Creating the perfect home office
Once a bit of a joke, ‘working from home’ used to have the connotation ‘not really working’. Even a decade ago, some companies were loath to let staff work from home, even when train strikes, or the weather, or an ill child meant that going into the office was impossible; however, the rise of technology and accessibility, along with increased demand from employees, means that the workforce of today looks very different. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last year revealed that there were 4.2 million home workers between January and March 2014, or 13.9% of those in work − the highest figure since 1998.
Whether you are lucky enough to work for a company that promotes home working or you are one of the many freelancers, you will know that working from home requires discipline, focus and organisation. Above all, you need a work space that is suitable, whether this a desk in an alcove or a summer house in the garden. Here are our top tips for the home office.
Your first decision will be where to create your work space. A space you can close off with a door will be really useful if you are trying to work when there are other people in the house, and it needs to be a space you can make your own if you are going to be working from home regularly. Make sure there are plug sockets and some kind of heat source nearby, as it can get quite chilly sitting at a desk for hours on end.
You can never have enough storage, whether drawers for files and paperwork or shelves for books and stationery. Secondhand filing cabinets are cheap and easy to find on auction and secondhand sites, or a chest of drawers can work well, or a set of shelves on the wall. If your work space is going to be visible when guests come round, you will want to be able to tidy away quickly, efficiently, and − if needs be − securely.
You don’t have to have a boring work desk, as functional doesn’t have to mean ugly. If you only work from home a few days each month, would your dining table do? Or a fold-away table if you don’t have much space? It doesn’t have to be an actual desk as long as it is the right height and big enough.
You will be sitting in it for long periods of time, so your chair needs to be comfortable and supportive. It is likely that an ‘office’ chair will be the best option − something adjustable and with proper back support − and again there are plenty of stylish options.
Ideally you will have a couple of light sources, perhaps an overhead light and a lamp on the desk. If your job involves artwork or drawing, you will really need to think about lighting and consider the effects the time of day and seasons will have on your natural light. Equally, if you are near a window, you will probably need a blind to control the amount of heat and light from the sun, even in the winter.
The children, TV, the dog, the phone, social media − there are any number of distractions at home. At first it is tricky to manage these distractions, but doing so will make your scheduling (see below) much more successful.
If you find it hard to manage your time when you are at home, and particularly if you have children, make a schedule and stick to it. Accept that you won’t be able to do much when the children are around. While it is easy to say don’t work until late in the evening, sometimes this is unavoidable. Just don’t make a habit of it, as you need a break from work as much as anyone.
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