How To Create A Home Office You’ll Want To Work In

The phrase “DESK TO DINNER” has a new meaning now the lines between office and home are blurred – once in the door in the evening, you might as easily find yourself preparing a deposition as a family meal. The easiest way to manage is to SET A PERIMETER … 

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In the door at 6.30pm, scrolling through messages while you hop on one leg, trying to extricate yourself from your tights, pinging off an email with an eye on a child’s homework, logging into the server to talk a colleague through a software issue, Skyping a client in a different time zone … if you work, any evening at home could include one or more of these out-of-hours events. Sometimes it can feel as if the drive home is just a prelude to another work session, as the lines between office and home are blurred and
it becomes more difficult to demarcate.

Although it may seem like an encroachment on family space, the best way to achieve a separation is to create a space at home dedicated to work – or if not for formal work, a place to respond to emails, pay bills online, write lists, letters and thank you cards, create a spreadsheet for the Parents’ Committee or Residents’ Association … and file the domestic paperwork, which however digital the revolution, still seems to accumulate.

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The value of having a dedicated office nook is twofold: your computer and paperwork are always in the same place, accessible and organised, and other members of your household know that when you are in that spot, you are working or organising. In theory. It won’t stop them interrupting you to enquire where the clean gym kit is, or the Tae Kwon Do belt, or if you have the form for the school trip or a P60 for the taxman. If an exasperated sigh or one of our favourite sayings, “Look with a woman’s eyes,” might be the response to the first two queries, you just might be able to say, to the last two, “Of course, here they are my darling, in my foolproof filing system.”

It needn’t be a dedicated office – unless your house is large, you are unlikely to have a vacant room. Carving out a space in another room – the kitchen if you like to be at the heart of the operation, the rarely-used dining room, or literally the cupboard under the stairs — is practical and inexpensive. Resist the temptation to locate your home office space in the utility room — however great a multi-tasker you are, springing up and down every few moments to see to some domestic task, a 1200 spin is not conducive to professional conversations.

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You might want to create a custom space while renovating a room, or you may want to just invest in an attractive desk and chair to occupy a space elsewhere, but there are a few things to consider. Make sure there are sockets accessible where you plan to locate your desk, so you can plug in a laptop, printer, phone charger and lamp. Choose a table or desk which fits the task. If you don’t need a huge amount of space, keep an eye out for a neat table but remember you need a bit of elbow room, particularly with a laptop. You might prefer a long, slim bench to run along an empty wall, a circular one to tuck into a bay window, or even a small bureau with fold-down desk panel. If you don’t plan to spend hours at your desk, consider any kind of chair that looks attractive with your chosen desk or table – painted wood, fabric-upholstered, even a nice stool – but make sure it’s the right height for comfort. If you will be working for prolonged periods, get a proper office chair and adjust height and back support to suit.

Finally, delineate the space around your office nook. Hang a favourite piece of art or a noticeboard on the wall behind it and personalise it further with a stack of favourite books, a pot of pens and nice stationery at the ready. If you have an in-tray, be disciplined about keeping it up to date. And when your son or daughter eyes up the space for themselves, send them straight to their room.

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this don’t miss our next issue out Thursday May 4.

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