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Designing a Home Office with Your Needs in Mind

29th May 2020

Kids are your co-workers now

Creative re-use of the home space is what award-winning architect Masa Ruane Bratusa, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Interior Architecture and Design at Institute Sligo advocates.

“Use the entire house as a type of a hot desk in the absence of a dedicated office space”, Bratusa recommends implementing a trend that arose around the 1990s. The workers take whatever desk is available, instead of having one assigned space.

Not having a dedicated office space isn’t an issue, she says, however, not having a dedicated storage space to put the paperwork away at the end of the working day – is.

“You want to be able to switch back to being “at home”. Prepare your space for use after office hours to enjoy the room again – be it a kitchen, a living room or a bedroom. Convert it back to a space where you go to relax and spend time with a family, children or housemates”, Bratusa concludes.

Plug your laptop in, get your head down and get the work done. Not to mention the tea and coffee.

Sounds easy, right? Until the interruptions kick in.

Kids and pets may think it’s a play time all the time. Your partner could also be working from home.

Bratusa’s lesson on seeing kids, partners and housemates as co-workers carries one often suppressed truth – aren’t we interrupted at work at least a few times a day anyway? Yet we treat such “distractions” as a given in today’s work culture.

“Take a kitchen table, for example. While the kids are drawing or doing their homework, you do your job. Don’t cut them off. Lead by example. Show your children how you can all work together”, Bratusa explains her approach.

How to best set-up your home office

If your entire job is on your computer, then there’s very little reason not to create a comfortable and well-organized home office.

The global pandemic will prove that remote work is a very real option.

A recent survey from IrishJobs.ie (April 2020) showed that half of employees choose the kitchen table as their designated workspace, followed by a home office (20%) or a spare room (14%).

When asked if they missed their usual working environment, 79% of employees surveyed stated that they did.

Perhaps the view is better from their office?

“We became the designers of not only or working space, but also of our time. We finally get to work in a space we designed for ourselves”, Bratusa excitedly says.

Although houses aren’t primarily designed as a place to work and conduct school and family activities all at once, houses offer something that corporate premises offer to a limited extent – the personal touch.

Why not take the recent developments as a sign to finally maximize the enjoyment of our space?

Bratusa admits: “It’s the reason why I love architecture and interior architecture so much. It’s because day by day, hour by hour, I deal with beautiful things”.

Over the years, companies like Facebook, Lego and Airbnb gave employees little reason to go home, let alone avoid the office, and all for a reason.

“If you’re spending eight to ten hours at work every day”, Bratusa says, “it makes it easier if your space makes you feel good about yourself and about your job.”

She explores ways to (re)design a home office space to bring tranquillity to daily work and help balance the demands that growing businesses place on individuals.

  1. Find the spot in your house that works for you, as well as those who live with you.
  2. When we think about adding functions to our home, we tend to think about fragments and compartments, but where this is not possible, think about layers: rooms can have many functions which can be complementary or which take place at different times of the day. Position your desk so that it allows you to turn your back to the living space, or use light partitions such as book shelves or room dividers. While it is good to set boundaries between work and life, a door is not the only way to do it.
  3. Your home office is a space where you can give yourself all that you were missing at your workplace. Indulge yourself with dashes of colour or designer stationary. Chose materials carefully, we don’t only see them, we sense and understand their tactile quality and meaning inherently and this establishes an embodied experience, a deeper connection to our work-environment.
  4. Working in an area filled with natural light and plenty of fresh air improves comfort, but if you are using the computer throughout the day, ensure that natural light is diffused, so either pick a spot with north light, or invest in a good blind: direct sunlight can cause glare and put a strain on your eyes. Workplace ergonomics still apply at home. Consider investing in a chair with a good back support and ensure your screen is at your eye level by using a pile of books or a stand. Hygiene and discipline are pre-requisites for comfort, and this is true for you as much as for your family.
  5. It has been said that the spaces and places around us construct us as we construct them. Revel in the process of designing your home office.

 

Covid-19’s impact on home and office design

As many people work from their own homes, the awareness of how our interior spaces affect our mood is on a rise.

Will coronavirus impact how we design spaces in the future? Will space planning include physical distance measures?

Bratusa says the change is already happening.

“The restaurants and home offices are a perfect example. Being able to quickly transform the space has already become a necessity.”

Changes in social structures, standards of living and policies arising from global environmental issues are already driving the growth of the Interior design market.

In response to the newly found capability to quickly transform the space, how hard will the offices need to fight to win us back?

IT Sligo’s Interior Architecture programmes are the first in Ireland to be recognised by the European Council of Interior Architects (ECIA) and graduates are eligible for membership of The Institute of Designers in Ireland.

This September a new Level 8 programme in Interior Architecture and Design will take students on a three-year or four-year journey at the Institute of Technology Sligo.

The new programme includes a unique “sandwich year” option in which students will have the opportunity to study abroad, work in practice or study complementary creative disciplines across the Yeats Academy of Art, Design and Architecture at IT Sligo. In addition to our new Level 8 programme, our well established three year Level 7 and one year Add-On Honours degree programmes are also still running. For more information visit: https://www.itsligo.ie/courses/bachelor-of-arts-honours-in-interior-architecture-and-design/.

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