image source: goodhousekeeping.com
Strange times we live in indeed as more and more people are working from home. Here are some design tips to help you design your work space.
As we ease out of the current Covid19 lockdown, we have learned to accept the reality that we will need work from home (or WFH) if ever there's another virus looming. Nowadays, some companies do encourage a day or more a week working from home. If you're like me, though, this can be a BIG challenge, as the need to separate work and home life is sacrosanct (aaah!). But working from home is here to stay.
Now, don't make the mistake of copy-pasting a "pretty" Pinterest home office to your own space; a typical office space is designed primarily to be function over form, and there are regulations specifically made for this. Offices are a completely different beast from my experience of designing and working in corporate environments - they are specifically designed to get you into "work mode".
Nevertheless, you DO need to make it your personal space. it's your HOME office. As such, I've put together a detailed list of some things to take into consideration as you transform your study, home office, or under stairs niche into your new home office. I want you to get it right, your productivity depends on it!
ZONE IN (OR OUT)
Make sure that your space has enough visual and audio privacy to allow you to tune into work. If you can close it off, the better. This is your work space, make sure it allows you that zoned feeling. The best place in the house, for me, is the kitchen - if there's no space in the house for a separate study/office. Avoid the bedroom at all costs, and if it is in the living room, keep the TV off!
REDUCE THE NOISE
Offices are designed, as much as possible, to ABSORB noise, not bounce it. it helps to reduce reverberation or echoes that are disruptive to one's focus. And you don't want your phone conversations to be broadcast around the house. Aim for carpeted floors, or an area rug would work. Soft or textured surfaces don't bounce off sound, rather absorbs or disperses it. Bookshelves with books are a great example, or curtains/drapes, plants too!
(But hey, a bit of ambient music on your speakers or headphones does work :))
A TALE OF TWO LIGHTS
Always have more than one source of lighting. Daylight or ambient lighting (something that is above you, plus window light flooding into the room) goes hand-in-hand with desktop task lighting. Glare will be an issue for your desk lamp, so get one that points light directionally, rather than throws light all over, and also one that can be adjusted to point where it's needed and redirect glare. The clean balance of light not only allows you to see what you're doing, but it psychologically boosts productivity. And please leave the cozy warm bulbs behind and instead go for cooler daylight or LED.
image source: YLighting
SHOW YOUR TRUE COLOURS
Learn how to personalize your home office space with a good colour palette. I suggest more calm and neutral tones (harsh colours will tire and bore you easily). Colours that are more blue are calming, while greens will encourage you to absorb and learn more. Neutral and greys will work, but don't go overboard with black. A good warm white or off-white will be fresh and easy.
image source: Dulux
Your body MUST be confortable in working, and right seat and desk heights, plus posture is key. Below is an easy diagram to follow:
image source: The Mayo Clinic
DESK, 'NUFF SAID
Go neutral if possible, or light wooden colours such as oak, cherry or beech. From my experience, you need this light neutrality to provide the right contrast to any paperwork you have. Darker tones, or worse bold colours, will just tire your eyes. I remember being requested by an office team leader some time ago to go for red desks (?!) as part of their branding. My response was simple; "do you want your eyes to bleed after 8 hours?!"
Also, I personally find that having desk space on both sides of my laptop (or PC) to be a ideal, enough that I can lay flat an A4 sheet on either side.
A CHAIR IS NOT A CHAIR...
...if it is too soft and comfy. Have a good firm one with ample back support, can swivel and be adjustable if possible (see the diagram above). Or a good kitchen chair with a comfortable seat pad and back pillow. A foot pad (or shoe box) is a nice touch, to get your hip-knee levels right. Also, if you have the space, a reading chair nearby would be a welcome addition and a great alternative chair to work in.
STORAGE IS THE RAGE
Bookshelf...check! Filing cabinet...check! Pen holders...check! Make sure you have a variety of storage options (not just furniture) to make sure there is enough space to store EVERYTHING, and they will be easy to find and reach.
IMPORTANT: I abide by the "clean desk" policy; at the end of the day, make sure you store ALL work related items, all books/notebooks are closed, laptop/PC powered off and your desk kept clean, so that by the off chance you pass by your desk in the middle of the night, nothing will hypnotize you to get working when you're supposed to be resting! See if this can work for you
image source: Getty/iStockphoto
WIFI, WIFI, WIFI!
Be good to yourself and have good WIFI especially in your work area, and wherever you decide you'd bring your laptop to (which leads me then to...)
You'll get bored and tired working in your desk, I guarantee that. That's why in office designs I have worked in, the future direction is in having multiple work locations - an open office design. That's where your kitchen island would come handy. Having a standing work station will not only stretch your muscles, but also would also cut the monotony of working in your desk. Or sit on that reading chair I was telling you earlier, with a small coffee/side table in front as your mini desk. AVOID the bed or couch though!
image source: Getty Images
NATURE = GREEN = WELLBEING
One of the best rules of thumb I've learned was to bring green in as much as possible. Health and safety was always a challenge for offices, but a home office allows your to be as green as possible. A nature view is always desirable, just make sure that the sun will not glare you too much (have a curtain/blind if necessary). OR if not possible, a plant, or two or three; they will provide extra texture and interest, or even some photos/pictures might be enough. Greenery and nature have a restorative, morale-boosting effect when one gets bored, tired or overwhelmed - especially when working from home.
image source: Pinterest
PERSONALIZE & MOTIVATE - THE RIGHT IMAGERY
In the end, it is YOUR workspace, the luxury you have in working from home is you CAN personalize it. Add things that will inspire you, not distract. Family photos will remind you what you're doing this for. Or some toys or figurines that motivate. Art DEFINITELY helps (and in my next blog, I will explore some good options). Imagery, from what I've learned in graphic environment design, have the power to set the tone and inspire you.
Now that's quite a lot, and I do hope I have covered all the important bits. Remember, these suggestions (if you can achieve as much of them) will allow you to own and delight in your home office, rather than resent having to work at home. And hey, this is the future, embrace it!
Francis graduated cum laude as an an architect, and has since worked in a world Top 100 architectural firm, as well as in the Brussels EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asian) innovation hub of one the world's leading brands. He is also a visual artist (with commissions for the HSE), interior and graphic designer, and creates fashion jewellery and millinery. Art and design, he says, can be very healing and restorative, and will always tell a story - and this is part of his creative ethos. If you need his services, please send an email to: email@example.com