Honey, I'm Home!
A survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed that around half of all firms now offered at least some opportunity for employees to work from home even if only occasionally. The figure for full time home workers is estimated to be around 10% of the overall working population but this includes some self employed sectors so figures are only approximate. There is no doubt however that the number of people now working from home has risen massively in the past decade (see accompanying part one article) even though the debate still rages as to whether employees are more productive working freely at home, able to take care of ad hoc home duties or under the eyeball of the boss in the workplace.
Those that work full time from home (and are often in industries where this is the norm) are more likely to have a dedicated home office as important to their career as their mobile phone and membership to LinkedIn. But what about those that ‘wfh’ once a week or so? There is only so long the kitchen table will do before the need for a dedicated space becomes a must and a datastick in the marg’ becomes history.
There is already an article covering the basic technical requirements for a home office but what about the more design orientated aspects for successfully transforming an area of your home into a dedicated work space? Designing a home office is not as simple as adding a desk for your laptop to the spare room.
Much has been made of the elusive phenomenon of ‘work-life balance’ and this becomes entirely blurred when part of the domestic space is taken over by a dedicated work area so the skill is to enable full work capabilities whilst ensuring this doesn't encroach on other aspects of home life.
Planning Your Home Office
Beyond the technical aspects there are two other main concerns for making a home office. The first is space and the second is budget. You need to be honest about what filing needs your job will require. If possible all paperwork, documents and work paraphernalia should be kept within a designated area and not allowed to spread outside of this. Management waffle aside there is actually some pretty straightforward thinking as to why work life and home life should be kept separated and sacred. This means storage space has to be a key part of the design from the planning stage.
Taking into account the space you need for your work area and the budget you have available allows you to prioritise between items you need to purchase. If you have the space and the budget it is always worth investing in a proper office chair. This means it has a fully adjustable seat and back and the addition of rollers helps spread the weight of the load preventing ‘divets’ in the carpet occurring during marathon teleconferences.
A good size desk is another priority to allow for the space of a laptop, phone and pad and paper to be easily accessed without moving things around. If space is an issue there are plenty of foldable home office desks that simply fold away after use but this leaves the chair exposed and means you’ll have to pack everything away after each session.
With the right environment you can make it as easy as possible to get to work when you need to and let go of your occupational responsibilities after. Work-life balance is actually all about an emotional detachment and strict regime between when you are expected to work and when you aren't. Good home office design is successful when it enables this. Excellent home office design succeeds when management waffle in the home never impedes waffle management in the kitchen, any ‘drilling down’ at the weekend should be done with a drill, ‘blue sky thinking’ involves the outdoors only (unless you have satellite TV with corresponding menu backgrounds) and ‘going forward together’ involves a form of transport or leisure activity.
Images courtesy of sxc.hu