The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to rethink the way we work from home. What’s more, it’s started us thinking about what constitutes the most efficient work set-up so that we’re getting the best of both worlds while we’re indoors.
The key to a successful home/work environment is about dedicating a room with an abundance of light as your work office. Whether you live in a small apartment or larger home, it’s about drawing the line and knowing when to clock on and off too. And it’s about looking outward—metaphorically and physically.
Creating a harmonious workspace comes down to a few crucial moves to make the process more productive for you. “Everybody has a window at home and even when you’re confined in a room I would suggest to work by it,” says Japanese-born, Sydney-based architect Koichi Takada. “Being near a window allows you to connect to the outdoors and it’s sure to have a greater psychological impact. We know it’s quite restrictive being at home right now and while we’re not able to spend our social lives with others, why not do the next best thing and extend it visually through a window. It’ll serve as a reminder there is so much more out there than what’s happening in your home.”
It was once a desire for many office workers to be able to work from home (even for part of the week), but it’s quickly become our reality thanks to the global pandemic stopping us in our tracks.
Takada says the pandemic will influence the way we view our homes, the way that architects will design them and in turn inspire the way we live in them. For now, it’s all about fine-tuning the balance as the majority of us aren’t used to working remotely.
“The pandemic has sped up the process for us to work from home,” says Takada. “And while the 20th century was about creating a division between where we work and where we live, we are now seeing the two come together in a purposeful way in the one space.”
The architect, who has projects on the go in Tokyo, Mexico City, Los Angeles and Australia, says the key to creating a fluid environment at home is making sure you have plants, a vase of flowers, a scent to inspire you and a mirror to create the illusion of space—especially if you’re in a small apartment.
“Where I grew up in Japan we had tatami rooms with screens that you could configure in any way all day long,” says Takada. “You would sleep in one room, dine in another, play in another and reconfigure them according to your needs for the day. You would change it as you like it and I feel it’s a return to this flexibility and we’ll see this in the future of design as well.”
Takada likes to be reminded of nature; and now that we can’t be in it, it’s all the more reason to embrace some greenery at home. “Plants are a must as is a gentle fragrance or incense that will get your creative juices flowing,” he says. “You also need a routine and you want to be as relaxed as you can to get the best out of your working day.”
Sally Rigg of Rigg Design in New York says the key to creating an ideal work setting at home is finding a space within and defining it as that.
“An ideal work setting at home is a distinct space, preferably not in the master suite,” says Rigg. “Work and rest should be clearly separated within the home because it’s healthier to separate work and home mental spaces, and your physical space should reflect that. Often, home offices are an afterthought, especially in apartments where space is at a premium, and so they get squeezed into a nook or a hallway. Even if that’s your only option, try to find a space with some natural light, even if it’s indirect. It helps if you can hide some of the unattractive elements that come with the modern office. Printers and scanners should be discreetly positioned, and cord management is more important than it seems.”
Kendra Pinkus, who lives in Melbourne and runs her own business Pinkus Design, has been in the business for more than 25 years working for Bates Smart and Rob Mills Architecture. She says keeping your colour palette neutral within the home will also allow the environment to feel larger too.
She adds that there are also some definite no-nos.
“Don’t work from the kitchen table,” says Pinkus. “I experimented with this for around two weeks into lockdown and it was a disaster. Not only are you staring at the fridge all day, but it is the hub within the house, and especially if everyone is at home, everyone is passing you all the time and you’re constantly being distracted. Anywhere communal is a 24/7 space and you will find it hard to divide the space into a place of when to start work and finish it. It’s all about finding a room or corner where you get the most energy. You have to feel right within the space you’re working from and it needs to be calm and quiet and no distractions around you.”
Pinkus, who was about to open her new practice in an inner city office, has been forced to start her business from home due to COVID-19. It’s not the ideal situation, but she’s found ways to be productive.
Pinkus says working from home requires light. “As an interior designer, it’s all about light too. There needs to be some connection to nature and if you can open a door then do it. Make sure you drink your cup of tea on your porch or out at the back if you can—just somewhere to disconnect from the workload too.”
Pinkus says architects will change the way they design workspaces within apartments and homes while those renovating will allow for that extra workspace at home. “The work office was always an afterthought. But, I believe now it will be an important part for the planning of homes. And interior designers will make it just as important as designing the family room and kitchen. Everyone’s lifestyle after COVID-19 will change and the demands of what we need within it will also change. The old traditional study that was once dark and moody like an old library room and typical of a past gentleman’s era when men hung out after 5pm isn’t realistic now. It was also typically a dark cocooned space filled with mahogany. Now, because we’re home a lot more and working all day, we need bright and fresh spaces. I believe the colour palettes will conform to these new times and we’ll see very neutral tones in places you can sit all day.”
Takada agrees. “We always encourage a neutral colour palette. It’s all about reflecting as much daylight as possible. It gives you a sense of spaciousness and that is crucial right now if we are to spend more time at home in enclosed spaces for longer periods of time. Mirrors are great ways to expand rooms; nature will always give you a sense of recharge, it helps you evolve and regenerate and we can draw a lot from it. Plants are about as close as we get to nature until we can get back to living the way we once did, so think green.”