One of the perks of working from home is the ability to roll out of bed on your own clock and get down to business in a bathrobe if you so desire. But another major perk is the opportunity to create a workspace that’s as conducive to comfort as it is productivity – an efficient yet expressive area that’s the antithesis of that cold, cramped cubicle some poor soul is occupying right now in a company building somewhere.
In short, if you want to feel at home in your home office, consider the design and layout carefully.
“I believe your environment dramatically influences how you feel about your work and how productive you are. The space you designate in your home for work should help you feel creative, productive, inspired, energized and motivated,” says Chris Bintliff, a marketing strategist who’s worked out of his primary residence in Madison, Wis. for 17 years and recently renovated his home office. “If you simply cram yourself in a spare bedroom, set up a desk and throw a computer in it, that’s how you’ll come to self-identify with your work and its value.”
Instead, says Susan Bower, architect, and principal of Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design in St. Louis, aims to make this space as pleasant as possible.
“The home office is an essential organ in the body of the house. It’s not a junk room or an afterthought – it’s a place to concentrate on serious tasks,” Bower says.
Whether you’re preparing to create a home office for the first time or desire a reboot of your existing one, it’s essential to plan carefully for its layout, flow, and contents.
First, try to select a room that offers good privacy as well as the desired window view with healthy ventilation.
“Workplaces with views of greenery experience higher worker productivity, and clean air is also key to your productivity, creativity, and health,” says Cassy Aoyagi, a Tujunga, Calif.-based accredited designer in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, who notes that adding indoor plants to the room can help you breathe easier.
Next, ponder the position of your desk and chair, says Marina Umali, a Feng Shui-influenced interior designer/owner of Paramus, N.J.-based Marina V Design Studio.
“You should have a view of the door, and your back should never be to that door. If you are facing the doorway, new opportunities will arrive,” Umali says.
Kimberly Peron, designer and creative director with Resort at Home Interior Design in Stuart, Fla., agrees.
“A desk tucked in a corner looks like you’re being punished. If possible, float the desk in the center of the room like you’d see in an executive’s office at a Fortune 500 company,” says Perron.
Paint hues are equally important.
“I wouldn’t choose any soothing, relaxing colors that you’d normally pick for a bedroom nor would I select very loud colors, as they might be distracting,” says Umali. “Likewise, décor should be interesting but not distracting.”
Ample lighting is also required to be able to read and write clearly without straining your eyes or losing energy and motivation.
“Too often I see clients relying merely on a small overhead light or a little desk lamp. You might want to invest in adding a few recessed LED lights in the ceiling, a larger overhead fixture or some extra lamps to ensure your space is bright enough,” Perron says.
Additionally, aim for extra storage space, which can be accomplished with plenty of shelves and/or cabinets.
“I like things clean and organized, so I would put as much storage behind doors as possible,” says Bower.
Likewise, try to keep computer and electronic cables safely concealed and maintain a clear and open path in and throughout your home office to prevent trips and a cluttered, congested appearance.
Whether you plan to host clients or simply want to make your space inviting for family members, “the environment should also be comfortable for guests and represent your personal brand,” says Bintliff, who recommends adequate seating for visitors. “You want others to recognize that this is a professional environment that reflects positively on your credibility. Even if you don’t have physical guests, you may be video conferencing or Skyping from your home office, so keep it clean and free of clutter.”