For those ‘chained’ to a desk in a corporate or business complex, or on their feet all day in a store, being able to work from your own home may seem like bliss. However, it’s not all plain sailing and there are a few things you may need to consider before you waste time and money.
Homes tend to have other people, family members, unexpected visitors, pets, deliveries and so on which can lead to interruptions. And meshing together your work and home environment can be a real challenge.
There can be a temptation, especially if your home is very small and your workspace forms an integral part of the actual living space, to concentrate on form rather than function. A fab designer chair may look amazing, and could even be a talking point, but after several days sat at your desk typing, could be causing you back and neck problems due to poor posture.
So, what are the questions you should be asking as you design, or redesign your office space and what solutions are out there for you?
Who Will Be Coming Into Your Space?
Will clients be visiting? If this is a brand new business you may not have any clients yet. But you’re going to need some soon and if so where will you meet them? If it’s going to be the office in your home you have a few things to consider. Where will they sit? Do you need to be able to tidy up confidential and working papers very quickly so they can’t be seen? If you work in a bit of a mess do you need to squirrel this away from view, or can you turn it into part of your quirkiness?
If you have family and pets at home will you be disturbed by noise or people poking their head around the door? A few ideas are to build in some background noise, establish rules for interruptions and a simple do not disturb notice may help. But you’re going to need your sturdy underwear to withstand the whining of a sulky child!
And do think about using other spaces. Coffee shops and hotel lobbies are great places to meet clients. Just check out the busy times; do they have booths for private conversations; is there wifi good and easy to access and are there adequate plug sockets if you need to plug in your laptop. You may even find some hotels are prepared to reserve a small meeting area for you in their lounge area for a short period which gives you a meeting space for the price of a couple of cups of coffee and a sticky bun.
Keeping Healthy While You Work
What type of work do you need to do and what do you need to do it? Will you always be on the computer or do you read and research white papers, books and write lots of notes. You may need a comfy chair or seating area for more relaxed working. You may also want to consider if a standing desk is right for you.
General guidance for seating positions are that the top of your computer screen should be at eye level or a little below. As you scan down the screen, your eyelids will naturally close a bit and moisten, which reduces eye fatigue. Position your keyboard so your forearms are parallel to the floor. And adjust your chair so your feet rest firmly on something–the floor, or a footrest if you’re short.
Have a realistic think about how long you are going to be working for. Typically people working from home work much longer hours than those in an office building. You could be in this room, sat at a desk for a long time and so a comfortable supportive chair, a good sized screen and the right sized desk will become critical.
Think about overhead or overall lighting, task lighting and natural light. If you are lucky enough to have a window in your office, try and face it from the place where you will be doing the most work. If you don’t have a window then you may want to have a chat with a lighting expert about recreating the effects of daylight through artificial lighting and also installing LED lights. A mixture of overhead and desk lighting is good and also be aware, that bright lighting pointing towards your eyes can be a real strain. Your computer screen is another source of light that affects our eyes and can contribute to eye strain, so consider where it will be in relation to different lighting in the room.
Have you ever heard the wonderful corporate phrase – the paperless office? Has anyone ever actually achieved, or even seen one? You may think you have but when you delve inside draws and behind doors, there is generally paper lurking somewhere. Think it through. You may have aspirations to scan everything and file it all neatly in the cloud; you may intend to read all of your periodicals on the computer and never print out an article you’ve found on the internet. The reality is that eyes get tired looking at a screen and it becomes tempting to print out documents to read; stuff needs signing and not everyone uses electronic signatures; scanning massive great documents is a pain in the bum and here is the biggie – some people are scribblers and doodlers and with the best will in the world prefer a pad and pen and a real paper book to leaf through and jot in. Our advice is to go with who you are and make space to store paper neatly.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Printers, computers, shredders, screens, lights and photocopiers all need to be plugged in, often generate heat and may make a noise. What do you need? Where will it go? Do you really want to look at these lifeless grey lumps of plastic and metal?
How will you plug it in and will any of it make loud or buzzy noises? All of these are designed to drive you loopy so think before you leap in a buy or adopt hand-me-downs you really can manage without.
How do you organise yourself?
In this technological age of organisational Apps it’s so tempting to try and do it all on a computer or iPad. But some of us work out in the real world and need great big white boards to plot targets and map out projects; post-it notes to move around and a calendar with sticky dots. If that sounds like you, you need to plan in wall space, desk space and wiggle room.
A fire engine red wall might seem like a good idea at the outset, energetic and make a statement. It may not create such a wonderful environment after 3 weeks of 10 hour days looking at it. Nuff said.
Have a think about ventilation, make it natural if possible. A few plants can help oxygenate the room, remove pollutants and people feel better when there is some vegetation around.
What Else Is Going On Around You?
And finally…if you don’t have a room with a door that is going to be your domain, and you’re setting up in an area of the house you share with others, do have a think about what is likely to go on around you. I once set up an office in my home that was on a large landing area on the first floor. It was also next door to the toilet. Reading this now you might question my sanity, but these sort of school-girl errors are easy to make when you’re juggling a lot of balls and focused on getting the job done.