The number of people from working from home is growing all the time and may have reached a peak this summer during the Olympics when up to 1.5m of us were estimated to have shunned trains and tubes for a little typing in front of the telly.
At the end of 2009, 12.8 per cent of the workforce was based mainly at home; that’s nearly four million people and an increase of 21 per cent since the turn of the century. A survey of firms by the Confederation of British Industry showed that the number offering at least some teleworking rose from 14 per cent in 2006 to 46 per cent in 2008. And the trend is certainly on the rise.
You might be one of the lucky ones who always works from home, or you might be allowed just one day a week. And even if you don’t actually work from home, it’s a still a job finding somewhere to store the bills and keep up with emails.
But not all of us have the luxury of a spare room to call an office. Sometimes it has to share the space with a sofa bed, sometimes it’s simply a corner of the dining or sitting room and maybe even that dead area under the stairs. Here are some ideas to help you create the perfect home office.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your office is, designers are now catching up on the need to provide comfortable equipment that can fit into the smallest of spaces.
CHOOSE YOUR SPACE
If you’re sharing with the spare room, then as well as a desk, you will have to find room for a sofa bed and it’s not a bad idea to have somewhere comfortable to sit if you just need to do some reading. The corner of a sitting room can also work well as you can always put a screen round the desk to hide it in the evening. If this is your plan then try and choose furniture that fits with the rest of the room.
Alternatively consider putting doors on an alcove and building a desk/shelf into the space. The chair can fit underneath so the doors can shut and be pulled out when in use. Lisa Jeary, of Home Office Design, says she worked in the cupboard under the stairs when she first set up her company.
“I felt a bit like Harry Potter, but it does prove that you can fit a lot into a small space,” she says. “These days there is lots of choice of flexible furniture so that you can really make the maximum use of the space available.”
It should cost less than £1000 to pull the panelling off the side of the stairs and replace with bespoke sliding or concertina doors. Don’t forget the cost of sockets and lighting.
When I first started working from home, I put my desk in the wardrobe of my rented flat. It was a very small flat and I had to keep the clothes in there too, but it was possible to sweep them to one side to reveal a the computer.
DECORATE THE WALLS
It might sound like the least important part, but the colour of the walls will have an impact on whether you want to spend time in your office. Don’t just assume it has to be white. Muted shades of blue, yellow and green can all be calm and conducive to work. Bright colours like red and orange, or flamboyant wallpaper are probably best left to the other parts of the house. I’m a big fan of blackboard paint which also means you can scribble notes and reminders to yourself too.
GET THE RIGHT FURNITURE
Try to position your desk close to the natural light, if you are lucky enough to have any, and make sure there are enough plugs and sockets so that you don’t have wires trailing across the floor.
Glass and chrome are currently very popular as they add to the illusion of light and space. Make sure your computer isn’t going to take up all the available space though.
“Buy the biggest desk you can fit into the space,” says Jeary. “And don’t forget that you can always have a little trolley to the side for the printer, fax and any other pieces you might need.”
Jude Tugman, director of Architect Your Home, says you don’t need to spend too much on the desk. “We have plain wooden tables from Ikea which work perfectly. You don’t see them that much anyway as they are always covered. The main thing is that it must be deep enough for the computer and any papers. Length is less important as you can always stash the printer underneath. Save money on the desk and spend it on the chair, which is really important.”
Alternatively, have one built to suit your needs and fit the available space perfectly.
MAKE SURE THERE IS ENOUGH STORAGE
This is the downfall of many a home office. Remember that in addition to all the usual household clutter of bills and paperwork, there is now the office paperwork. “You have to keep office papers for up to seven years so you really need to think about how much space you are going to need. Be disciplined, make sure your filing system is easy to use and then it won’t get on top of you,” says Jeary. She suggests modular shelving, which can be adapted and expanded to suit changing needs.
If your office has to double up with another room in the house then choose attractive storage files that will add to the décor rather than clunky metal filing cabinets which will dominate the room when you’re not working. Ikea is great for this. Second hand filing cabinets can be sprayed any colour you like with car paint.
Tugman suggests using the space above the desk right up to the ceiling. “Keep the space under the desk as clear as possible for the printer and any other equipment that you might need to get at.”
SORT OUT THE LIGHTING
Obviously you want to be near the natural light, but you don’t want to have the glare on the computer screen. Overhead lighting is good, but a proper task lamp will also help on those dingy winter days. Particularly if your office is in an otherwise unused corner of the room.
Instead of cluttering your desk with endless post-it notes, consider a magnetic or blackboard if you have a room to yourself. You can even buy magnetic blackboard paint and could even paint the inside of a screen so you can use it for notes and reminders while the outside can be painted to tone with the rest of the room while Tugman recommends cable management wires to prevent clutter from the computer, printer, fax, task lamp and anything else you’ve got going on there.
It’s also really handy to have a couple of drawers as well for the pens and paperclips and all those little things that just clutter up the desktop.
But as Jeary says: “It’s your office. It has to be how you want it so that it’s conducive to work. It’s no good being in a space under the stairs if you are going to wander off into the kitchen because it’s better lit or the rest of the family are in there.”
For more images of my favourite home offices on Pinterest