By PARIS WOLFE
Until March 2020, most Americans used their home office – if they had one – for paying bills, personal correspondence and hanging out on social media. Sometimes, they worked from home.
COVID-19 changed that dynamic dramatically. Now, 88 percent of office workers surveyed by Global Workplace Analytics reported working at home at least part-time during the pandemic. While that may not end soon, many remote workers want it to continue indefinitely.
“Having had a taste, even under less than ideal conditions, employees are saying they want more. The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in,” says Kate Lister, president of research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics.
Working effectively at home requires a dedicated space, something more than the couch and a laptop or papers piled on the kitchen table. Fortunately, for some, their companies are helping equip that office. A recent survey of 1,400 U.S.-based companies by global professional services firm Aon, found that 1 in 5 say they are helping fund employees’ home-office equipment.
Meanwhile, a recent survey by consulting firm Mercer reports that a third of companies are reimbursing newly remote employees for laptops, and more than 14 percent are paying for ergonomic office furniture.
Once a pretty indulgence, the home office has become necessity. And that is shifting design from form to function. It’s not just about a pretty desk, but one that is comfortable for hours of work.
“Function becomes a priority because we’re in these spaces all the time,” says Marissa Matiyasic, principal at Reflections Interior Design, Cleveland Heights. The focus on function starts with choosing the space – an adapted bedroom or enclosed porch, for example. For those easily distracted by the kitchen (and food) getting farther away may be more practical.
Once a dedicated workspace is chosen, the most important thing to do is consider what is needed and how you work, says Matiyasic. Do you sit at a desk and keyboard all day? Are you walking about while talking on the telephone to clients? Do you have a large monitor and separate keyboard or a smaller laptop? These can affect the size and shape of a desk.
After identifying equipment – computer, printer, file cabinet and more – locating it becomes important. For example, if work is paper-intensive the printer may need to be nearby. On the flip side, if you only need the printer once a week, a wireless version can be set up in a closet or pantry to free desk space.
Paperwork will require a filing system, filing drawer or filing cabinet nearby.
Then, think “ergonomic” for the chair. Do you need arm support for typing? Do you have back issues that need extra support? Chairs can be highly personal in fit.
Matiyasic says, “Dig deep into who you are. I know the type of person I am. I must have natural, bright light. I realize some people don’t have windows and natural, bright light as an option. So, they should think about lighting options.”
Offices with ceiling fans, she says, are often dim. They may be changed to a fixture that gives more light. Replacing most bulbs with LED bulbs will also brighten a space. More direct lighting may be achieved with swing-arm sconces.
“Moving into a home office may seem overwhelming and you want to purchase everything right away, but you really need to have a roadmap,” she says. “Figure out your needs, plan and implement.”
Functional home office design becomes more important for work, study through pandemic
By PARIS WOLFE