During this pandemic, we see a rise in working from home to enforce social distancing. The majority of the world have been advised to work from home whenever possible to combat the pandemic. Ultimately this shifts the dialogue between the home that serves its primary function, and now, to include a new function which is the office. Sure, many people use their laptops to catch up on work in the evenings and the weekends. However, if the function of the home includes long-term use as an office which many unprepared individuals have been thrown into today, it begs architects and property developers to rethink the spatial needs when designing homes.
The primary function of the home is a place to rest within a private and safe environment. In cities, in particular, there is the rise of the tiny apartment whereby the cost of space is so high that the home becomes a place merely to meet its primary function. For example, the dining table may only fit 2 people which makes it difficult to have guests over to socialise. For some who are living in studio apartments, the lack of separation between sleep and live distills the primary function to the core. Therefore all activities happen outside of the home which works well, until an unfortunate event such as the current pandemic occurs. Today, the home acts as a safe place to protect ourselves, as well as our family, friends and colleagues from the virus.
As working from home becomes a new norm, what are the key aspects to create a healthy and professional office space within the home? For those who are working from home right now, to the architects who are designing the next residential development, let's take a moment to consider a few things to make the home a suitable place for the new office:
1. Carve a dedicated work space within the home
Find and carve a dedicated work space within your home. If you live with other people, have a discussion to designate specific locations within the home that is meant for work. For most people, the quickest way to transform a space at home into an office is converting your dining table into a work desk. This works but read below 'Ergonomic' section to ensure you are working comfortably.
Spatially, some can afford to add a work desk within the living room or bedroom. This is a good way to have a dedicated work space, so whenever you sit on this desk, you are transported to a work scenario which is similar to your desk in your office. For people living with others, sitting on this desk can also provide some separation whereby casual chat is discouraged.
For some with a spare bedroom, it is the ideal time to look into converting it as a dedicated study room. This will provide an ideal separation between live and work. Arriving in this room sets you into a work mode and sets a clear signal to people you live with.
Are you working in good posture? In your office, you will likely have an ergonomic chair to ensure the long hours at the desk do not cause any lower back or hip pain. When you work from home for an extended period, you should look into investing in an ergonomic chair. From a cost effective ergonomic chair to the office specialist chair, having one that ensures you are in a comfortable and optimum position is important for your comfort.
Besides that, screen heights are also important to minimise neck strain. If you work on a laptop, you could look into investing in a laptop stand, coupled with a separate keyboard and mouse. If your company gives permission, you could bring your office screen home with you for the time being.
For the ultimate comfort and ergonomics? A standing desk. There are options in the office furniture market that allows the desk to be transformed from a sitting desk to a standing desk with the push of a button. As we lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle during this pandemic, the standing desk provide an alternative way to encourage body movement.
3. The camera view, set up your tech strategically
The rise of virtual meetings mean many will utilise platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and others to carry on with work meetings. We often get a glimpse of how others live because the camera reveals details ranging from bedroom to kitchen. Think how much personal space you are willing to share with your co-workers, clients and even first-time meetings too.
Whilst Skype has a fantastic feature to blur backgrounds, not all platforms have it. So the question is, how much do you want to share? Test your camera view and set your tech accordingly in a strategic way.
Personally, I found preparing a Weekly Plan works well. This way, I know which task I have to complete on a daily or weekly basis. Over time, you will better understand what is feasible within a time frame to complete the work within the reasonable times set for yourself and your team. As recent statistics show that as a workforce, we have all been working longer hours as we shift to remote working for the time being. Perhaps it is time saved from travelling or perhaps the ambiguous blurring of the home and the work place. At Pitch Your Concepts, we apply the ROWE mindset which is a "results-only work environment". This means it is not about filling in the hours but getting the results required (yes, sometimes it does take longer than planned but that is okay). By focusing on results and goals, the number of hours we put in and track becomes an informed data for our own awareness when planning the next task.
Stay at home, wash your hands, embrace the new way of working comfortably and stay safe.
Yvonne Chua, Architect | 25 March 2020
Pitch Your Concepts is a pitch submission platform for medium-sized developments and commercial projects. For SME developers, the experienced clients and architects.