Designing perfect commercial buildings is a business worth hundreds of millions of pounds every year – but people who do working from home jobs often think that sitting a laptop on their dining table will suffice as an office space. Being in the wrong working environment can have an impact on your motivation, mood and output, so let’s look at some features that make a perfect office – and how you can build them into your own working space.
Where should it be?
Where in the house your office is located can mean the difference between productivity and frustration – if you’ve got a family, especially with children, you’ll recognise this issue immediately! Having some privacy can be important, as can having an area that is entirely free from distractions and noises.
If possible, a separate room is perfect for shutting your work life away from the rest of the house. This also helps you switch off from work when you’re ‘out of the office’. Have you got a spare room? Or could you partition an area of your room with some carefully placed shelving? There are a number of interiors companies who design products specifically for smaller or open-plan work spaces – it can be really useful to designate one part of the room as ‘the office’.
Organisation and storage
There’s a lot of debate about what an untidy desk says about its owner – is it the sign of a tidy mind? Apparently not say Albert Einstein and Mark Zuckerberg – fans of the messy workspace, others prefer to start the day with a clear desk. You’ll know what appeals to you – there’s probably a good balance between organised and realistic, but it’s really important that you know where your stuff is when you need it.
By all means spread out, but being able to put your hands on a report without searching for 15 minutes makes a big difference to your productivity and your mood.
Think about some storage solutions that suit you – would having and inbox help you keep tabs on your post? Would a filing cabinet mean client folders can be picked out seconds after they call? Would a simple cup mean you’re never scrabbling to find a pen as someone reads out a phone number? Little frustrations add up; if trying to find things even costs you 10 minutes a day that means you’re losing around 40 hours to being disorganised each year – for a lot of people that’s a full working week! Take a second to absorb that – a full week each year on looking for reports, a stapler and sticky-tape… an organised office boosts your output.
What do you do and how do you do it?
Your office is going to include items that are specific to your role. For a lot of people that’s a desk, office chair and a computer, for others that could mean specialised drawing desks, light-boards, additional screens and much more. Whatever your job entails, it’s really important to have adequate working space around your equipment.
When you’re sitting or standing at your equipment – are you comfortable? Making sure you have a suitable chair can be the difference between 8 hours of uninterrupted work – or an hour before lower back pain kicks in. Looking at the ergonomics of everything you use is going to be good for your health and your productivity.
Light and colour
You might laugh at the idea of colour and light affecting your mood or behaviour – but in commercial property design, retail, marketing and even health, the psychology of colour and light is seriously big money. How supermarkets, restaurants and offices are lit all contribute to the behaviour people want you to display when you’re there.
How often do you get natural light in a supermarket? There’s a psychological reason for this – isolate a person from changing exterior conditions (weather, indications of time, etc) and you’re far more likely to keep them instore for longer. Light and colour is being used to extract money from your wallet – so it pays to make it work to your advantage in your home office!
- Purples and reds stimulate the energy and creative parts of the brain – good if you’re a designer, writer or work in other creative roles.
- Yellow tends to create feelings of optimism and happiness – but be careful not to go too bright or full-on as too much can be tied to anxiety and restlessness.
- Pale blues and greens are a popular and unassuming office choice – but research shows that they can contribute to relaxation – actually dropping your motivation levels.
Try to let as much light into your space as possible, avoid blocking the windows with plants, blinds and pictures as that natural white-light is proven to be the best kind to promote wakefulness and energy. If artificial light is your only option, look at options that replicate that daylight spectrum – they can be a little costly but can really bolster your output.
What to avoid
While there’s a lot of great office design to aspire to, it’s sometimes far more cost effective just to eradicate those home office annoyances that distract or otherwise zap your precious time away. Do any of these look familiar?
- A television screen that you swear doesn’t take your attention away from work
- A home telephone line that rings – even infrequently
- A comfy sofa that you can just have 5 minutes sit/lay down on
- A mobile phone full of social media apps
We already know that if you’re disorganised you’re going to be spending a full working week out of your year looking for items you’ve misplaced – so let’s think about the maths of the little list we’ve just created.
- 10 minutes of watching newsflashes, catchy adverts or interesting snippets of programs
- 2 minutes fielding sales and PPI calls on your home phone
- A daily 5-minute lay on the sofa
- 10 minutes of checking social media for non-work purposes
That’s about 27 minutes each day lost to stuff that mostly unnecessarily features and distractions in your office space. Ready for a shock? That’s around 117 hours or 3 solid working weeks lost every year. If you work for yourself, that’s a lot of time you could free up with a little discipline and a quick rearrange of your space…