The past few weeks have had a definite sense of surrealism... Governments across the world have advised, and in some places enforced, remote working policies for able segments of the population in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, so working from home has become the new "normal" for most of us. With organisations taking safety measures and allowing employees to work remotely, the opportunity of setting up, or improving and reorganising, a self-designated home office space that is both practical, meeting our needs for productivity and an area that feeds and nurtures our creativity and soul, is more necessary now than ever.
But for many, this new reality might mean working remotely for the first time without a well-equipped, or purposefully designated office.
Regardless of what the future holds and how long the current lock-down continues, adapting to the current state of work is vital in terms of company resilience. With this in mind and for everyone who has had to implement changes to their work environment and adapt to the need to work from home, we have put together some simple guidelines for creating a productive, ergonomic, stylish and functional workspace at home.
CONSIDERATIONS TO KEEP IN MIND BEFORE SETTING UP A HOME OFFICE
Working from home is exciting because it offers an opportunity for real comfort and efficiency, but certain elements influence our productivity and performance. While comfort is essential in any office, an office that is too casual may seriously impede the ability to get things done. It is important to find a way to separate ourselves from the rest of the goings-on in the home and to convey a sense of "off limits" to all other normal and natural home sounds and interruptions, which doesn't necessarily mean a separate space or room but, just the injection of a demarcation zone, a distinction regarding the physical boundaries of this working space. The most effective way to do that is by considering the design of the space itself. These few questions may help in determining those boundaries:
What will the space be used for
What type of work needs to be done
Will external clients be visiting the space (post-lock-down)
Will colleagues visit in due course for collaborative work
What type of materials will be referenced and/or stored and what storage needs should exist to support those
What type of equipment is required?
When will the office be used - daytime, evenings, etc
Will conference / video conference calls be made and do these need privacy
The answers to these questions will begin to determine the type of space needed for our individual and professional needs and are the first steps to implement when designing a home office.
THE CONCEPT OF HOME OFFICE DESIGN
The overriding priority for any home office is to create a space that is our own, reflecting our personality, and that we enjoy being in. The most skilfully executed office design brief ensures that our office represents us and caters for our individual and professional needs, that it contains our favourite objects, be it photographs, artwork, books, a view from a window, providing us with the break and relaxation we need when we pause in our work. It is these small touches that help us make a space our own.
Our office should be a connection to our self, our spirit and our productivity. It should afford focus, when that is needed and be a place we want to be and spend time in. That, in turn, will have a positive influence on the work we do there, and on us, as individuals.
THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES MADE WHEN SETTING UP A HOME OFFICE
Inadequate storage solutions and components
Poor connectivity and inefficient / insufficient equipment
Poor / inadequate lighting solutions
Lack of ambience
THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS TO ADDRESS WHEN SETTING UP A HOME OFFICE
Speed and efficiency are as critical at home as they are in a corporate office environment. Access to the right types of technology for our job requirements is an integral part of anyone’s ability to work remotely and to do so effectively and proficiently.
Electrical provisions for laptop and telephone charging, as well as other electrical needs such as lighting, media, etc. are vital. Adequate means for access to company networks, communication software like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc., and a reliable broadband connection should all be considered. Substantial importance needs to be given to wiring including network, system and printer requirements. It is key that plug points are easily accessible and wiring is appropriately concealed.
Good lighting is essential in any space and specific, task lighting, is no exception in the home office. Ideally, the layout of the office should be such as to make the most of as much natural daylight as possible. Regardless of whether the home office is a separate room or a desk at the end of a kitchen unit run, making the most of daylight and proximity to a window will enhance the lighting in that area and, ultimately, serve our wellbeing also. Daylight is the most evenly balanced source of white light available, in that sunlight has an approximately equal proportion of each colour of the spectrum. It is always beneficial to have as much natural light as possible in the working area. If no daylight is available, a combination of general and task lighting will be required. A high-quality task light will be essential for late nights or cloudy days. If your home office is in a basement or a room without windows, there are daylight-replicating light sources on the market that will provide energy-efficient, full-spectrum lighting. Many ergonomic task-lighting fixtures have dimmer switches so you can control the amount of light. The most effective lighting brings out the fullest quality of the colours illuminated. For human comfort, a yellow-cast illumination is best. It is the colour of brightness, and midway through the colour progression from cool to warm. To avoid glare, refrain from placing overhead lighting directly above computer screens or positioning those directly in front of a light source. That will cause eyestrain. The most critical factor with lighting is the ability to control its brightness and intensity, therefore a varied and multi-functional lighting scheme, combining task lighting, floor standing lighting and other light-sources, independently controlled, would ensure that lighting needs for work purposes can be met at the different times of the day and night .
It is difficult to work effectively in a sea of noise or interruptions. When planning an office area it is important to ensure that it affords a degree of privacy from surrounding activities. While headphones may serve to isolate certain sounds, wearing headphones all the time is neither desirable, nor practical. Portable screens can be used to shield the work area from nearby activities or, alternatively, divider walls that double as bookcases will not only separate the area but provide superior storage solutions and inject interest in the space. If a door to the office area is not practical or available, it may be helpful to add a playful sign to remind others in the space that this is "work time."
