As more Eastside companies begin offering flexible working hours, employees are discovering the freedom — as well as the challenges — that comes with working from home. While you’ll find few complaining about this perk, those who take advantage of it may suddenly find it difficult to be as productive as they might be in a traditional work setting.
After recently downsizing from a two-bedroom townhouse to a studio apartment, I sought the advice of Jennifer Kowalski, an interior designer based on Mercer Island, on how to create the perfect home office — especially now that I don’t even have a bedroom anymore. Kowalski first suggested I stop paging through interior-design magazines and blogs to attempt to duplicate that perfect home office, because — let’s face it — I just didn’t have the resources or the space.
“So often, clients find images of these amazing home offices that are organized to the max, and they want to duplicate it. It’s a great theory, but you can’t make your life fit into a space designed for someone else,” Kowalski says. “Pinpoint your organizational weaknesses, figure out what items tend to pile up, and create your home office based off of those requirements.”
Kowalski has found that the perfect space for many of her clients is in the kitchen. As she says, “More and more clients, especially those with busy kid schedules or busy social schedules, have been asking for a communication center in their kitchen, which more or less becomes the home office. This is where bills get paid, emails checked, practice and school schedules posted. In all actuality, it makes perfect sense to have the home office in the kitchen. The kitchen … has evolved into the heart of the home.”
For those who don’t have space in the kitchen — or want a quieter area with less traffic — Kowalski advises following two steps. First, pick a location where you’ll be the most productive, one that separates you from the distractions of home life and chores. Second: “Make sure the space is a reflection of you,” she says. “The more comfortable you are in a space, the easier it is to settle into work.”
Once you’ve found that space, the next consideration is the workspace itself. Be sure you have a surface you can dedicate entirely to being your desk. While Kowalski doesn’t always work from home, she does have a table in her living room that she turned into a de facto home office. This space should be in a location that provides the least amount of distractions, and it’s OK if your desk has to face a wall.
With Kowalski’s advice, I rearranged my studio to create an office-type space with the addition of a few tables near my window. I partitioned off the space using my bed and living room furniture. Once I had abandoned my design-magazine dreams, Kowalski suggested some traditional productivity solutions ignored by so many of the trendy design blogs: hanging file folders and a printed calendar so you don’t have to flip through your phone while you’re on a call. Keep a constant stock of pads of paper and plenty of pens.
All these things are fairly inexpensive. With the addition of a few shelves and tack boards, my new office space, though much smaller than my previous bedroom office, is better organized, allowing me to focus on work.
The result? I’m more productive, I get work done faster, and I have more time for myself. As it turns out, you don’t need those glossy magazines and trendy blogs; a simple desk in the just the right spot with pens and places to file your papers is all you really need to create the perfect home office.