Home office design is a top concern for many who work at home. If you have decided on the location for your home office, it is time to plan the arrangement of the office. Proper home office design ensures that you are comfortable and productive at work. If you are working from home, you are likely spending many hours in that workspace. Thus, you want to make sure it is designed to be an environment you enjoy for extended periods. But, there are critical aspects of the home office that you want to consider carefully before you start designing and setting up your office space.
Lighting and views
There are many decisions you will make in establishing your home office design – from the type of desk you will be using, the most ergonomic and comfortable chair, and what type of filing system to use. But, probably one of the most important aspects of designing an efficient and productive home office is lighting. Lighting can be considered the foundation of your office environment. In fact, research has suggested that lighting can be an important factor in determining your mood1,2, 3 your over-all well-being4, your productivity5 and even your health6 in the work environment. This component is so important that we will be reviewing lighting options extensively in future blog posts. For now, these are a few things to consider:
Research suggests that one of the best sources of light in your home office design is natural daylight7. If you can locate your workspace close to a window, you will have an office more conducive to productive work. There is a caveat to placing your desk by a window. Bright morning or afternoon sun blazing through a window can cause glare on your monitor. This can be quite annoying for working on the computer.
Obviously, natural lighting can only be used in daylight hours and on relatively clear days. Therefore, other considerations include using other types of lighting that will ensure uniformity and the absence of glare.
Uniformity refers to how evenly distributed lighting is in your workspace. Imagine, if you will, how uncomfortable you feel in a parking lot at night that is not uniformly lighted. It contains bright areas with spot lights blazing down, possibly producing glare and other areas with dark (spooky) shadows. Shadows in workspace are another important aspect of home office design. In an office workspace, shadows are not typically perceived as dangerous (as they could be in a parking lot late at night). Nevertheless, it is uncomfortable to work in shadows because you need to constantly shift and turn to see clearly. Thus, consider a combination of direct (overhead light shining down) and indirect lighting (light directed upward to bounce off walls or ceiling). Using both types of lighting helps with lighting uniformity in your workspace.
Another consideration in home office design lighting is reduction in glare. Glare is caused by a bright light source hitting a surface and then reflecting light back to you. This makes it difficult/uncomfortable to see your work. While not necessarily dangerous in a home office (as glare from an incoming headlight can be on the highway), glare nevertheless is uncomfortable and can lead to headaches. In my case, I even get nauseated while working with too much glare. Reduce glare by making sure that your monitor is not “hit” by direct light. This light can come either from an overhead light source or from daylight through a window.
Find a way to utilize indirect lighting. Filter or diffuse light with lamp shades or globes. You might even consider changing the color or your walls if they are stark and produce glare. As you decide where to set up your desk, check for glare on the work surface and computer monitor. Be sure to check at different angles and at different times of the day. Plan to use a desk lamp with indirect lighting to reduce glare. Experiment with lighting that is adjustable and can be dimmed if needed to reduce glare while also providing adequate lighting for work.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different bulbs, different lamp placement, or different desk locations. Work to ensure that you have lighting in your workplace that is comfortable for your eyes for extended periods of time. Lighting options available today are very cost effective. So, it makes good sense to take some time to make your home office a highly user-friendly environment. After all – you will be spending much of your day working there.
A bit about view
I am including lighting in the same category as view because they are interrelated. Yet, lighting and view are really two separate items. When thinking about view, consider what looks good and what is comfortable for you. For example, when I first set up my computer in my home office, I placed the desk by the window. While I truly enjoyed looking out the window, I found two problems with desk placement. First, while I did enjoy looking out, I also found myself highly distracted by the outdoors. I wanted to go pull those weeds cropping up under my roses. And oh my – the yard needed to be mowed.
So, if you place your work space so that you can constantly glance outside, make sure that you are not distracted by the lure of the outdoors. At first, the glare from sunlight hitting the monitor was horrible in the morning. I now have my monitors facing away from the windows. This avoids glare at all times of the day, lets daylight in for working and allows me to see the sky above. With this monitor placement, I am not distracted by the “things I need to do outside” around the house.
