During this prolonged period of uncertainty we are living through, we have all had to make adjustments to how we lead our daily lives, including how we work from home. Without the physical commute to an office, it’s all too easy to let work slowly and steadily seep into home life – to the point where we’re looking at a screen from dawn till dusk.
To avoid falling into this all-too-common work trap I’ve become almost evangelical about creating a designated work space at home. Whether it’s an entire room or an unused nook in a forgotten corner, there are a few golden rules for making the home office comfortable and all the more productive.
First, the Basics
While the area doesn’t need to be large, you do need a space that can accommodate all the equipment you need for your work – whether its printers and scanners or pens and paintbrushes.
Think through storage and accessibility, too. The end goal is to have a fairly clean desk, with all the necessary equipment nearby.
While at the beginning of lockdown it was tempting to just slouch on the sofa or in bed with a laptop, my back has since thanked me for using a proper chair at a desk. Find a chair that encourages you to sit up straight (and at the right height) while working at a computer or laptop. I do love a Time Life “Lobby” desk chair by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller. Timeless and incredibly comfortable for those long calls on ZOOM .
Two kinds of lighting are essential – daylight and solid task lighting. Make sure you’re near a window as daylight will bring joy and a sense of wellbeing into the space while a good lamp or two make it possible to work comfortably into the evening. I always like to use mirrors either on the wall or on the desk (or both) to help amplify the light in the room.
One of the keys to making a space comfortable is making it your own. Decorate the space with a few items that inspire you – whether its artwork, family photos, a grounding quote, a personal collection, a cherished antique, a chandelier. I have a beautiful black & white photo of my daughter at the beach above my desk and a collection of shells I’ve found on my travels on the library shelves. I find them both soothing and inspiring.
A Room with A View
This goes with my thoughts on daylight. A good view of the outdoors connects us with nature and grounds us. If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony or garden you can also take the occasional break outdoors. On nice Spring days I sometimes open up the French doors onto my balcony and take a coffee and the phone outside to enjoy the scent of our ancient climbing wisteria and delight at the sight of the nearby London plane trees.
Creatures of Comfort
If you have pets, let them be a part of this space. After all, they do make wonderful company, especially after such a solitary year spent with Google and Zoom. I have a small dog bed in my study for our Maltese and she is thrilled to have the family working from home.
Peace and quiet is one of the things I’ve missed the most about working from home. I do find that adding a carpet or rug and thick curtains not only absorbs noise levels and improves acoustics for zoom and phone calls but also gives a sense of calm and softness to the work space.
The Great Escape
We all need to make time (and space) for ourselves, especially when we are spending so much time at home. Making the rest of the house comfortable and inviting is as important as getting the work space just right. Make the effort to create ambiance in the rest of the home, so when the work day is done, “escaping” to the bedroom or bathtub really feels like a special treat. Candles, bath salts and a good Netflix series certainly helps.
While it has been an adjustment, working from home does have its perks. You don’t necessarily have to dress up if you don’t want to, you can (technically) start and finish whenever suits, there are opportunities for escape like walks on sunny days, and you can do your online exercise classes anytime. I know that when I look back on this strange time in a few years, I will always treasure the time I’ve gotten to spend at home with family.