Beyond the Couch or Dining Room Chair
It’s time to accept that remote work will remain a significant feature of both the workplace and the homespace in 2021 and beyond.
It has been 13 months since office workers everywhere were told they would have to work from home for a mere two weeks. Initially, several businesses were hopeful that their teams would reunite with a buzz, ready to gossip about their two weeks away. Just as many companies were quick to relinquish their physical space in favour of laptops and home office perks, so few could have forecasted that it would be the last time they were going to set foot in an office building for over a year. While we know that one day life will return to some form of normalcy, we also now see the value of having a permanent workspace at home.
Although it is our own homes that we are operating from, we should still make efforts to treat our workspaces differently than our living spaces. Often, we tend to make ourselves “too comfortable” which can leave both our mental and physical health in position of weakness.
Rather than allow the nature of work-from-home orders to impose on your home, it is time to view the previous year as an opportunity to evolve your space to suit the changing times.
If you have ever found yourself asking if you need a standing desk, or a sitting desk, or an office chair with adjustable arms, or maybe no arms at all, it means you’ve been thinking about ergonomics. Simply put, workspaces must be modified to be suitable for the user and never the other way around. The office chair is the most critical piece of furniture in the home office setup. Since many of us spend upwards of eight hours a day sitting down, we need to ensure that our furniture accommodates our bodies to avoid strain everywhere; but especially our necks, backs, wrists, and eyes. Two easy signs of comfort in an office chair are feet flat on the floor and supported arms. Adjustable desk heights can be beneficial to those who find themselves needing to get up and walk around often. At the same time, monitor placement at eye level is important to comfort while sitting or standing.
We must take note of our circadian cycle when understanding lighting for the home office. Our bodies crave natural light during daytime hours, which is the most optimal lighting for any office. Appropriate light sources are necessary especially for those who don’t have a wall of windows at their disposal. Even if you do have windows, it is important that your light sources help you transition into evening mode to wind down, by informing your body that the sun has set. Additionally, make sure that the colour temperature of your light source is consistent throughout your home for a more cohesive and comfortable environment.
Most condos are not set up for one person to work from home, let alone two. This becomes even more amplified when everyone is struggling to coordinate multiple meeting calls throughout the day. There are a few easy ways to mitigate sound transfer throughout small spaces, the first being the door to the office itself. Consider replacing the interior hollow-core door with a solid-core one to attenuate the sound drastically. Those living with the nettlesome sliding partition can instead benefit from an abundance of textiles that help to absorb sound. Avoid too many exposed hard surfaces and get creative with rugs, curtains, throw pillows and wall hangings.
Being properly organized is a sure-fire way to help you be more productive and make moving down the hall from your bedroom to your office feel less daunting. If space is at a premium, consider vertical storage elements in your office. Not only will this allow you to utilize the volume of your room, but it will also draw the eye upward, making the space feel larger and airy. Disconnecting is already difficult because we now have a one-second commute to our jobs. However, we do not need to be reminded of work during off-hours. For those with their office in their living room or dining room, consider closed storage where you can put your work away and entirely out of sight.
These design principles are no secret, but the combination of an overnight transition to a work-from-home setup and general pandemic stress has left many people still feeling the effects of a makeshift office one year later. Considering the future of our working lives, it is likely that the home office will be a permanent fixture. By making the proper adjustments, you will have your home office working for you in no time.
Marie Girolamo began her career at Toronto-based Cecconi Simone and was a finalist on HGTV’s Design Interns in 2006 before moving on to designing condo suites for MOD Developments as Director of Design.