Monday, 23 March 2020

Architectural Mini-Tutorial: Tips for your home office

House in Mt Eden. Existing sunroom opened up to lounge, home office created
in new sunroom extension (at rear of picture). Pic by Organon Architecture. 

SO YOU'VE BEEN FORCED to work from home, and we're all pretty clear nothat it's likely to be for a very long time.

You can only work from the kitchen table for so long. And using a laptop on your lap for any length of time will quickly leave you with neck pain and feelings of frustration.

Having had my own office at home for many years now, I've learned a thing or two so that I can help you setting up your own.

We all know the usual tips for working from home: get dressed, have a regular routine, don't work in any kind of pants that have a drawstring....

But what about how to set up your home office, now that you know you may be using it for some time.

I don't know much about drawstring pants, but I do know a bit about spaces and how best to arrange them. So here are a few tips ...

Four major don'ts: 
  1. Don't work from your master bedroom. You need your regular bedroom for sleep, especially when (like everyone at the moment!) you really need that sleep to heal. There are ways to make it work architecturally (if no other option are available) but, in general, don't confuse your subconscious by mixing work and sleep -- especially if you're the sort of person whose desk isn't clear at the end of every day!
  2. Keep away from the fridge!  It's too easy to graze all day when you're at home, without realising the message your mirror is sending you. So try to keep to a regular schedule of breaks and meals instead of being ongoing. And if you do lack the won't-power, then set up a kettle in your workspace so you can avoid the temptation. (A good idea anyway of your house has too many other distractions.)
  3. Don't spend all day in your pyjamas. Yes, it is a cliche. That's because it is too easy: throw off the bed-clothes, stumble into the kitchen, rub sleep out of your eyes as you drink your first coffee at your kitchen-table desk ... and then realise several hours later that those online quizzes and twitter chats aren't going to get your work done, and you're already full of aches and pains from sitting badly for too many hours. So do make sure you have a place that tells your subconscious "I'm going here to work!" and then get dressed for it and ready for it as if it's a regular work day. Because it is. (And then make sure you separate yourself from your work once the work day ends too. I recommend a martini.)
  4. Don't stay inside! One of the great things about working from your neighbourhood is (hopefully) access to gardens, trees and open spaces. Use them! Get outside regularly. Take regular walks, have lunch in the open air, talk to other people (from a suitable distance!). In short, avoid cabin fever and keep yourself linked into the outside world. (Especially important is to spend at least thirty minutes, early in the day, out under the open sky. Sleep researchers tells us this is the single most important thing we can do to lock in the circadian rhythms that support healthy sleep.)
Another thing: with the possibility of schools and daycare closing soon, your children may be in the house with you. Which makes it even more important to carve out your own special space away from all the hubbub so you can focus. If your partner is home too, maybe you rotate shifts keeping an eye on anyone who needs it, but do make sure you can carve out three-hour blocks of time (minimum) to focus on your work. [I'll make a few comments in a few days about home-schooling, if anyone's interested.]

And you are going to need that quiet uninterrupted space too when you get into all those online work meetings. Who can forget this now-famous TV interview -- you (possibly) don't want this happening to you!

So, some Architectural Tips. This may be your workstation for some time. Do it properly. You may need to do some minor (or major!) renovation to your home; or you may be able to think laterally and only move around a bit of furniture -- it's amazing how a bit of lateral thinking can free up space! - but you have to make sure that its going to work so that you can enjoy working there. It has to be ergonomic, have decent shelving so your stuff is all to-hand, it is has to work efficiently and productively.

And it has to feel right, to support you psychologically. Especially now, when everyone's an emotional mess. It has to be a place of your own.

You don't necessarily need to use a whole room either. Try to get your spaces do double duty. Think about how much space you can make in a boat or a caravan -- often with things that easily hide away. That's the kind of thinking you might need to use.

Look for a spot you don't use -- an attic, behind a chimney space, part of a wide hallway or passage, large wardrobes ... there's more room available than you think, especially if you're thinking laterally.

You have to make the lighting work for you too.  No shadows across your work from lights or windows in the wrong place (so you'll have a totally different arrangement depending on whether you're right or left-handed). No high-reflective surfaces. Proper visual weight to the lighting arrangement. No looking directly into light fittings (see the effect of the light, not the light source). No glare on your screen from either lights or late-afternoon sun, enough light on your paperwork so you don't hurt your eyes.  In the right place so it supports your work rather than hinders it -- and makes you look good in online meetups too!

And remember: add delight. You are going to be here for many hours, possibly for many months. Make sure you have a view, or some art, or some plants -- or all three! Any place in which you spend this much time has to feed your soul just as much as you are busy feeding your out-box.

[Pic from Not So Big Remodelling: Tailoring Your Home For the Way You Really Live]
Some principles to think through...

Continued here at my Organon Architecture blog:
>>>>>> READ THE WHOLE POST: Architectural Mini-Tutorial: Tips for your home office

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