There are a lot more people making conference calls in their pajamas than you might think.
According to a recent study by Global Workplace Analytics, nearly 4 million of us are working from home at least half of the time, not including the self-employed.
As attitudes shift surrounding the concept of a 9-to-5 day spent working in a traditional office, an increasing number of companies are sanctioning, even encouraging, their employees to work from home, making the home office more important than ever.
Home work spaces can be complicated, however, as not everyone has an extra room or the space necessary to dedicate to an office, and even when they do it requires thought and planning.
The obvious first step in creating any type of work space is deciding where to place it.
“You really have to think about where the location is in the home,” explained Stacy Moher, founder of Living Interiors of Connecticut LLC, a residential and commercial interior design firm serving clients in Litchfield, Fairfield, New Haven and Hartford counties.
“Some people don’t have a home office, but your office space doesn’t have to be a designated room,” she said, “so if you’re low on space, you can create an office or desk space.”
Closets, corners, nooks, unused space under the stairs, are all places Moher suggests considering, along with choosing functional furniture items like cabinet-desk combinations or desks that fold down from the wall.
For tighter spaces Moher recommends going vertical. “There’s a lot of wall space we could be utilizing,” she said. “Climb the walls with shelving.”
With a few tweaks and some fortitude, a backyard shed can be converted into a home office.
“People are converting their sheds into all kinds of spaces these days; it’s a big trend,” said Moher.
Putting in electricity, as well as installing heating and cooling are among some of the bigger obstacles in converting an outbuilding into a habitable space, but otherwise it’s not that difficult.
“There are so many things you can do with sheds; you don’t even need to drywall to make it a comfortable work space,” Moher said.
Bar Noise and Chaos
Also important in deciding where to set up your home work space is choosing an area where you are least likely to be distracted, said Rick Woods, a professional organizer and owner of The Functional Organizer LLC in Enfield.
“Make sure you have an area that’s not loud or chaotic,” said Woods. “Don’t be next to the kitchen or a high traffic areas unless you can work in that environment.”
Better options include the basement, an upstairs room (if you have one) or a spot away from the main hustle and bustle of the household.
The bedroom, however, should be last on the list, according to Woods, who said that bringing your busy work life into the bedroom can hinder sleep and make it difficult to detach at the end of the day.
“It’s OK to bring your laptop, but you don’t want to have a whole desk set up in there; it’s good to keep them separate.”
Another key element in setting up a functional home office is organization. Woods offers some tips on how to create a clutter-free space:
- Start by purging unnecessary paperwork.
- Set up a filing system to avoid wasting time when trying to find important documents.
“Have a filing system readily available on the right side if you are right-handed and on the left-side if you are left-handed. You don’t have to think about where the paper is and it makes the process go much faster.”
- Designate space on your desk for frequently used items, such as paper clips, sticky notes, scissors and staplers — this is a time saver.
“Go to a big-box store and spend a half an hour looking for the most efficient organizer you can find to put that stuff in where you can easily see it and grab quickly so you can get your work done.”
- The office chair: When picking out an office chair, Woods recommends spending a little extra cash to get a good one. “You’re going to spend a lot of time in it, so you want it to be comfortable.”
The layout of your work space is yet another consideration, according to Moher, who said that instead of pushing your desk against the wall, position it facing a window or in the center of the room for more visual interest and inspiration.
Once the basics have been taken care of, the final step is to tailor the area to fit your taste.
“It’s not like a corporate office location where you can’t personalize,” said Moher. “Take the opportunity to personalize and make it meaningful.”
Accessorizing with art, photographs or even things like framing favorite postcards or other mementos can be a relatively inexpensive way to personalize, and if you have a dedicated room for your home office, she suggests selecting a wall color that reflects how you want to feel in the space.
Overall, Moher said, the ideal home office is one that’s functional, comfortable, personalized and has a limited number of distractions.
“I think you’re going to feel much more productive, effective and just plain happier throughout the workday,” she said.