Blog Post: Putting the Home in Home Office

Putting the ‘Home’ in Home Office

My dog is getting fat.

I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized the correlation between the number of video calls I’ve been on lately and her weight gain. Apparently, the bones I was bribing her with to keep her from “participating” in these calls came at a cost.

She now spends more backyard playtime during work, which helps with the weight thing (though it’s resulted in crater-size holes in my yard – presumably her way of expressing her displeasure about losing her 15 minutes of Zoom call fame!).

In the days of COVID, nothing is perfect, and the new work-from-home norm can present a host of challenges for you and your clients.

It might be figuring out how to integrate two work-from-home adults in an open-plan space, juggling work responsibilities with remote-learning children or trying to build relationships with clients without the face-to-face contact that normally solidifies trust and comfort. It could be as simple as trying to keep the dog quiet, or conducting important calls around interruptions from the lawn service, Amazon deliveries or ambient neighborhood noise.

So how do you manage to work from home when the conditions are less than ideal? Here are a few simple tips.

Consider ergonomics.

Working from bed or from the living room couch may be appealing once in a while, but if you’re working from home on a regular basis, you need an ergonomic workstation that supports your back and avoids the slouching that can cause problems later. Kitchen desks may be out of vogue, but if you’re renovating a home for a client who doesn’t have a home office, consider incorporating a modular workspace that can accommodate them. Don’t forget to explore the options – there are standing desks, workstations that can move up or down as needed and even pull outs that can be incorporated into a table to provide an impromptu workspace. For those who work from a seated position, a good office chair that supports the curve of the spine is essential; both feet should touch the floor and the knees should be level with the hips. The Mayo Clinic recommends that a computer monitor be an arm’s length away, with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level. A speaker phone or headset will help to avoid the unnatural motion of cradling the phone against one’s neck.

Block out distractions.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a secret soundproof room, do your best to create a place where you can mentally shut out the world. A white noise machine or desktop air purifier can help keep you focused while training your brain to ignore outside distractions.

Create a quiet space for yourself.

You do this all the time for your clients; now it’s time to do it for yourself. Look at your home work environment and think about how you can make it quieter. Those hardwood floors may be beautiful, but if they’re causing sound bounce, consider a gorgeous throw rug, a hanging quilt or some other soft goods to help absorb noise. If your office faces the street, perhaps you can create a workspace in the den, or a spare bedroom. If your dishwasher is noisy, maybe it’s time to replace it with a newer, lower-decibel model. That open floor plan that looks so bright and airy may be problematic if there’s more than one person working at home; consider moving furniture to create privacy niches. And, when the weather is nice, an outdoor patio can provide a lovely and inspiring change of pace (plus some much needed Vitamin D!).

Accept the imperfections and use them to your advantage.

No matter how carefully you plan, real life will sometimes interfere: Dogs will bark when you’re on the phone, kids will pop in at inopportune times, spouses will sing in the shower while you’re doing a video presentation to a client, packages will arrive when you’re trying to concentrate, and someone will drive a car-in-desperate-need-of-a-muffler down your street just when you’ve jumped on an important call. We’ve all been there, so instead of being embarrassed, let people see your human side – it will make you relatable, and may help you to build a bond with a client, coworker or vendor who also has a beloved but barky dog, or a neighbor with the loudest car in the universe.

Face to face still matters.

In-person meetings help to cement relationships, especially with new clients. If your office isn’t open, or your client isn’t comfortable having you in their home yet, consider meeting face to face in another setting – perhaps a walk in the park to discuss their design needs, or coffee at an outdoor café. While technology makes it easy to communicate without ever seeing each other, the personal touch matters, and in-person meetings will help forge the trust needed to make a design project flow smoothly.

Don’t forget exercise and social needs!

Social isolation can cause depression, and lack of exercise can intensify that. Build in time for a quick walk and a chat; even a 10-minute break where you walk around the block and catch up with a friend or colleague will help refresh you and make you more productive in the long run.

Got any great tips to make working from home easier? We encourage all KB Designers Network members to share their tips!

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