Changing rooms: creating a home office
Tips, tricks and ideas to help you establish your ideal workplace at home.
Flexible working has become less of a buzzword and more of a way of life in recent years, so the popularity of home offices is rising fast. There are many ways of creating a comfortable homeworking space that aids productivity, whether converting a spare bedroom or revamping a tired study. Here are some helpful tips to help you get started.
Choose a dedicated space
It might be tempting to set up a desk in a corner of the living or dining room, especially if you’re short on space, but a dedicated working area will help you avoid distractions and stay productive, while also ensuring your private space remains that way.
“Having a dedicated office will give you the chance to take breaks in other rooms, providing valuable time away from work,” says Anna von Werthern, interior designer at Assael Interiors. “It will help you create a sense of separation between work and home, and that will undoubtedly aid productivity in the long run.”
Consider your power options
Unless you plan on working solely with pen and paper, you’ll need some power outlets nearby. Arrange your room in a way that allows easy access to plug sockets for all of your equipment.
If you don’t have sockets in abundance, you’ll need to prioritise. The most important things to consider will be your computer, extra monitors, telephone and router. Next, think about devices such as chargers, lamps and speakers – the things that are important to have but don’t necessarily need to be right next to you as you work.
“If you have fixed socket positions to work with and they are not in the right locations, white extension leads can be used and pinned to the top of skirting boards to make them as unobtrusive as possible,” says Josie Lywood of Fine & Country Interior Design.
Alternatively, you could arrange for an electrician to fit outlets in the most convenient places; this will give you the opportunity to include handy powered USB ports too.
Let your motives influence your environment
A home office is a home office, right? Wrong: all working spaces are different and yours should be set up to meet your own specific needs.
“Consider what type of work you will carry out in the space,” advises Tania Adir, co-founder of London co-working space provider Uncommon. “Will it be intense periods of concentration, or bursts of creativity and inspiration?”
The answers to questions like these should inform your decisions on furniture, colours, sounds and even smells. “Sounds and smells can have a huge impact on our mood,” Adir says, “so invest a subtle diffuser to provide some background focus. Lemon verbena in particular is known to aid concentration, while scents such as vanilla and cinnamon can help boost creativity.”
This way of thinking also applies to the colours you surround yourself with. “Wall colours and furnishings in blue, lilac and green work best for a focused and calm environment,” says Adir. “Bright shades of yellow, orange and pink are more suited to tasks where you need to feel alert.”
Factor in storage from the start
Your motive for creating an office at home will also influence the type of storage solutions you’ll need. Are you working with lots of paper every day? If so, a sturdy filing cabinet is a no-brainer. And whether your work is creative or technical, you might need shelf space for reference books.
Your chosen storage might have added benefits as well. “For those who regularly join video conferences, your backdrop will be important: a combination of exposed shelves displaying topical books, magazines and prints can set the scene well,” says Anna Tasou-Rowley, senior architect at RIBA-chartered practice Tasou Associates. “Units with doors to hide away chargers and laptops help to avoid unsightly clutter too.”
Embrace the natural
When you’ve built the perfect office and have everything you need within arm’s reach, it’s easy to forget the outside world exists. While that can be handy when deadlines are looming, it’s not ideal for your health in the long term.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to bring a little bit of nature inside. Anna von Werthern suggests prioritising desk placement. “Your desk should always be situated near a window in order to maximise your exposure to daylight,” she says. “It also helps to have something more interesting than just a wall to look at when resting your eyes or taking a short break,” she says. “Indoor plants are ideal for breaking up the space and bringing more life into the room. Plus, watering them is a great excuse for taking a short break.”
Art is a fantastic way to personalise your space and add more interest to your home office. Consider moving pieces you have elsewhere in the house into your new office or go on a dedicated trip to find works that contribute to the atmosphere you’re trying to achieve.
Create a space you love for the best results
There’s no magic shortcut to creating a great office, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach; it’s all down to your own needs and tastes. “Working in an inspirational setting is key to productivity,” says Tasou-Rowley. “If I enjoy being in the space, I naturally focus more.”