A well designed home office is a lot more than just a desk with a table lamp. It needs to be an entity, a space, where things get done. It must foremost promote productivity. Its layout must have a good flow, so that it’s comfortable with a large enough work surface and good lighting in order to help get down to business.
I think a home office is ideally situated in a spare bedroom, away from the living areas, in order to be quiet enough. If it happens to have a separate entrance that clients and co-workers can use then you’ve hit the jackpot. Unfortunately, that is not a scenario for most and therefore, one has to do the most with what’s at hand.
Cover Image: Patterned posters above desk with computer by Photographee.eu
How to design a productive home office | Organization and versatility
In every case, there are two keywords when it comes to a home office – organization and versatility. These are the two main elements along with a good flow that can ensure a boost of productivity.
Unlike popular belief, the size of the office is not of major importance. Having a spot allocated for all the tech gadgets, supplies, documents (if any) and devices though, is. Clutter is counter-productive and hence, organization is essential.
Likewise, versatility in the designated workstations can accommodate for several different needs without creating a feeling of stuffiness or a sense of being overwhelmed which are also counter-productive feelings. After all, an office space must be pleasant while it helps one stay focused.
How to design a productive home office | Productivity
It’s important to remember one of the main goals; productivity. Your proximity to broadband connectivity can drastically improve productivity and focus. Reading up on broadband home office tips can help you decide the location and be the building blocks on which you design your office around.
How to design a productive home office | The layout
Therefore, first examine the layout. Any home office layout must be a product based on the actual needs:
- number of workstations and number of people working (these two numbers may be different),
- types of work areas (computing, printing, client consulting, presenting, etc.)
- time spent at these work areas,
- need for special equipment like a video conference system,
- number of visitors-clients
- necessity for a space to physically store products, samples (unless everything is digitally operated) and supplies.
Along these considerations, one should have a bulk idea about the total number of hours that will be spent in that home office. Spending more than a couple of hours at any office, requires some form of a stress free zone, perhaps with a club chair for some casual reading and relaxing while having a break. On that note, having a vignette with plants on stands for example may also act as a great stress free buffer zone.
The absence of a stress-free zone that promotes a more casual vibe is a counter-productive factor. Therefore, do allocate a little corner where you’ll be able to unwind and brainstorm. Having a small art gallery wall with inspiring images may just help do the trick. A corkboard or whiteboard may be ideal for posting reminders and ideas.
How to design a productive home office | The lighting
Once, you have figured out the basic functions of your home office then it’s time to plan your lighting. Multiple lighting sources will provide flexibility especially in the long-run. A table lamp is “the tool” for task lighting. But good offices must have ambient lighting and even accent lighting too. Make sure that no lighting sources hinder your vision as you browse around the room.
Obviously, sources of natural light like windows are terrific, but not an absolute necessity as good lighting fixtures can accommodate for the absence of any natural light. It is said that natural light sources promote productivity, but as long as glare is kept minimal. Thus, roller blinds with a mid-weight fabric that filter the light, while giving privacy, are a great solution.
How to design a productive home office | Organization
Now when it comes to a home office in particular, thinking out of the box comes into play. Thus, the furniture that will be used in the office must be well thought through. Multi-purpose furniture can provide storage solutions that can help in organizing the space properly. For instance, a re-purposed dresser can double as a storage space for office supplies while your A1 plotter sits atop. (I’ve done that in my office and I assure you that it works beautifully and as a bonus it saved me the money for that plotter stand that I didn’t have to buy).
Also, another thing that is of major importance is to have all the electrical outlets, cable and phone lines in place to support devices and equipment that will be used. Designating storage boxes/drawers that will hold all the spare cables that everyone may need at some point or other is crucial. There’s no reason why your co-workers should spent a good 20 minutes looking for that data cable to transfer those images in order to send out that email on time.
How to design a productive home office | Versatile desk and comfortable seat
Did you know that the type of office desk you opt for is crucial? That’s right. Perhaps you’re on a budget and buying one off the shelf is the affordable option. However, having a custom-made desk should never be ruled out.
I have a custom-made desk that I designed back in 2003 and it was well-worth it. It has a huge catch-it-all drawer that holds all my absolute essentials, while I have enough leg room to move around it, making it possible to work on any side of it if I choose to.
Sometimes a typical office desk for your desktop against a wall is not the ideal setup. Versatility is the key and that is best achieved with zoning and flexible setups. For instance, an office desk may be complimented nicely with another desk floating in the room for all the creative tasks; one zone for all the computer work and another zone for all the creative projects. As a matter of fact, I think creative work is best carried out on floating worktops.
On the other hand, U shaped desks create up to three different zones, offering plenty of workstation space while containing a minimal surface area. L-shaped desks seem to work fine as well with many people. However, I found out in practice that the short end of the L shaped desk was best suited for shared-printing purposes. Any attempts to store things under that part of the desk were futile and counter-productive. Standing desks with adjustable heights may be also a viable solution. They are gaining in popularity so keep that option in mind too.
The bottom line is to determine a scheme of zones with the best-suited desk(s), based on the actual needs of your work. At this point, it is worthwhile mentioning that investing in a good office chair with lumbar support that promotes a good posture is vital. Hunching over a laptop after a couple of hours will surely be counter-productive.
Spacious white home office by Photographee.eu
How to design a productive home office | Style
Lastly, a word on style. Always decorate a home office according to what feels right to you. It should project your aesthetic. However, if it’s an office that clients visit then, its decor should also reflect your brand. Although there’s a really fine line between a home office with a cosy and homey vibe (i.e. lots of family photos) and space where your professionalism must project loud and clear, it is do-able.
Branding a space can be a huge thing in some cases, but having a small kid’s table for a child to draw on occasions or even a dog bed in the corner won’t make you less of a good professional.
As mentioned earlier, styling the office according to what feels right to you is important. It should boost your creativity, confidence and productivity in the long run. The choice of colors may be consistent to the rest of your home’s color palette or maybe more in lines with your brand. So long as the home office is within a contained area – room with a closed door, you’re “free” to do as you please. The main thing to consider is to create a sense of cohesion without causing distractions.
…A final word!
Customizing your workstation is the ultimate way to increase your productivity. Invest in flexible solutions with ergonomics in mind that encourage good posture and reduce muscle strain. Most people opt for bulky executive looking desk chairs with arm handles. But you should go for whatever suits you best.
For example, I prefer an arm-less desk chair. That way, I place my forearm, wrist and hands on the desk in a straight line which in turn promotes a better sitting posture and keeping my torso in alignment with my slightly bent forward head. The idea is to rule out everything that has not worked for you in the past and go for solutions that may work for you better in the future, inspire you and bring you peace.
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