Home Office Essentials

Working from home? Experts offer tips on how to design a suitable workspace.

There has been a significant shift in the way we work – and where we work – since COVID-19 came barrelling into our lives.

Even long after COVID restrictions are lifted, remote work is likely here to stay, making the home office a must-have for many people.

To create a welcoming yet functional home workspace, various elements should be considered, such as lighting, background visuals, acoustics, technology, ergonomics, and décor items.

InsideOut contacted a few local experts to get their advice.

Justin Szigeti, senior designer at Interior Design Group (IDG), says that creating a specific work zone is very important.

“Ideally, you want something that is separate from your bedroom or living room,” he says. “You don’t want your work and living zones mixing.

“It’s also important to keep your space organised. Choose furniture pieces that give you the storage you need. This will ensure that all clutter is hidden, and your desk remains clean. The fewer distractions, the better.”

To create a feeling of calm in the home office, Justin says a neutral colour is best. “Layering fabrics like rugs and drapery will also soften the space and help with the acoustics. Hard surfaces can create an echo.”

“Neutral backgrounds devoid of clutter are best, and natural greenery and soft surfaces like draperies can add depth to your online presence and help soften echoes,” Mallory adds. “Area rugs help with reverberation and soften the sound of chairs on tiled floors.”

Like Justin, Mallory believes the best thing you can do for your home office is to invest in the right chair. She says the firm has received a surge of requests for ergonomic chairs and height-adjustable desks.

“An ergonomic chair, or stool, that suits your set-up, can save your neck, back and wrists from long-term issues,” she says. “While you shouldn’t be sitting all day, you should be ergonomically supported when you are.

“Similarly to the chair, height-adjustable desks allow the user to adjust their posture throughout the day, which is extremely important when you’re spending all day in one place. Whether manual or powered, there are hundreds of products available to suit everyone’s style, from sleek and contemporary to rustic.”

Office chair

Justin also suggests putting plenty of thought into your office chair.

“If you spend a lot of time sitting during a workday, you’re going to want a proper chair that offers support to your back and arms,” he says. “Dining chairs don’t count.”

Mallory Creed, interior designer at Cayman-based Frederick + McRae Ltd., says that just like in commercial office spaces, it’s essential to have the right technology, ergonomics and lighting in your home office; and that they expect an influx of client requests for house plans to accommodate a dedicated office space.

“A home office should be a reflection of you, just like the rest of your home,” says Mallory. “Functional accessories, like monitor arms, free up space on the work surface, which is often limited in home offices.”

She adds that a well-thought-out desk caddy can exude personal style while keeping you organised.

“It’s great if you have space to move to, depending on the task at hand,” she says. “A desk is perfect for heads-down work, but having a comfortable chair nearby for phone calls, or document review can give your body, eyes and mind a break from your
regular set-up.”

Natural light

Mallory also suggests placing your desk near natural light, if possible, and to utilise a layered approach to lighting, which will provide the best online presence, which is particularly useful for those who partake in regular video conference calls throughout the week.

“You want to be lit from the front, rather than from above to avoid heavy shadows,” she says. “Your background should be ambiently lit to avoid high-contrast issues and will make it easier on your eyes when working on a screen.”

It’s also important to consider what your team members will see.

Ergonomics

Kristina Maxwell is a physiotherapist at Cayman-based Align wellness studio who offers workspace assessments at the clinic and ergonomics lunch-and-learns, virtually and in-person.

She says that the average office worker in the modern world spends six to eight hours sitting per day; and research shows that prolonged sitting may increase the risk of some health conditions.

“Since this is a good portion of the time most people are awake, it is important to protect joints and put muscles in the most optimal position to function,” she says, adding that there are many issues that can result physically when you are not properly aligned.

“Poor posture in prolonged positions can cause abnormal wear and tear on joints and resultant muscular imbalances which, in turn, cause pain and dysfunction,” she advises.

And while appropriate furniture and devices can be helpful, Kristina says that frequent breaks (i.e. movement) are more important.

“A healthy body is not static. Your best position is your next position.”

 

Originally published in InsideOut magazine, Issue 38, Fall Winter 2020.

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