An alternative solution to finding that extra level of privacy and combine it with a dedicated, self-contained office space would be the creation of a garden office. If your current home structure doesn’t accommodate a home office inside – why not take it outside, garden space permitting? The current uncertainty and the changes in the way we work during the COVID-19 epidemic have led many to reconsider their office set-ups and give considerable attention to moving some of their working week to a home office even after the lock-down has ended. Colleagues we have spoken to post lock-down are reassessing the need for renting expensive commercial premises versus the benefits that being closer to home offer, and the purpose-built garden home office is certainly raising its profile. The distance between the home and the garden workplace creates a distinction between the two and it helps to create a professional environment, and a better work-life balance by staying out of the way of the normal household activities and distractions - it is a space to focus and be productive.
Distinct, bespoke designs can be created and tailored around specific sites, intended use and design choices, thereby crafting spaces that suit individual needs. Drawings, elevations and 3-D imaging aid the visualisation of those spaces to ensure that they meet the needs of the occupiers. Sustainable, eco friendly environmental techniques and materials may be used to minimise the impact on the environment and the immediate surroundings.
Space Layout / Organisation
Space layout is a vital component of the interior design of any and every space and the home office is no exception. Carefully thought out furniture layout and storage requirements ensure that we have the necessary space we need and that we function within it with ease and purpose. The choice of desk size and surface, the type and amount of storage, the myriad of options available for organisation of desk items - these are all essential elements for productivity, and solutions can be as simple as pencil cups or trays to keep all writing instruments in one place. There are so many options for storage, the challenge really is more in identifying our needs, what works best with our flow of paper and work. We all have our personal and very individual ways of working - remember that when planning how you store your items. Italian product designer and manufacturer EmmeBi has amazing examples of office storage solutions, both commercial and residential, and these products can be used for high-end solutions with maximum impact. If, on the other hand, a more modest budget approach is required, the ethos of that designer look can be emulated with similar products found at high street retailers.
The items we choose to use in our home office directly influence our health and wellbeing, therefore we should select them with careful consideration and attention to their ergonomic design.
Chair manufacturers have made significant improvements in adjustability and comfort for computer users and attention is paid to the biomechanics of seating. Task chairs reflect this research and are making individuals' lives easier even when they work on a computer the entire day. Keilhauer has produced chairs that feature a pelvis balance point and free shoulder technology and are truly kind to backs and spines during computer work.
Humanscale has also taken a great amount of time and effort to study the needs of the human body when it comes to working. For those whose role is to write or create most of the time, an investment in the company's chairs would not only be beneficial but also wise and the rewards in using the chairs will last for many years .
Individual Style & Wellbeing
Our home office should be as individual as we are - reflecting our personality and our outlook. Whether a dedicated space within a room such as the kitchen, dining or living room or a home office in a separate room, the design of that space, the colour scheme, the type and style of furniture we choose, the individual decorative items and accessories should be determined by our own preferences. There is no right or wrong colour scheme, just an overriding principle that represents our individuality and combines it with the specific nature of our work requirements, resulting in a space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
As we spend substantial time in our home office, it is key that the place reflects warm, welcoming and homely vibes. A piece of art, personal photographs, a library of our favourite books, a treasured rug, lamp or a vase with beautiful flowers are all ways of adding our personality into the space, ensuring that the space serves to motivate us and bring us joy.
Our wellbeing, both at work and at home, is influenced by a lot more than the environment we’re in. But measurable factors such as light levels, noise levels, humidity, dust levels, are great indicators of how our environment can impact us all. Measuring these factors in our home may not be a practical option, but there are still some straight forward things we can do to improve the quality of our home working environment.
Humidifiers and air purifiers are a wise investment when spending extended periods of time indoors, but plants have similar purifying abilities. The range of benefits that plants bring with them include fewer dust particles in the air, lower CO2 levels and increased humidity levels, not to mention the sheer beauty and tranquillity inherent in their aesthetic appeal. Scented candles or flowers are another effective method of bringing calm, serenity and beauty to our space, thus balancing the structured and focused demands imposed on us by our workload.
In conclusion, we hope that this article has helped to determine and crystallise your home office needs at this unprecedented time. To summarise, here are the most important points to consider, when embarking on creating a working space tailored to your specific requirements:
CHOOSE A LOCATION THAT BEST SUITS YOUR WORKING STYLE
DECIDE WHAT YOU NEED IN YOUR HOME OFFICE
DON'T LET AN AWKWARD SPACE DETER YOU
DESIGN YOUR HOME OFFICE WITH TECH NEEDS IN MIND
INVEST IN THE BEST DESK AND CHAIR YOU CAN GET FOR YOUR BUDGET
BANISH CLUTTER WITH COMPREHENSIVE STORAGE
GET LIGHTING RIGHT
CHOOSE A COLOUR SCHEME AND ACCESSORIES THAT INSPIRE YOU
CONSIDER A GARDEN HOME OFFICE FOR ULTIMATE PRIVACY
Thank you for taking the time to read our guide to setting up a practical, functional and elegant home office. Stay safe, healthy and positive.