The benefits of remote work are becoming obvious to both workers and employees – fewer overheads, no long, stressful commutes, and a better work/life balance. And with high-speed internet available everywhere, and professional level office equipment becoming ever more affordable, more of us are working from home (or wherever we happen to be) than ever before.
While mobile technology means you can put together a proposal on the train, or conduct a meeting on your smartphone or tablet in a cafe, many remote workers want and need a dedicated home office space. Whether you have a large, airy room or a cozy nook, designing and kitting out your workspace is both fun, and a challenge. As with all decorating planning is required, as well as restraint.
A home office needs to balance practicality, productivity and stress reduction with a personal touch. There are many aspects to think about, but follow some of these tips, and you’ll be well on your way.
Your home dictates what kind of room you will have to work in. You may have a large, dedicated space, away from distractions and the hubbub of a busy family home. Or you might live in a more compact apartment, with a small corner with a desk.
However much space you can allocate, it is vitally important to dedicate that space to work – keep it separate from the rest of your home as much as possible – avoid busy places like the kitchen or rooms that are used to access other parts of the house. Office equipment and fittings come in all shapes and sizes, so even if you have limited space, you can maximize it with cross purpose furniture and storage solutions.
If possible, don’t use your home office for anything but work – working from home sounds like an ideal arrangement, but you don’t want to blur the boundaries between your job and the rest of your life.
Let There Be Light
Great lighting sets the mood and tone of a room like nothing else. Something sorely lacking from most commercial office space is good, natural light. If you’re lucky enough to have a window (or two, or more), then set up your desk to get the maximum amount of light from outside.
Minimize screen glare by facing the window, and give yourself a view to look at while you work. It has been shown that being able to look at the outside world during work hours aids productivity and reduces stress levels.
If you haven’t got a great source of natural light, it is well worth investing in an elegant desk lamp and a good lighting fixture. If you have a dimmer switch you can alternate between brighter light for bursts of productivity, and a more ambient atmosphere if you need to unwind a little.
Every home office, large or small, has basic requirements to function. That means a desk, a computer and a chair, for starters. According to Ink Station, a chair is something well worth investing a bit more cash in – remember that you will be parked there most of your working day.
You’ll also need an internet connection, a phone line (although for most people a smartphone will do), and all the bits and pieces such as stationary, pens, paper and post-it notes that office work requires.
Not everyone uses printers these days, but they are useful items to have, and come in shapes and sizes to suit all workspaces. Many also double as fax machines and scanners and are getting ever more affordable.
Aside from keeping away from kids, pets, over-eager neighbors, and other sources of distraction, maintaining a clean, minimal desk space is essential for productive, well-organized work in the home office.
It’s easy to abandon your desk to reams of paper, coffee cups, pens and other bits and bobs – these things are not only visually distracting, they also clutter the mind and stifle productivity. Keep your in and out trays organized, your desk free of detritus, your computer cords cable-tied and as out of sight as possible, and your mind will be as clear as your workspace.
This is where your personal taste comes in. You may respond well to warm, pastel colors on the walls, or maybe cool blue or green tones get you into the right headspace for work. Whatever shades you favor, make sure they aren’t too intense or oppressive – claustrophobic offices are rarely productive ones. If you must use bright, bold paint, perhaps consider limiting it to a feature wall.
A perk of working at home is being able to put posters, paintings, prints or photographs of your choosing up. Family photos have always been popular with office workers, but here you can incorporate them into the wider design aesthetic. Some classy, elegant desk ornaments are also a nice touch, but exercise a bit of restraint – you want to enjoy your office but you don’t want distractions.
Bring a bit of the outside in! Having plants in the office lifts the mood, and adds to the oxygen levels of the space. If space is limited, choose a couple of small plants to place on a filing cabinet or the corner of your desk. If you have a bigger office, large plants in pots on the floor add a lush, classy feel. Plants are an inexpensive decor option, and help to reduce stress levels.
Working from home is increasingly common, but it is easy to get designing a home office wrong. But with some forward planning, a sense of balance and some personal touches, you can create a perfect, calm, productive space to spend your working days in.