/blinds (for glare on screens)
- Art Books
Your second list will inform the elements of the design. It’s going to influence how the room will look and feel. What styles do you like? How do you want to feel when you step into your workspace? Shawn wants:
- Industrial style – black metal, mid-tone wood, cement, galvanised pipe, cogs, leather
- A dark academia colour palette
- Access to the outdoors for quick 5-minute breaks in the garden for fresh air and to rest his eyes
- A quiet, enclosed space for video call meetings/online workspace chats
- Calm vibes to help his creativity and focus
- Warmth in winter, and coolness in Summer – no aircon (they make him cough)
- A view of the garden
PLAN IT OUT
Consider your desk position first. If the space already exists, go into the area and take note of the plug socket positions and the windows. Otherwise, check it all out on a floor plan. The “Power Position” is to have the desk face the doorway. Don’t put your back to the door. You can place the desk perpendicular to a wall if it makes sense. Having a window in view is desirable for those with creative talents. A view of Nature is inspirational.
Facing bright light behind your screen is likely to cause eye strain though. Windows that get a lot of sunlight are better to your side, rather than behind your desk. If more than one wall has a window, you will need to check for glare on your computer screen. Use curtains or blinds to regulate the light if it becomes too bright.
If you have no lovely garden view, or if you work in your home office at night, substitute a framed landscape image. Either way, scatter plenty of indoor plants around the room. The Biophilic influences will keep you calm, engaged, and productive.
Remember the large items on your first list when you’re planning where things will go.
FURNISH FOR FUNCTION, COMFORT AND STORAGE
Some corporate companies will furnish your home office for you. You’re saving them from leasing office space, so they may send your office furniture home with you. Always ask if this is a possibility, especially if there’s a recent shift to remote working at the company. If that’s your situation, awesome, but I’m sure not everyone is that lucky.
Most of us, especially the self-employed, must gather our own furnishings.
The best investment in your home office is going to be your chair. Your sciatic nerves and your back will be thanking you for getting yourself an ergonomic desk chair. If you are going to be sitting at your desk for an average of 40 hours a week, it needs to be comfortable and adjustable. An ergonomic desk chair will allow you a much better concentration rate than a spare dining chair. The Herman Miller Aeron Chair is a great option that is available in various colours.
What is your desk-space requirement? Again, this depends on the type of work tasks you perform, and whether you need surface space for any equipment or special tasks.
My husband needs a sit-stand desk because he’s tall and he’s drawing on a digital monitor tablet all day. He ends up hunched over it if he’s seated, and gets back pain. When he works standing up with the monitor on a raised surface, he doesn’t hunch. Standing to draw has really reduced his back pain. To rest his legs, he sits down when researching references or during virtual meetings. He likes to switch between sitting and standing so he needs a height adjustable desk.
Will more than one person in your house need to share the workspace? Is there space for more than one desk or will you need to do a shift rotation? Could a long double desk work? A good option is a postform countertop board set on trestles or drawer units. Do you have a desk already in your home that’s working well, or do you need to get something new?
Think about cable management to reduce clutter when you plan your desk position.
Open shelving can accommodate a variety of items. From files and books to your printer and baskets for stationery. If you lack the space for a whole unit, fitting a few floating shelves on one of the walls is something to keep in mind. Ladder bookshelves are a good option for renters.
Want to keep a stack of files dust-free? Add a credenza, or repurpose a display cabinet or wardrobe for storage.
Use your walls for vertical storage! Pegboards can hold up all sorts of things. They are a functional and fun addition to your overall look – you can paint them any colour or have a wood finish.
THE DESIGN ELEMENTS
This is where List 2 comes in. How do you want to feel when you step into your workspace? Set up your space in a way that supports who you want to become in your office. A holistic interior design approach will allow your space to be nurturing and peaceful. A serene office space supports high productivity rates.
Give thought to the colours and textures used in the space. Certain colours induce a tranquil atmosphere that will promote creativity or focus. Read my post 6 Colours To Improve Your Mood to learn more.
Textures like warm wood and a soft rug will evoke comfort and support, allowing you to enjoy your work more. Try to create a layout with both symmetry and asymmetry – this allows for visual harmony and balance.
Fit the furniture to the scale of the room. An enclosed area will become cramped if furnishings are too large and cumbersome. If they are too small, you’ll soon become irritated at the lack.
Repeat colours, patterns, and items to allow your eyes to move through the space in a seamless fashion. Subtlety is essential. You don’t want your office to be over-stimulating.
Take advantage of your available daylight and put in enough lights for evening work. Daylight renews our energy (due to Serotonin). Avoid fluorescent lights as they will hurt your eyes and emit an annoying buzz. It will really upset the calm vibes you wanted. Add a desk lamp with a warm bulb for a touch of comfort.
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
You may be eager to jump into decorating your office space before you even start the project. Resist the urge and first allocate the bulk of your budget to furniture and equipment. You can add decor gradually. You may already have items in your home that would be perfect in your new workspace.
Bring in a blanket for colder days and a fan for hot ones. Add photos of loved ones and some personal items. Do not clutter the space with knick-knacks. Choose items that inspire you. Try and match your decor with your colour scheme and design style to enhance the visual impact.
Make your office cosy and serene. If you have to be in this room every day, make it so you want to be in that room. Round shapes give us a sense of safety and make us feel more creative.
Try and add some circular or organic items.
Certain scents, like peppermint, improve focus and attention span. Jasmine keeps you alert during meetings. Place some scented candles or a diffuser on a shelf.
Take advantage of working in your own space with no co-workers and play music in the background. Choose your favourite radio station or play ambient music that calms you and allows you greater focus.
If your tasks are visual, you could listen to podcasts while you work. Don’t forget to add those indoor plants. Even faux options or imagery of plants will enhance the biophilics of the space.
Remember: create a supportive and nurturing space to work in and you’ll always have the best work days ever.
Your colleagues will soon be wondering how you do it. You may as well try your best to create the workspace of your dreams. There’s no sense in spending your day in an uninspiring drab room when you have the advantage of home base. You should absolutely be making the space your own!