The emergence of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has already changed life significantly for all of us. Some of us are self-isolating, most of us are social distancing and, where possible, everyone has been asked to work from home. For many of us, the latter is a familiar situation. But if you’re new to it, it can feel very strange indeed. However, as an experienced home worker, I have plenty of advice on how to adapt. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible (yes, this includes getting dressed!). Stay away from social media (far too easy to squander hours watching cat gifs) too, unless you’ve got to use it for work. If circumstances allow, get some air at lunchtime – a brisk walk in natural light does wonders for afternoon attention levels. Last, but not least, if you can, create a dedicated workspace within your home.
The ideal home office
Once regarded as a luxury, nowadays a home office space is much more commonplace. And these days, the majority of us are working from home. If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated room to work in, it really can boost your concentration and productivity. But it’s vital to put some serious thought into the layout, colour scheme and lighting. Balancing your laptop on your knees, while sprawled out on the sofa, is not going to cut it long-term.
If your study is small, a modern, monochrome look could work really well. A bright, white décor always helps to create a feeling of openness and airiness. You won’t want to feel cramped or claustrophobic in your workspace, especially as you might be spending a lot of time in it. Black and white is clean, contemporary and conducive to concentration. If you’re worried that pure white will be too clinical, choose a soft off-white shade instead. I recommend Pointing by Farrow & Ball. It has a lovely warm undertone that always softens the feel of a room, and works well alongside stronger, traditional colours.
If you’re really keen to introduce some colour to your home office, you could try bold, patterned wallpaper. However, for a working environment, I think painted shades of blue are enduringly popular. Pantone was ahead of the game when it chose 19-4052 Classic Blue as its 2020 Colour of the Year. The shade was selected to instil calm, confidence and connection during an era of challenge and change (so prescient!). Blue is familiar, comforting and endlessly versatile. It works equally well with neutrals and with brighter, more stimulating colours such as yellow.
I would also recommend green as a colour to consider for a home office. Soft green shades help to create a calming ambience – and not just on walls. Darker greens will evoke a more cosy feel to your office space, too. Rugs, curtains and even a pot plant or two all contribute towards a soothing work environment.
Invest in the best
I would argue that your desk is the single most important element in your home office. It needs to be the right size, the right height and situated in the best position in terms of light and tech. Before you start browsing online, work out what your desk needs to accommodate. Do you have a large desktop computer? One screen or two? Will you mostly be working from a laptop? Where will your phone and printer go?
Don’t stress that you might have to sacrifice style for practicality. However, if you really want something which looks ultra stylish, the Figura desk from Swoon might be perfect for you. This gorgeous design features scalloped drawers and sides that elevate its simple shape into a striking office centrepiece.
If you need to divide or section your workstation, a corner desk can be a clever solution. And I’m a big fan of integrated shelves under a desk’s tabletop. These allow cables and extension leads to be hidden from view, while remaining easily accessible. Before deciding on your desk size and location, make sure you consider the proximity to plug sockets. And assess the natural light source. Will your desk be too dark for most of the day? Or will there be too much glare on your screen?
Your office chair is another element that merits a lot of consideration. Remember, you’re going to be sitting in it for hours each day (and maybe each evening too)! So, first and foremost it must be comfortable and supportive. A swivel version is useful if it will be shared or likely to need frequent adjusting. Think carefully about the fabric too. I’m a big fan of velvet – and how fabulous is this Margot chair from Made? However, real or faux leather tends to be more hardwearing. It’s also more forgiving if you’re the type to be clumsy with coffee! If you’re concerned about sitting down too much, a stand-up desk or standing desk could be the solution.
Get the lighting right
As I’ve already touched on, great lighting (both natural and artificial) is very important for your home office. Poor lighting can cause eye strain and headaches, and even affect your mood and energy levels. None of which will help you to work from home effectively. Siting your desk close to the window will help to maximise daylight – crucial throughout the winter months. But avoiding glare (and melting throughout the summer months) is equally important. To minimise annoying shadows, position your desk so that it faces north or south.
Where artificial lighting is concerned, I would be lost without my home office desk lamp. Task lighting is likely to be especially important for anyone who works with a screen or hard copy documents. An adjustable/articulated desk lamp will allow you to direct light exactly when and where you need it. Your task lighting should complement your ambient lighting. Choose a pretty lampshade to soften bright light. A floor-standing uplighter is another stylish option that will also reflect light from the walls and ceilings.
I realise that not everyone is blessed with a big room to set aside for a home office. And even if you are, storage is key. Clutter can be really distracting, so do try and minimise it from the word go. If space allows, invest in some decent-sized shelves for books, files and bigger folders. You really can’t go wrong with a Billy bookcase from Ikea. It has been estimated that one was being sold somewhere in the world every five seconds! Then experiment with some smart storage solutions to organise stationery, paperwork and other essential office equipment.
If you’re seriously strapped for space, get creative with unlikely places. Could the area under your stairs accommodate a desk and chair? Perhaps you could carve out some space on a landing? Or could an office that packs away be the answer? I love this clever daytime workspace that can simply be hidden away when not in use. Designed by De Rosee Sa architects, this timber unit features pivot doors which slide back to reveal a desk and shelving. There’s even room for that all-essential router and cabling. If you need to integrate your home office into an existing area, investigate Symphony’s home office furniture collection from Urbano.