Home office how-to: Ways to increase spatial efficiency in your home office
If you haven't been working from home regularly or at all since the start of the pandemic, chances are telecommuting may be in your future. Consider that 36.2 million Americans will work remotely by 2025, a jump of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates, per the results of a recent Upwork poll.
Those who start out using the kitchen table as a makeshift work spot quickly learn that a dedicated home office is needed. But setting up and improving a home office can be challenging for some, which is why careful forethought and planning is recommended.
"Working from home can have a negative impact on activity for some because our brain is hardwired into believing that home is for rest and a workplace is for hard-core productivity. That's why choosing and organizing a workspace within your home is so important," says Gian Moore, an interior designer and partner with Mellowpine in Seattle.
The first step to selecting and equipping a home office location is identifying what you need.
"Ask yourself: How much space do you require? What tools do you use to work? How quiet must your office be? What lighting do you want?" says Greg Smith, broker/owner of Boulder Home Source of RE/MAX Alliance in Boulder, Colorado. He recommends an area with plenty of natural lighting away from any noisy areas of the home -- perhaps an upstairs corner spare room with a large window facing Southwest to optimal natural light.
"It's best not to choose a home office near the kitchen or center of where things are happening in your home. Distractions abound, especially if there are children around, so having an out-of-the-way space like a basement, attic or secondary bedroom is best," recommends Monica Friel, president of Chaos To Order, a Chicago-based professional organizing company.
Additionally, it's crucial to maximize spatial efficiency in your chosen home office space to increase productivity while decreasing clutter. A desk well-equipped with drawers, as well as file cabinets and storage bins, is especially helpful.
"Think about getting an adjustable standing desk so that you can stand sometimes during the day if you like. Invest heavily in a quality chair, as well, as you don't want to compromise your back," Smith advises.
L-shaped or U-shaped layouts that cluster a desk, file cabinet(s), and secondary storage units within reach of a simple chair swivel are often preferred.
"Position office furniture, filing cabinets, devices and other items logically where they will not get in your way but are close at hand. Look for ways to maximize the use of vertical space when your floor space is limited, too," suggests David North, broker/owner of Redmond, Washington-headquartered Realtrua. "Something as simple as adding one more shelf when there is vertical space not being used between shelves can help you declutter a small space in a roof efficiently. And hanging a small number of items on a wall or the side of a desk or file cabinet also makes a difference in a small space."
Moore recommends using minimal furniture that blends with the overall tone of your room; avoid a massive table that will interfere with your motion or cramp the space.
"Ensure that there's plenty of natural light and ventilation, as well," says Moore. "Organize your cables and cords and make them as discreet as possible by clustering and concealing them. Paint the workspace with bright colors and brightly colored materials, as lighter shades give an illusion of a larger room and more spatial arrangement. Also, go minimal with décor like bulky showpieces or clocks."
Count on reevaluating your home office layout from time to time and taking the necessary steps to declutter and simplify.
"A regular purge of excess papers, mail and supplies is essential to keeping your home office optimally organized and efficient," Friel points out.
If your home life and work life start to disrupt each other, it's time to reconsider your home office location.
"Think about relocating to a more quiet and isolated area of your home where noise and traffic will not be a distraction," adds Moore.