Updated: Feb 5, 2022
One of the most significant changes to have come out of the Coronavirus crisis is the increase in the number of people working from home. While initially it looked like this was a temporary situation during lockdown, it now seems that working from home is becoming a permanent arrangement for many.
We can certainly see many potential benefits of working from home. Cost wise there can be savings on things like travel, “office” clothing and lunches out. Working from home may also bring other lifestyle benefits such as more free time, greater flexibility and reduced stress.
However, many people are finding that working from home on a longer term basis is actually not as enjoyable as they thought it would be. Isolation and lack of social contact can be a real issue. Sometimes the pressure to be seen to be “present” and working means that people end up working even longer hours than they did before.
And of course one of the biggest issues of all is the impact on the home environment.
Psychologically many people find it helpful to have some degree of separation between “work” and “home”. This can be difficult when there is no commute.
Then there is the physical and practical issue of finding a space to work. Balancing a laptop on your knee is fine for short periods, but if you are working at home full time this is not really a viable solution. And if there is more than one family member working at home at the same time, it can be even more of a challenge.
As professional declutterers and home stagers we have lots of experience in helping our clients sort out their home offices, paperwork and organisation systems. We are great believers in working with what you have - repurposing furniture and accessories and being creative in using space effectively.
So here are our top tips to get your home organised for work, making the most of the home and space that you have.
1. Rethink your Space
We keep hearing the phrase “unprecedented times” being bandied about. And while it can be a bit of a cliché it’s certainly true that in terms of your home, and how you use the space, it could be time for a radical rethink.
In my house we have a “snug” just off the kitchen. In previous times this was used as a social space to watch TV and enjoy a morning coffee. Since lockdown we have changed how this room is used – with the addition of a yoga mat and some weights it has become a home gym, and with my sewing machine in there it doubles as a sewing room. I am in fact sitting up at the breakfast bar writing this article, so that adds a third use into the mix!
If things change and we return to office based working at some point, it can always be put back to how it was before. But for now, needs must, and we need something functional and useful for us as a family.
The point is that it is now time to be creative with your space and how it is used. Take a good long look at your home and see if there is anywhere that could be repurposed into an office.
It could be that you have an entire room that you could use – a separate dining room perhaps, or a spare bedroom. If you think you may regret losing this space, don’t worry because perhaps with a little creativity it is possible to organise things so that if you need to you can still use the room for its original purpose.
2. Be Creative
If you don’t have a “spare” room in your home, you might have to think ‘dual purpose’.
Do you have a dressing table that could double as a desk? An alcove under the stairs? A corner of the living room that could accommodate a desk? How about a caravan or campervan parked on the drive?
We even heard of one person using an ironing board as a desk! Perhaps not such a crazy solution, as it is height adjustable, and can be folded away when not in use.
If you wanted something more permanent do you have a loft, a garage or even a garden building such as a summerhouse or shed that could be converted, with the addition of some insulation, lighting and heating? Obviously the cost of doing this would be more significant but it could offer a more permanent solution. Work of this type could be offset as a business expense, and may add also value to your home.
It may be worth getting a local builder or handyman in to quote, and checking with your local council to see if planning permission is needed (in most cases it won’t be).
3. Set up your Workspace
Wherever you decide to set up your home office, it’s worth spending a bit of time and effort making sure it is comfortable and safe.
Decent lighting, and a proper adjustable office chair are all a must. If you’re self employed these costs can be offset as a business expense. Remember, if you work for someone else they are still responsible for your health and safety even whilst you are working at home, and that includes things like seating. Speak to your employer to see what help they can offer.
You might want to consider things like some sort of storage for papers (that could be an actual filing cabinet, or a portable filing box, even a shopping bag containing ring binders). Foldable plastic storage crates can be very useful as a temporary way of containing your work “clutter” should you need to pack it away at the end of the day.
Don’t forget things like somewhere to charge your phone, perhaps a pinboard, a clock, some essential stationery items, a plant – anything you need to make it feel like “work”. If noise is a problem consider some earplugs or noise cancelling headphones. You may need a printer and most printers can double as a scanner/photocopier.#
4. Don’t forget self care
The current climate of uncertainty can be very stressful – and working at home can make every day seem a bit like “groundhog day”. If the boundaries between home and work become blurred it can result in increased stress and even lead to burnout.
Our recommendation to you is to find some way to recreate the routine of a normal working day, whatever that looks like for you. If you no longer have to spend time commuting, great – in the morning you could use this time to fit in some exercise, a walk in the fresh air, meditation, or a healthy breakfast. Make sure you schedule time for some proper breaks when you step away from your desk. A walk in the garden if you have one, or some yoga breathing in front of an open window can be very energising.
At the end of the working day it can also be a good idea to find some way to switch off and mark the transition to “home”. Again this could be as simple as a walk round the block, just something that tells you that work is done and it’s time to focus on being at home.
Planning some fun or relaxing activities for your “off” time is more important than ever at the moment. So have a think about how to make your non work time as nurturing as you can – time to relax, time for exercise, time with friends (either face to face or virtual).
We also suggest that you try to keep at least a couple of rooms in the home totally free of anything to do with work and consider making them as cosy, clutter free and comfortable as possible so that you have somewhere to relax.
5. Call in the Professionals
When we are all at home so much it can be easy to feel overwhelmed – the place gets messy quicker, there is more clutter, less space, and just a general sense of overcrowding.
Working from home can also bring more clutter into the home by way of paperwork and, equipment, which all needs to be accommodated.
Did you know that if you are self employed or run a business from home, the services of professional organisers such as ourselves can be offset as a business expense?
We can help you take a good look at your home and how you use it to help you make the most of the space you have. We can then declutter and organise that space so that you feel calmer and more in control.
We can plan and organise your home office, set up a filing system, sort out your paperwork.
We can help you get rid of all the clutter, like old paperwork, redundant computing equipment, books, and anything else that is cluttering up your space.
In just a session or two we can have you organised and ready for a successful ‘working at home’ experience, leaving you free to enjoy the benefits.
If you live in or near the Cotswolds and think this is something you would benefit from, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can email us at email@example.com, DM us via social media, or call 0772 0887205 for a chat to find out more.
Claire & Sue