Thanks to an upturn in both self-employment and flexible working trends, the home office is emerging as one of the most important residential amenities. With options ranging from integrated systems to stand-alone ‘shed quarters’ at home, workers aren’t just making do, they’re finding their own ways to work.
Where is the Home-Office and who is likely to require it?
Advantages of home-working are obvious – a comfortable environment, no need to travel to and from work, fewer overheads, and much more. But there can be disadvantages – distractions and a decrease in productivity. That is why it is so important for freelancers to arrange a convenient, practical and functional working space in their home that provides a balance between relaxation and productivity.
The home office can consist of:
- a separate room – roof space, study, basement
- a separate building – annex, chalet, above a garage (live/work unit), ‘shed quarters’
- a multi-purpose room – dining table, pull out work space, bureau. Usually located in the living room, bedroom or kitchen/diner.
Which type of home-office influences the furniture style – is it furniture with multi-purposes (office and entertaining), or distinct home-office furniture with a different feel to the rest of the home? This depends on the person and how far there is a desire to separate living and work space, or whether the aim is for the two spaces to be ‘seamless’. This may also depend on how often the space is used.
Those likely to require a home-office are:
- at home executives
- students or home teachers
- small businesses/entrepreneurs
- artists/musicians (studio space)
Trends in home office furniture and commercial influences
- Tech-led Office
The digital age has transformed the way we work and less space is needed for traditional paperwork. Mobile and wireless technologies don’t require a lot of space as everything is done from a laptop, projectors are small, and with wireless printers, it’s really about making sure you have the cabinet space for them. There is no need for the home-office to be in a separate room with a large desk. There is a re-evaluation of equipment, with home entertainment merging alongside the home office, as TVs and monitors become one and the same thing and technology integrates into our office furniture – tech desks hide away unattractive cables and have integrated USB ports or wireless charging pads. That said, even a modest-size working area needs to meet the requirements of ergonomics, practicality and aesthetic.
- Multipurpose and multilayered
The home office is often an occasional work area for some people, only needed for its peripherals and storage (printer, backups, and files). Multifunctional spaces are a growing trend, with people who want offices to feel more like living rooms, so creating working spaces that are the antithesis of the rigid workstations and this is largely driven by the merged technology culture. Following the playful design lead of many tech headquarters, people are wanting their offices to be getaway spaces, where they can be relaxed and thoughtful without being corporate and sterile (Google effect).
In dual purpose spaces you have to be able to tidy away whatever is going on, transitioning from work to entertaining. We are seeing more pull-out shelves and desk surfaces in non-office parts of the house, hidden but available when somebody needs it. A pull-out surface in the living room or in a foyer, a nook workstation, or just a kitchen counter, can serve for tandem homework and bill-paying by the parents. There also seems to be an increasing trend of ‘cabinets in the closet’, where the workplace is located behind hinged or sliding cabinet doors in a living room. In bedrooms, a computer table often doubles-up as a dressing table. Working space versatility can be provided with the simplest solutions in furniture – table-top console, or compact desk and storage systems in the form of open shelves.
- Less is More
There is often limited space in the home office environment, so organisation and tidiness is increasingly at the center of home-office design. There’s a move toward minimal space that’s smart and uplifting and not cluttered. It should be motivating and smart. Modern, slick cabinets offer both style and functionality. A calm and minimalistic situation contributes to the business mood.
- Traditional Home-office
Traditional elements can also be integrated in the modern home office mainly by selecting the design for the storage systems. Bookcases and shelves in a classic style are often combined with modern tables and chairs. Although functionality is still a priority with storage, styles have developed with more modern finishes such as honeycomb shelves, ombré effect and ladder shelves. Vintage and rustic continue to be a big trend. The addition of vintage furniture in an office helps to create a more relaxed space to work in. Unfinished wood is a big interior design trend this year. This is a good way to disconnect from technology, and bring a more natural feel to your office and enjoy the soothing effect it can have. Several firms offer bespoke, fitted home-office solutions. These tend to be for a more executive space where there is a specific room dedicated to the home-office and can be designed to incorporate any of these modern or more traditional styles.
- Health and Wellbeing
Juicy and bright colours are definitely a big trend. They motivate workers and add some freshness to an area. Commercial break-out spaces are typically bright and bold, giving you a sense that you are away from the world of work and can be recreated in the home-office too. Health is an important factor and there is an increasing awareness that people are often more productive when they spend less time sitting at the desk. Sit-stand desks with adjustable height are popular and some home office furniture incorporates this idea too.
What restrictions will be encountered when looking for a suitable home-office?
The main restriction for the home-office is space, whether a separate room or building is available, or whether the office is shared with a living space. The advantage of a dedicated building is that people can achieve the perfect balance of working at home with the psychological satisfaction of walking out of a room and turning the lights off. Where there is a shared space, there is a greater need to be flexible. The purpose of the home office and its functional background, will also determine the space requirements. For example, someone who works on their own as a designer will need more drawing space as opposed to a salesperson who may just need a desk, phone, and computer. An artist or creative will need a large studio space with good light and adequate space, etc. (more of a gallery/workshop/studio).
Health and safety can also be a restriction. If you are not self-employed, an employer has a duty of care to ensure that the home-office set-up is safe (risk assessments) and that it is suitable (ergonomics). There may also be planning covenants that prevent working from home that people are unaware of.
What’s the future?
The growing trend towards home working will see homes and commercial premises designed for flexible activities; homes will accommodate work spaces and work spaces will accommodate areas for relaxation very similar to the home. This will in turn blur the differences and we will see some furniture and furnishings comfortably supplied across both segments with legislation such as Health and Safety, Fire Regulations and the like exposing the differences.
For the full home-office and commercial solution:-
Yellow – Design for Interiors TEL 023 80402019
Peter Green Contract Furnishers – TEL 023 80810459