Still working from home?

This time 3 years ago, we were hearing whispers in the news occasionally about some awful virus in far away China, but our lives continued as normal. We had made our resolutions, business plans and set goals for the year.

Fast forward through the turbulence of the pandemic and here we are. Déjà vu.

On the surface things may have mostly now returned to ‘normal’, but things have changed immeasurably. One of the ways in which life changed for a lot of people, is that they’re still working from home. Those graduates who are just starting out in the world of work have perhaps never even known any different than remote or hybrid working.

I was interviewing candidates last week for a role we had available. It was a definite 50/50 split between those people who were desperate to get back into a working environment, vs those whose first question was, ‘can I work from home some of the time?’ (the job ad stated that this was an ‘in house’ role, but plenty still asked the question, with a certain amount of expectancy).

Off the back of ‘the great resignation’ there are also many more people launching their own kitchen table businesses, but the reality of trying to be productive and creative in an environment that’s not conducive to that, is far from the glamour of the WFH aesthetic we see on social media.

So what can be done?

Here are ten top tips for creating space in your home for work/life integration – so it doesn’t become a balancing act. What do these tips have to do with Interior Design? Because you’re designing your ENVIRONMENT and interior design is as much about designing for your body and mind, as it is about designing your immediate surroundings.

  1. What do you NEED for your workspace? Good natural light for creative work? To be hard wired into the router because your home wifi is ropey? Space to spread documents out? Or just a laptop and space for a coffee cup? Take 5 minutes to write a bullet point list of your needs for your work environment, because chances are the space you’re currently using in your home doesn’t meet all of those needs. (stuck in a north facing bedroom in the furthest room from the wifi router anyone? You’re not alone!)
  2. What do you WANT for your workspace? There’s nothing wrong with working from the kitchen table, if it aligns with how you like to work. It’s close to the kettle, probably half decent lighting, maybe a dog sleeping by your feet. However, if you’re distracted by last nights washing up, the contents of the fridge (there’s still nothing new in there since you last checked 5 minutes ago…) and you’re sitting on a chair that’s too low for your table causing you back pain, this is not the type of work zone that you need or want. Maybe your dream work space would be a large comfy armchair with a supper table swung over the arm to rest your laptop and coffee on. Or a command centre style space for your multiple monitors and white boards on the wall for your brain storming. It’s your house. You get to choose.
  3. Consider what you want your routine to be, and add fun! If you are self aware enough to know that once you sit down, you’re uncomfortably glued to your chair for a number of hours slogging it out – then change it up. Work shouldn’t be ‘work’. Work should be PLAY. If you’re ‘working’ Monday through Friday so you can play at weekends, you’re doing it wrong. What elements of fun or enjoyment can you factor into your day that will allow you to see ‘work’ as PLAY! Having a good book to hand for your coffee breaks instead of doom scrolling? A nap on the sofa after lunch? Sweary notes from a friend stuck on your noticeboard? Now don’t confuse distractions with play. Scrolling through social media and wasting your work time is not play, it’s procrastination.
  4. Colour is key. Walk into any store where you purchase office based products and you’re confronted with a choice of grey, white or occasionally kraft brown. Does this fit with your home? Probably not. Your working zone should be an extension of your living zone, creating a cohesive feel throughout the home. Take the time to source products that fit with your style, add throws and cushions, plants and accessories – realise that your work is a huge part of your life and you should be getting maximum enjoyment out of it. Colours have a huge subconscious effect on your mood, so add colour and texture to your space. You can be as bold or as muted as you like, but don’t revert to grey as the safe option when there’s a whole rainbow of choice out there.
  5. Know where to source from. Most homeware suppliers have a ‘home office’ selection of goods nowadays and they are much more beautifully designed that the standard fair you would pick up in those generic office supply stores. Whether it’s shelving and storage from Rockett St George, a desk from West Elm, or luxury desk accessories from Forwood Design, source with design in mind, not just basic function.
  6. Don’t compromise on comfort. If you’re working a standard 8 hour day from home, it’s crucial that you don’t settle for substandard furnishings. A wooden dining chair is a very poor substitute for an upholstered, ergonomic chair that supports your posture. Look after yourself, add layers of luxury to make your working day as comfortable as possible. A sheepskin rug under your desk to sink your toes into is a wonderful thing.
  7. Overthink your organisation. At the beginning of the pandemic when we all had to migrate home to work, a lot of people overlooked their organisation. Work stuff was stored wherever there was space, files were boxed up in the spare room, random stationary strewn around the house. To create that streamlined work zone, plan your space out so that it accommodates everything you need to hand that’s related to your work, that way it won’t feel haphazard and disorganised.
  8. Inspire and innovate. Whether you’re an accountant or a graphic designer, inspiration can motivate us all to do the best job we’re capable of. If your current home working space is a tatty old desk pushed up against the wall in the spare bedroom, it’s hardly going to inspire you to greatness. Innovate your space so you feel in control and ready to do your best work. Don’t forget to consider your backdrop for what others have in view on all those zoom meetings…
  9. Review and revise. You may have created a decent workspace at the start of the pandemic, but perhaps it could be better. Review your space, it’s function, how it feels and how it looks – if it’s not working for you as well as it could, revise it.
  10. Make every room, a living room. Our homes are dynamic, evolving spaces. Breathe life into your work environment so it doesn’t become a static, unwelcoming space. Include it as part of your home and authentically LIVE in it. Whether you’re the type of person that has a million post-it notes strewn about your monitor, or one that prefers a completely clear and organised desk, ensure that your workspace WORKS FOR YOU.

For more useful tips and insights into interior design, you can find Studio JQ on socials @thestudiojq

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