Remote Necessity to Home Office Reality
By Michelle Walters
With the onset of Covid 19, many employees, as well as their managers, hurriedly pieced together makeshift home offices in whatever areas were available to them. Oftentimes, the line between living space and workspace was blurred or nonexistent. Necessity became the mother of invention, though, and as the face of the workplace changed over the next two years, the home office evolved. As we ease out of the pandemic, moreover, many employees are choosing to continue working remotely. One recent study found that 58% of American workers had the opportunity to work from home at least one day per week, and that 35% had the opportunity to work from home five days a week. Thus, the necessity of creating a dedicated workspace within the home has risen to the forefront of interior renovations.
Because home offices are as varied and unique as the individual working within the space, I have advised our clients to take into consideration each family members’ circumstances, needs, and personality before beginning a home office renovation.
Prior to speaking with a contractor, you should have a general idea of what you need to maximize productivity. A good designer/builder will listen carefully to your ideas about what you hope to accomplish while working from home, and then help design and construct a space that will meet these goals.
The type of work you will be engaged in will be one of the biggest considerations during the planning process. For example, if you plan to meet with clients or customers in the space, you may want to consider creating a dedicated entrance to the office and allow for enough space to accommodate additional seating. This will require a deeper look at how to store client files and other documents, so they won’t have to be visible during meetings. If you frequently collaborate in-person with colleagues, an additional workstation may also be necessary. If you will be working alone, you may want to consider a soundproofed space in a remote part of the home, yet if you are a working parent, you might envision a workstation in a centralized area of the home that would allow you to keep children within your line of sight while working.
While you probably have ideas about where and what form the home office will take, it is helpful for your builder to walk through the entire home to fully evaluate the possibilities and limitations of the available space. An experienced contractor will be able to identify opportunities for the creative use of areas that may not have occurred to you. The smallest closets, alcoves, nooks, and niches can transform into well-organized “pocket offices” with the right build-in, for example. Garages and attics can be fully or partially finished to comfortably accommodate a home office, and guest rooms can be outfitted with workstations and storage options that retain a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. During this walk-through, your builder should be evaluating potential office space areas for any issues involving ventilation, climate control, lighting, and sound control, as well as suggesting the addition or removal of physical barriers such as walls, doors, and screens, to create the most efficient designs.
Once the location and general shape of the home office have been determined, a good designer can help maximize productivity, a factor especially important to employers.
Light affects the way people work, as it affects mood, concentration, focus, job performance, enthusiasm, and motivation. Since natural light has been shown to boost mood, calm anxiety, and improve productivity, workstations located near a large window are ideal. West- and south-facing windows will get dramatic sunlight in the afternoon, while east- and north-facing windows allow a softer glow into the space. If no windows are present in the intended workspace, a contactor may suggest a window or skylight installation, or even a floor to ceiling window if the office has an exterior wall. In the meantime, proper overhead lights and task lighting will suffice. Since fluorescent lights have been shown to negatively affect mood and productivity, warm LED light from desk lamps and floor lamps can provide corrective lighting to reduce computer monitor glare, reduce eye strain, and create a calm, even atmosphere.
Color and decor in the home workspace naturally vary with everyone. If you are running a business out of your home and/or will be receiving clients, you will want a decor that reflects your brand and conveys a sense of professionalism. However, if you are working remotely for a company, or you work alone for long stretches of time, you may choose decor that motivates you or allows you to focus optimally. Finally, studies have shown that adding plants to office spaces can increase productivity by as much as 15%.
“Color Theory” is widely used by designers to determine the best color combinations and ratios to use to create specific atmospheres. Generally speaking, cool colors such as blue, green, and purple evoke a sense of calm and make a room seem more comfortable overall, with green in particular being associated with productivity and creativity. Warm colors such as orange, red, and yellow are inviting and are great choices for entryways and waiting areas but should be used with caution as they can seemingly “raise the temperature” in a room to an uncomfortable degree. Finally, dark, vibrant colors can serve to bring walls forward, making spaces seem slightly smaller and cozier than they really are, while lighter colors or pastels can make rooms seem wider, airer, and larger overall.
Since remote work has become commonplace, home offices have become necessities. The shape and style of each home office will depend on the needs and resources of each individual worker and can only be realized after careful planning and discussion between the client and a patient, creative designer/ builder who is willing to listen.
Michelle Walters is co-owner of W.C. Builders, a class A residential builder for both renovation and new construction which is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia. For more information, please visit www.wcbuildva.com or Walters can be reached at 757-816-7787.