It’s fair to say 2020 has been a bit of a challenging year. We’ve missed so many things: our friends, our families, weddings, birthday parties, hobbies, trips out, even our usual daily routines… But by far one of the biggest challenges many of us have faced is working from home. This year has ushered in a whole new way of working for many of us, and while we’ve adapted and found solutions to many issues, the reality is our homes were never meant to be workplaces, at least not long-term. And definitely not to the extent that they are now.
It’s not just the lack of separation between work life and home life: it’s the keeping children entertained; the lack of proper equipment; the missing out on face to face contact and socialising with workmates; the distractions of delivery drivers, partners and daytime TV. Essentially, it’s meant a major shift in our work-life balance, and this has been tough for many to deal with. This is something that, increasingly, people have struggled with for years, but now that the home and work spheres have been forced to merge, the struggle is all-encompassing.
We wanted to do something to highlight the struggles of working from home, and showcase the reality of the situation for many people. With that in mind, we conducted some research to find out what people would like to see from their ideal working from home setup. What would they need to help them achieve maximum productivity, whilst still maintaining a healthy work-life balance? What have they missed about working in the office? What would make working from home more comfortable?
Some of the answers were serious (creating some boundaries between work space and living space; investing in superfast broadband), and others, a bit more light-hearted (daily deliveries of disappointing sandwiches; make-up artists for Zoom calls). We compiled the most popular ones into this shiny infographic:
Here’s what we imagine the ideal working from home house to be like…
It’s important to create some distinction between your work and leisure areas. So no more sitting in bed using your knees as a desk. If you’ve got a separate room you can use as an office, great. If not, try moving around a bit throughout the day. A change is as good as a rest, after all, and a change of scenery (even if it’s just moving from your dining room to the kitchen) can do wonders for your mood.
If you have to work in your main living spaces, then make sure you declutter them at the end of the day. Put away any work-related items and keep surfaces free of too many ornaments and knick-knacks. Bring in calming artwork for your walls, and add plants for a real mood boost.
In an ideal world, of course, we’d all have full office setups in our homes, complete with mailroom (for all those Amazon Prime deliveries), break room (magazines, water cooler and white boards for brainstorming), outside space (a garden ideally, but a conservatory would also work), creche, and a curtained off, soundproofed booth for all those Zoom meetings.
Dressing the Part
Just because you’re working from home, that doesn’t mean you should sit there in your PJs and dressing gown all day. That’s not going to do much for your productivity (and, unless your workplace is really relaxed, probably won’t go down too well at the team Zoom meeting). So, make the effort to get dressed, even if it’s just in some comfy trousers and a jumper (or what the clothing sites are calling “loungewear”).
We mentioned a Zoom booth above. You could also have a wardrobe in here, where you can keep a selection of video-meeting-appropriate clothing (OK, tops – no-one’s going to see your pyjama bottoms and bunny slippers. Probably.) to change into.
Let There Be Light (but No Sound)
As we’re all spending so much more time indoors these days, it’s important that your home gets plenty of light. Installing some internal French doors or sliding doors will allow you to separate your work space from your living space, whilst still allowing light to flow from room to room. They’re also ideal for keeping an eye on the kids!
And, while it would be nice to sit out in the garden with your laptop, the weather doesn’t always allow for this, so add some bifold doors or full-width patio doors to really bring the outdoors in on days when it’s not too nice out.
While you’re at it, why not invest in some soundproofed windows too? Especially if you’re no longer working the traditional 9-5, or if you have a lot of Zoom calls. Traffic noise can be a big problem, so block it out! Or go one step further and install smart windows that can change the scenery you look out onto at the click of a button… working from the French Alps, anyone?
Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency…
The ideal work from home set-up would allow you to automate so many time-consuming things, from feeding your pets and letting them out, to cleaning your house. Automatic cat or dog doors would be a fantastic addition, as would a robot vacuum cleaner.
Not only that, but every piece of furniture would double up as something else. Think mirrors or paintings that flip to become whiteboards, coffee tables that transform into ergonomic desks, seating that can be configured in different ways or that provides storage for work-related items… you get the idea.
OK, so many of these aren’t things we can do in reality, but it’s fun to imagine.The important thing is to be kind to yourself, and try to remain positive. Whatever you can do to make your space work for you, whether that’s creating a “work” corner, moving around during the day, or even taking advantage of a shared office space (or even a pub!). Most employers will understand if you’ve got issues with childcare, or you’re expecting a delivery, or are having work done on your home, so try not to put too much pressure on yourself. And make sure to take time out. Regular breaks are vital. Go for a walk, make a cup of tea, play with your kids or pets, watch This Morning for a bit – do whatever you need to do.
What would you like to see in your ideal working from home house?