Another consideration for view is within the house itself. Be careful to avoid “in house” distractions in locating your workspace. This includes facing away from any distraction. Consider positioning your desk away from the TV. Avoid placing your desk toward the kitchen or any other household area that tries to “call” you when at work. Your view should be attractive and comforting, but not distracting.
Both lighting and view are huge topics that will be covered more extensively in future posts. These two aspects of the home office have a profound impact on productive.
Adequate space for your home office
Another important consideration for your home office design is space. Explore these questions as you design your office space to ensure an environment conducive to work.
First, how much desk top space do you need to work effectively? If you largely work on your computer and do minimal work with paper, then you don't need a large desktop space for working. If, like me, you take notes, jot down ideas, highlight relevant articles you have printed, pay bills, shuffle receipts, etc., then you will need more space on a desk to work. When considering desk size, think about the office tools you need to work effectively. Do you use an in/out basket that you work from frequently? Do you need ready access to pens, pencils, a stapler, and tape during work? Very importantly, do you need a cup of coffee ready at all times? Consider a large enough desk surface to easily reach the tools you use frequently every day. This avoids wasting time hunting for those items you need regularly.
Chair and desk space
If using a rolling chair (highly recommended), do you have enough space? Can you move around without bumping in to other furniture or running over the dog? Yes, I have done that and it does interrupt your work flow. If you have a non-moving chair, do you have enough room to shift around, get up and sit down easily? According to Panero and Zelnik8, the minimum office space for a worker meeting with one person should be 60-70 inches X 90-126 inches. If you are going to be working alone, you can consider a smaller work space. The footprint for desk chair space is estimated to be about 42 inches. These space requirements are estimates and vary based on individual needs. But, they can be used as guidelines to ensure that you have adequate space to move around and feel comfortable working.
Another consideration is whether others will be coming to your office? If you will have clients coming to you, then consider where they will sit when they are there. If you have someone helping you with work, is there room for them in your office?
What types of storage do you need? How will storage be placed so that it is close to you and easily accessible? Where can it be placed that it does not interfere with your work space? Storage space is highly subjective depending on what type of business you have. Think about what you will be doing throughout your workday and what you need to be put away. Because clutter can be so distracting, office storage space is important for removing these distractions.
Looking at these questions before you begin setting up your home workspace will help you to determine a layout that is efficient, comfortable and productive. Each item is an important category covered more extensively in this blog.
Technology and technology clutter
At the very minimum, you will probably need a variety of tools. These might include: a computer (either desktop or laptop), speakers or headset, printer, Internet connectivity, a communication device. You will also need plenty of electrical connections for all the equipment.
Many reasonable options are available today for computers whether you are considering a desktop or laptop computer. Although laptop computers are quite powerful today, they generally provide a smaller visual workspace. If you have a laptop and work a great deal on the computer, you may want to consider buying a separate monitor to give yourself more workspace. If you are working extensively with graphics, writing, researching, etc. you might want to consider a desktop computer. Desktop computers provide a larger space to work. If you have a desktop computer, you can also have more than one monitor. Two or more monitors provide even more space from which to work. I have never met anyone who had two monitors ever want to go back to using just one because two are much more efficient.
Speakers or headset
If you work on the Internet, you will probably want to invest in a good headset with microphone. Headsets provide two benefits over speakers. They can block noise (distractions). Also, they allow you to listen to content on your computer without disturbing others in the house. The headset microphone combination allows you to call others and to record content as well.
Even if you conduct most of your work online, you will find that at some point you need a printer. Printers are relatively inexpensive these days. Many are multipurpose providing the ability to fax, copy, scan, save documents, and print. If you have the ability to do all this from home, it will save you time and money. You no longer have to leave your workspace and visit the local office supply store to conduct your business.
Very few businesses today have no need for the Internet. Make sure that you have an Internet connection available in your office. You may need either a hardwired or wireless connection or both. Wireless access to your computer and to your printer will eliminate some inevitable cord clutter than comes from electronics. Someday everything will be wireless (hooray!!!) But for now, try to minimize the number of cords you have tangled and dangling in your home office.
You will need access either to a landline or a cell phone (or both) in your home office. Having the phone within ready reach allows you to work more productively. Getting up from your desk to answer the phone can definitely slow your productivity.
