If you’re considering working from home, or do so already, and want to create an oasis of calm and productivity, here are my tips and ideas to inspire you.
Tip #1: Carve out a dedicated space
When I first started working from home, I used to sit at my kitchen table. It wasn’t the right height for extended periods of sitting at a computer, and even with a cushion, the dining chair didn’t do wonders for my back. I also used to end up with jam or crumbs on my laptop, much to the disapproval of IT who had to unstick some of the keys on more than one occasion.
I didn’t have the luxury of a spare room to create a dedicated office, nor the budget for an ambitious project to convert the attic. But looking round the house objectively, I realised that we mostly use our living room for watching TV in the evenings, and the bay window overlooking the garden could accommodate a modest-sized desk. Of course, everyone’s house is different. But chances are, you have a box room that’s currently filled with clutter, an under-stairs space that is just a dumping ground for the vacuum cleaner or muddy boots, or a discreet corner, which could be repurposed with a little imagination and a few hours’ work.
See what you can do with the space you have with and get inspired by these 500 home office designs.
Tip #2: Snap up a furniture bargain
You don’t need to furnish your home office like the Oval Office of the White House, but you simply cannot perch all day at a flimsy computer trolley designed for occasional use. There just isn’t enough storage or desktop real estate to work effectively. And your spine certainly won’t thank you for being confined to a chair that breaks every ergonomic rule in the book — you’ll end up with all sorts of musculoskeletal twinges.
But kitting out your home office space needn’t cost a fortune. Big corporates often refresh their office interiors, and there are a number of clearance firms that reclaim and sell on robust, professional quality used desks, chairs, filing cabinets and other furniture for a fraction of the price you’d pay at an office supplies retailer for consumer-grade equivalents. You might also want to try your local auction house: when companies are put into administration, their assets, including furniture and office equipment, are liquidated, and you can bag some absolute bargains.
Tip #3: Clear out the clutter
Nothing will detract from your focus like working amid the mayhem and detritus of your personal life. And if you’re participating in online meetings, you don’t want your webcam to betray you to your co-workers by revealing piles of laundry, children’s toys or dirty dishes over your shoulder. A tidy environment helps clear the mind, so purge the area behind you of all signs of familial chaos.
However, if you aren’t naturally a domestic god(dess), you can cheat! Again, office clearance firms often stock partitions at rock-bottom prices. Or if you want something that looks a bit less grey and corporate, scour the local discount retailers or eBay for cheap wicker, bamboo or wooden room dividers, which will partition off your working environment stylishly and can be folded away when not in use.
For more quick and easy cheats for organising your office space, there are some great ideas here 20 Awesome DIY Office Organisation Ideas That Boost Efficiency.
Tip #4: Get out of the glare
If you’re limited as to where you can put your desk, you may find that you can’t avoid backing onto a window or sitting underneath dazzling halogen spots. One way or another, you’ll suffer from natural or artificial light bouncing off your screen — especially if it’s made of glass, like mine. I once got a quote for light-reflective blinds and was appalled by how expensive they were, while the prospect of sticking anti-glare solar film to my windows just didn’t appeal. However, when shopping for blackout curtains for my son’s bedroom, I found some fantastic anti-glare roller blinds. They were ridiculously cheap and come in a variety of sizes and colours to suit any window or interior décor. They filter out the glare without blocking out the daylight, and simply roll up when I’m not working to let the sunshine flood in.
Tip #5: Avoid unwanted intrusions
Last but by no means least, brief members of your household on what days you plan to work from home, as well as friends or those like your mother-in-law who may be prone to dropping by unannounced. They couldn’t just pop into your office building for coffee on a whim, so they should similarly respect your home when it doubles as your place of work. Unless your house is open plan, try to keep doors closed. It stops children wandering in, and keeps noise out (nobody in my professional orbit needs to hear my other half singing in the shower). And finally, if you have pets in your work environment, make sure they’re well-behaved on camera. I once became aware of colleagues smirking at me during a video meeting. Turning to glance over my shoulder, I was horrified to observe one of my dogs (who was just an adolescent pup at the time) vigorously “romancing” a cushion in the background, much to everyone’s amusement — and my blushes!
Have you got any ideas on how to create the perfect home-office environment? What has worked for your space? Let us know in the comments!