2020 has changed so many things, especially how and where we work. Before this year, many of us only conducted a few hours of business a week at home. We answered emails on our smartphones or did a little work on the laptop while sitting on the couch or at the kitchen island.
McKinsey recently wrote, “…estimates suggest that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis, compared to about 25 percent a couple of years ago.”
With the shift in how and where we work, a new emphasis on the home office has emerged. Trying to get solid hours of work into a day sitting at the kitchen table simply doesn’t fit our needs anymore. We want a place in the home that limits distractions and is more comfortable.
If you are considering renovating your home to accommodate a home office, here are our suggested four steps.
Step 1: Define your needs.
Before you look at pretty home office pictures on Pinterest or buy a desk, the first step for any home renovation project is to define your needs. Recognize that your needs will be different than those of your neighbors and friends, so to get to the heart of defining your home office needs, ask yourself, “What do you need the space to do?”
Every professional has a different style of working and has different needs. If you are a consultant, for example, you may need space for files or a door to close for video meetings or recording audio. Graphic artists may need additional space to spread out; others may need a larger desk to house two large monitors for research or to see large spreadsheets.
Step 2: Find a space.
Here are a few options for finding the space you need for a home office.
Option #1: Under-utilized space. Look for under-utilized spaces that can be transformed into a dedicated home office. This will help reduce the number of distractions and increase your overall productivity. Formal dining rooms can be renovated into functional office environments quite easily simply by shifting the way you use the space, as some dining tables make excellent (and spacious) desks.
Take this space to the next level by adding built-in shelves, additional lighting and outlets. A door (or wall, depending on the layout of the space) will certainly increase privacy and reduce noise.
Spare bedrooms are often another under-utilized space that can be transformed. You can switch out the guest bed that is only used a few times a year for a Murphy bed with shelves. Give your office additional storage functionality, and just like with the dining room scenario, remodeling will create a more efficient space.
Option #2: Smaller spaces. If your home doesn’t have a larger space that can be renovated into a home office, smaller spaces work, too. Desks can be set up behind bi-fold doors. Larger closets can be converted. Even a spare corner of a room can be a good spot for a home office.
Bonus rooms, basements and lofts can also make great home offices, but as these spaces often do not have a door, you’ll need to consider the number of distractions an open space may have. In this instance, remodeling the space is a great option so it’s better adapted to this new use.
Option #3: Renovate. The third option is to build an addition that adds an office space, perhaps as part of a larger kitchen remodel or another renovation project. With this option, you’ll be able to create the space exactly how you want, and it adds value to your home.
Step 3: Design for functionality.
With your needs and space defined, the next step is to identify what you need in the space to be functional. At a minimum, your home office should have a computer (or laptop), a printer and some type of storage. Here are a few other items you may want to consider including in your home office space:
- A second monitor makes researching and viewing much easier.
- An energy-saving surge protector will protect your expensive electronics from any voltage spikes, and the on/off toggle switch can also help conserve energy.
- Equipment for video conferencing needs include a webcam and headset.
- High-speed Internet access is a must in today’s telecommuting environment. When considering your options, think about how many people and devices could be using your Internet at the same time. If other family members are streaming shows, playing online video games or also doing work at the same time as you, it will affect your Internet speed.
- A desk that fits your needs could be a built-in desk, which can create a great space for focused work and give you a lot of storage options.
- A good chair works wonders, as you’ll be sitting on it all day. Invest in one that fits your body and helps with lumbar support.
- Adequate lighting, which can come from natural light (windows), overhead or desk lamps.
Step 4: Design for beauty.
Now that you’ve addressed the functionality of your home office space, it’s time to make it beautiful. No matter the square footage, there are always dozens of fun ways to make space fit your personality.
When designing your space, don’t just think horizontal. Think vertically, too. Find ways to get printers, books and other items off the desk and onto shelves. For example, a printer drawer can be built into your desk.
You may also want to create a reading nook with a comfortable chair, ottoman and side table. Many find stepping away from the desk (and screen) for focused reading/reviewing incredibly beneficial to their workday.
Other ideas to make space uniquely yours:
- Install a fun chandelier
- Hang pictures and artwork
- Add plants or a Zen-like fountain
- Extend the space outdoors by adding a water feature or garden outside your window or turning the first-floor window into a door that leads to a patio
- Use LED lighting on shelves for additional work lighting or to highlight a piece of art
Once you start using your new home office, you’ll be happy you invested in creating a dedicated space. If you’d like to discuss ways to redesign your space to create a beautiful and functioning home office, contact us.