Easily accessible electrical outlets are critical for your home office. When you start plugging in all the electronics that you need, you may discover that one outlet is not enough. You might be”lucky” like me and doing a complete DIY renovation. In this case, you can plan ahead for all the outlets you will need. IT will simply be a matter of installing plenty of them where needed. If you are not renovating, then you may need to rely on surge protectors for all your equipment. Remember that you will likely need plenty of outlets for technology.
Today, we need to set up computers, monitors, speakers, printers for a start. Then, we have to charge cell phones, headsets, hotspots, etc. In addition, we need multiple outlets for charging USB devices. Plan your cord placement to be easily accessible while also out of sight. Remember, cords are clutter. You want to strive for an attractive, uncluttered look in your office. Cord placement is a challenging aspect of any office design.
Theme and décor to motivate
I am a very visual person. When I look around as I am working, I like to see things that bring a smile to my face. This may be decor that is beautiful or whimsical or funny or inspiring. But, each of us have different needs when it comes to environment. And it is important to discover what makes you happy and inspired when you look around your office. My current home office is in flux – and that is one of the reasons I am writing this blog. I need to conduct research to discover the best home office environment. Then, I am sharing what I learn with readers who may also be looking to improve their home work environment.
Currently, when I look around my office, I see sheet rock walls that need to be finished. Some studs are not covered, needing sheet rock. Minimal blinds keep too much light out, but the window trim is unfinished. But, I am also working to create an office that is very much like home for me. As I go through the process of finishing the home office, I add little things that make me smile. Because I spend so much time here. Working. All day. Much like you probably do, too.
The functional office
At the same time, I want to share what I have found out about the functional aspects of home office design. I will delve into lighting, sound, space, plants and more in the home office. Especially, I want to share ideas about décor because in your home office, YOU get to decide what you want. Match your office to the style and décor of your home. Or try something entirely different that sets your office apart from your home. Select a color for the walls that is soothing and relaxing or energizing and invigorating. Hang motivational signs or photos on your wall to inspire you. Add accessories to make you smile when you feel challenged. Surround yourself with what makes you feel good and happy while you are working. Make your home office a sanctuary.
You might be thinking about simply carving out a little space to work from home. But, I want to encourage you to carefully consider your home office design. You want to create an environment that will make you smile. This blog will be exploring the many DIY options available. With DIY ideas you can inexpensively create a home office that you will look forward to visiting every day. And that is what working from home is all about!
- 1. Veitch, JA, Newsham, GR, Boyce, PR, Jones, CC. (2008) Lighting appraisal, well-being and performance in open-plan offices: A linked mechanisms approach. Lighting Research and Technology 40: 133–151.
- 2. Knez, I. Effects of indoor lighting on mood and cognition. (1995) Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15: 39-51.
- 3. Borisuit, A., Linhart, F., Scartezzini, J.-L., & Münch, M. (2015). Effects of realistic office daylighting and electric lighting conditions on visual comfort, alertness and mood. Lighting Research & Technology, 47(2), 192–209. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477153514531518
- 4. Roulet, C-A, Johner, N, Foradini, F, Bluyssen, P, Cox, C, Fernandes, E, Müller, B, Aizlewood, C. (2006) Perceived health and comfort in relation to energy use and building characteristics. Building Research and Information 34: 467–474.
- 5. Knez, I. and Enmarker, I. (1998) Effects of office lighting on mood and cognitive performance and a gender effect in work-related judgment. Environment and Behavior, 30, 4: 553-567.
- 6. Robertson, A. S., McInnes, M., Glass, D., Dalton, P., Sherwood Burge, P. (1989) Building sickness, are symptoms related to office lighting? The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 33: 47–59, https://doi.org/10.1093/annhyg/33.1.47
- 7. Veitch, JA, Geerts, J, Charles, KE, Newsham, GR, Marquardt, CJG. (2005) Satisfaction with lighting in open-plan offices: COPE field findings: Proceedings of Lux Europa 2005, Berlin, Germany, 414–417.
- 8. Panero, J and Zelnik, M. (1979) Human Dimension & Interior Space, New York : Whitney Library of Design.