Expert advice on making a home office you can actually work in, whether you're in a shared space or have the luxury of a dedicated room.
Millions of us are now working from home. Here’s how to create the ultimate space for a creative, calm and happy working environment.
1. Space oddities
Spare bedrooms, lofts, basements and even garden sheds can make wonderful home offices - but if you don't have the luxury of these additional spaces, don’t worry.
Lesley Taylor, member of the British institute of Interior Design and interior designer at Edit Home and Design, believes even the teeniest nook can be converted into a decent working space.
"With a little bit of creativity, that area under the stairs or small alcove could become the perfect home office," she says.
Of course, if you're using a tiny space like this, you’ll need to be imaginative with furniture.
"Opt for a fold-down desk that can be stowed, and seating that blends with your existing decor," she advises. If you’re sharing a space with other people, there are still ways to carve out a ‘separate’ area, with strategically placed screens, plants, curtains or cupboards.
2. Vital equipment
If you invest in one piece of furniture for your home office, make it a good chair.
"Ensure it’s adjustable with plenty of lumbar support to keep back pain at bay," says Lesley. "Armrests and headrests are also nice-to-haves for additional comfort."
Looks should come second to functionality - but there are tonnes of cool office chairs available, like these from made.com.
Your desk is also important - make sure it’s the right height and has leg room for long periods of sitting as well as enough space to work. Whether you’re using a shelf, the kitchen table or a state-of-the-art office desk, it needs to be ergonomically sound. For help and advice on setting up an ergonomic workstation, check out posturite.co.uk.
3. Picture this
Make your desk a place you want to sit at by having a few things you love to look at close by. Photos, kids’ drawings, a scent you like - it’s your own office, so there are no rules.
Mix up these accessories now and again to re-energise your work area and stop it from feeling tired. Add some greenery, too. Studies suggest we're 12% healthier and less stressed with a plant in our office; it improves the air quality and brings a general aura of pleasant relaxation.
4. Home comforts
A chill-out zone is the most overlooked perk of a home office. Your desk is for active work, but if you can create a place to think, read, or chat on the phone, it’s really worthwhile. If you have space, put in a cosy sofa, chair, or window seat for curling up in; add a soft lamp, an ottoman for your feet and a table for your cuppa, and chuck in some lovely comfy throws, cushions and pillows for good measure.
5. Cut the clutter
Boxes, bags and baskets are your best friends when you’re wfh.
If you’re working from your bedroom, make your bed, tidy away cups and clothes every morning, and you’ll feel instantly calmer. Decluttering at the end of the working day is important too.
Interior designer Hayley Roy, from Harp Commercial Interiors, says: "If you have no option but to work from your bedroom or other living space, my biggest piece of advice would be to pack away your work - files, laptops and other bits - at the end of every single day to help the transition between your work life and home life."
If space is tight, multi-function storage solutions for hiding things away are perfect. "Go for a footstool or a coffee table that has storage inside, or opt for underbed boxes," suggests Hayley.
Hide your printer in a cupboard, run a power strip behind your desk to stop wires cluttering up your space, and keep shelves and bookcases clear and organised - they’ll look great as the backdrop in your video conferences.
6. Let there be (natural) light
Lighting your home office also requires thought. "You need a well-lit area to work effectively without straining your eyes, and you also need enough light for Zoom/Skype calls," says Hayley. "Having a good directional lamp is perfect for this, as well as for lighting your work space in the evenings.”
Natural light is also important, so try to place your desk in a position that makes the most of it.
Linda Varone, author of The Smarter Home Office: 8 Simple Steps to Increase Your Income, Inspiration and Comfort, says that it’s easy to get this wrong. "A lot of people reflexively put their desks right up against the wall in the darkest corner," she says.
"What they’ve inadvertently done is recreated the corporate cubicle." And who wants that?
Sitting parallel to a window will give you all the happiness benefits of natural light, and a good reason to turn from your computer occasionally to take in the scene.
7. Be realistic
Interior decor magazines and sites such as Pinterest are great sources of inspiration, but remember that those pictures are highly unlikely to be offices set up to accommodate a 40-hour work week.
That upholstered dining chair looks fab, but it may not support your back, and that cute vintage desk won’t accommodate your project files. And while some people like bright colours, you might get annoyed looking at a whole wall of midnight mauve right above your computer, even if it makes your office look insta-tastic.
Instead, try splashes of colour in accessories like cushions or in framed art if you want to spice up your space.
A great home office needs to be functional first and beautiful second.