In an ideal office at home, you want to be both relaxed and industrious. Yet with so many distractions and competing demands on our limited space, how do we create a home office that is not only functional but a pleasure to work in?
Virgina Woolfe wrote that having “a room of one’s own” to think and work, without interruption, was a life necessity. Woolfe used her room to write in, but what about you?
The old adage ‘form follows function’ is key here. What activities do you need to do in the office? If we need our office space for large quantities of complex tax documents, then unfolding the ironing board in the laundry cavity isn’t going to be big enough.
Ask yourself whether the space will be used as a dedicated office or as an occasional telecommute. If clients are stopping by, making their journey separate from the rest of the house will be fairly important.
Start with a blank slate on a notepad and think through the activities that the space needs to be used for. Then look at what space is available. How could it be modified to suit?
Is the space bright enough? Natural light from a window is great, but you might also need curtains to stop screen reflection during parts of the day. If it a windowless room, consider adding a skylight if the budget allows. There are different ways of getting in natural light, including roof windows, solar, and tubing systems. These can be cost effective ways of adding diffuse light to a poky or dark space.
Tighter budget? Desk and floor lamps are worth considering and can create a lovely ambience.
A northern aspect is best. East-facing rooms will be warm and cosy in the morning but may get cool in the afternoon. Vice versa for west-facing. We don’t want to get distracted by being too cold or too hot. Compensate with a fan or air-conditioner. Consider how you can keep yourself comfortable during the time you’ll be in there.
When you work from home, you get to enjoy a workplace free of office politics, a one-minute commute, and no more snarly traffic. But there are downsides.
It may not be automotive and exhaust-belching, but foot traffic from our family or housemates can be just as exasperating.
The quick questions about dinner, bills, and social plans might take just a few seconds, but studies have shown that when our flow gets interrupted, it can take several minutes to recover.
Work out when it’s okay to ask you questions. When you’re on a loo break? At lunchtime? Are you out-of-bounds when you’re working, but fair game any time you’re in the kitchen? To make it easier, it could be worth having a door or a comical sign to hang when it is best not to disturb.
This one is a no-brainer, but sharing a phone line, tablet or computer, and other tech is an exercise in bad business hygiene.
If we need a stimulating office for creative work, the grey-green laundry might not be the best colour palette. How about a repaint? How about wall paper?
This best shades on the surrounding walls depend on the activities you’ll use your office for. Do you require heavy concentration? Are you in a creative industry and want music, vibrance, interesting objets d’art? Certain colour palettes will be conducive to whatever mind-space you need to inhabit.
Shelves with the functional items you require, like notebooks, work logs, manuals, guides and procedures are important. Save a little space for the small things in life that spark ikigai or represent small, daily rituals. They may be photographs, ceramics, your kids’ drawings, or childhood favourite figurines that give you a sense of fun or irreverence.
Indoor plants have been shown to be healthy inclusion as they create cleaner air. The colour green has also been noted to relax. To avoid eye-strain, looking at your green plant intermittently can give some relief.
When we design a workspace we love, neck aches and back cramps are not going to keep us going for hours on end in a state of blissful flow.
We need not only good lighting, but an ergonomic chair and desk. Using a fitness ball (or Swiss ball) from time-to-time might seem like a good substitute for an ergonomic chair, given the costs, but not so fast. The evidence now suggests that they might do as much harm than good. Think about leaving them for exercise only.
On the other hand, standing desks are popular and thought to aid blood circulation, mildly boost metabolism, and help prevent deep vein thrombosis. They’re also thought to aid focus and concentration, which is nice. There are desks that can convert from seated use to standing. IKEA has a range of styles and price points.
Let’s talk tables. I used to have a large glass desk that I admired much from afar. But every coffee cup, pen, or book it touched made an audible thud or clink. Now I use wood. Wood feels nicer and absorbs sound. Plus, timber tables are so easy to get for free — from a resource recovery centre, or from someone who no longer wants one.
Donald Hall said “Absorption is the paradise of work”, so prepare to settle in. Nail the basics of comfort, light, temperature and functionality and you’ll never want to come out.
If you need some to renovate, extend or add a loft space, our design and drafting team would love to help deliver your dream office.