Working from home bestows a number of benefits, not least no more long commutes, no more office politics and a better work/life balance. But one perk that is often underestimated is the opportunity to design your own workspace, created with your specific needs and taste in mind. This means no more drab office cubicles in poorly-lit rooms — you’re in control of where you work and can create a space that you enjoy spending your days in.
The home office, once seen as a luxury, is now the cost-effective and smart choice for those who work in the globalised and technology-driven modern day business environment.
A home office can improve the value of your house, offer lucrative tax breaks, and save you money on commuting and renting an expensive coworking space. Taking the time to create your very own work sanctuary is key.
In this post, we’ll guide you through seven simple steps to create your perfect working space.
Step One: Decide on What You Need
Before you begin to set up your home office, you first need to consider what you actually need and want from it.
An office is a designated work space, so it must be functional and practical, and be able to serve you and your business endeavours.
Start by making a list of your requirements based on your answers to the following questions:
- What do I need to do in the space?
- What type of work will I be undertaking?
- Will external clients visit me in my home office?
- Will I work alone or will colleagues also occupy the space?
- What equipment do I need to get my work done?
- When will I be doing the bulk of my work?
- Will I need to make conference calls from my office?
- Will I need to make video calls from my office?
Consider not only what you need now, but also what your long-term business goals are. This will help you establish the foundations of your office. Keep these ideas in mind throughout the design process, so that you can ensure that your home office will meet your needs and have longevity.
Step Two: Decide on a Location
Now you have an idea of what you need from your home office, the next big question to answer is where you will put it. Like with most things, location is everything.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing a location to set up shop, but, as a general rule of thumb, you need to situate your office somewhere that is quiet, separate from family members and other distractions, and offers a degree of privacy. This goes without saying, but don’t attempt to double-up on space by placing your home office where you work out or your children sleep.
You may already have a spare room that you could use, such as that long-unused guest bedroom or old playroom. If not, you may decide that you require an extension to create a separate space that can also accommodate your clients and colleagues. Adding a home office extension will not only meet your requirements, but it will also add value to your house, making it well worth the investment.
Whichever you choose, make sure you speak to a trusted local tradesman. Whether you’re looking for a tradesperson to convert your loft or you’re looking for an experienced painter and decorator to renovate your space, a professional will be able to ensure your office suits you. Explain your needs to them and ensure that all the key requirements are covered, such as a strong internet connection, easily-accessible plug sockets and phone lines.
Step Three: Sort Your Light Source
Think of the worst office you ever worked at. Low ceilings, vacuous walls and the constant flicker of sterile, artificial light that gave you a headache and made your eyes water. If going into work every morning and stepping into the harsh light made you feel low and filled you with a sense of dread, you’re not alone. Low natural light has a negative psychological effect and can leave us feeling depressed and unmotivated.
When it comes to creating your home office, take advantage of natural sunlight by positioning your desk to face a window. Research shows that windows that let in natural sunlight help workers to exercise more, get more sleep (equating to an extra 46 minutes per night), feel more alert and energetic, and benefit from better overall wellbeing and health.
For cloudy days, or nights when you decide to burn the midnight oil, invest in high-quality and energy-efficient full-spectrum lighting. Whether you opt for lamps, overhead lights or floor lights, be careful not to position your lights in front of your screen to minimise glare and eye strain.
Step Four: Storage
Most home offices suffer from the same problem: a lack of storage space. However big your home office, it will probably never meet the scale of commercial offices with their built-in storage facilities and conference rooms. Over time, papers can build up, leaving you drowning in a sea of files and forms. However, all it takes is a clever and creative approach to storage. Live by the maxim, “a place for everything and to everything its place”.
To optimise your space, keep things simple and stripped back. Avoid bulky and ornate furnishings and, instead, opt for magazine racks and simple library shelves to house files and documents.
A well-chosen desk with drawers is an efficient way to store important materials that you use regularly. Pencil cups, trays and cardholders can also be implemented to keep mess at bay. Keep wires tidy with wire clips and ensure they’re placed to prevent trips and falls — health and safety should still be a concern, even when you work from home. Be practical, functional and ruthless: everything in your office should be completely necessary.
That hefty colour copier might be useful once a month, but, for the amount of space it takes up, it would probably be more convenient to pop to your local printing store, rather than doing it yourself. To ensure you’re never out of stock of the essentials, invest in a small cupboard for your office supplies.
Exercise minimalism and control in your design choices and set up a space that would provide a professional backdrop in the event of a video conference call.
Step Five: Go Ergonomic
Ergonomics has become somewhat of a buzzword in business, with offices increasingly going the ergonomic way. With ergonomically-designed offices helping to decrease fatigue, discomfort and physical and mental stress, it’s not hard to see why. The result is greater comfort and increased productivity — a win-win.
Designing your office with ergonomics in mind allows you to work more comfortably and efficiently, and it doesn’t have to be costly, either. Follow these simple tips to experience the benefits:
- Give your eyes a break by placing the top of your computer screen at or slightly below eye level. The idea is that, as you scan down your screen, your eyelids will naturally close a little, providing moisture and helping you avoid dry and tired eyes
- Improve your posture by positioning your keyboard in such a way that your forearms are parallel to the floor. Poor posture can lead to a host of health problems, including chronic back pain
- Stay grounded by adjusting your chair so that your feet rest firmly on the floor. If you’re on the shorter side, add a footrest to bring the ground to you
- Invest in a comfortable chair. Plenty has been said about the biomechanics of seating, but, simply put, you want to choose a chair that you enjoy sitting in. If your chair is uncomfortable, chances are, you’ll be up and down like a yo-yo all day long, which will affect your productivity and posture.
Step Six: Add Some Greenery
This is a short, but sweet, point: it’s been scientifically proven that plants make people happier. Not only do plants give off all-important oxygen, but they also bring some mood-boosting and calm-inducing colour into the office. Stick to plants that don’t need watering every day and that can be left to their own devices over the weekend or during stressful periods, but don’t forget to nurture them.
Step Seven: Personalise
If you’ve kept all of the following points in mind, you should now have a functional and practical home office, complete with all the furnishings you need to work at your best. The only thing that is missing is a bit of unique style. In commercial offices, personalisation can be tricky. If you’re stuck in a cubicle, personalising your space probably extends to having a couple of photos and perhaps a sticker or two. The biggest benefit of having a home office is that you can get creative and make the space your own.
We work better when we’re surrounded by things that inspire and motivate us — a picture of a loved one; a painting we adore. But don’t get carried away: these final flourishes should put you at ease, not act as a distraction. Those quirky vintage chairs you love may look great, but they won’t support your back, and, while you may love bold colours, rich colours can become annoying when you’re surrounded by them day after day. Too much environmental stimulation is a distraction, so opt for small touches, such as patterned rugs, artwork and photos. Your home office should be designed with functionality first and aesthetics second.
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