When I started working from home, my work environment was the last thing on my mind. At first, I was so concerned with finding enough clients to earn a living and making sure they pay on time, that I often found myself working on the kitchen table, sitting on an uncomfortable chair, a noisy washing machine churning in the background.
When we moved to Nice and I knew I’d be working exclusively from home, I decided to re-think my work environment. My goal was simple enough: creating a pleasant space where I can get work done for long periods of time. I knew that I couldn’t afford to spend much money on office furniture and that I don’t have a spare room to turn into a home office. I do have a pretty large nook in the living room, so I tried to answer the following questions before planning my home office:
How many people? I’m currently working alone, but I also tried to think of different scenarios: Where will my clients sit if they come to meet me at home? Will other people I occasionally come into contact with – colleagues, suppliers – come to work with me every once in a while? I decided that, since none of these things will happen too often, there’s no need to spend money on extra seating arrangements or more desks. I also decided that my current needs don’t call for a waiting room.
How much equipment? Fortunately, the nature of my work does not demand much equipment. I don’t need to store old catalogs, I don’t need any printed marketing material sitting prettily on shelves around me, and I don’t often consult specialized literature. Therefore, I decided to forego any shelves, a library and storing cabinets. A large desk with the right equipment was enough for me.
What did I decide to invest in?
Integration: My work environment is part of my living room, so each room has to integrate well with the other – whether I’m working in my nook or hanging out in the living room.
Desk: There are plenty of large, cheap desks you can purchase, but they all remind me of depressing office cubicles. I prefer a desk with some character. Mine is made from a light brown wood with nice finishes.
Wallpaper: It sometimes happens that we lift our heads up from our laptops. Whenever that happens, it’s best to have a window we can stare through. In my case, there’s no window, and I didn’t want to re-paint my whole living room. So I found a picture I liked online, which I then sent to be printed on wallpaper. I applied the wallpaper easily on the opposite wall and since then, I sometimes go on a jeep tour through the desert… and since it’s all happening in my head, I make sure to throw a nice coffee shop in there too.
Plants: I know it’s a cliché, but not all clichés lack logic. I like to have as many plants as possible around me; it makes the living room feel warm and alive. So I bought some shelves and put flower pots on them. Some shelves are in the office nook area and some in the living room, which is also a good way to create continuity.
Technology: Nothing can make a home printer and scanner pretty, but you can make sure they’re in good working order, that you have enough electrical outlets (so you don’t have to take the printer our every time you want to plug in your laptop), and that all the cables and cords remain unseen, hidden behind your desk.
I also know I have plenty of conference calls during the week, and I therefore made sure that my work environment answers the following requirements:
- Reverberation and echo can distort audio signals. This is the main reason professional recording studios are designed with sound absorbing materials. So I brought a large rug for the living room, and a matching rug to put under my desk. I also bought some heavy drapes that can turn the room dark in an instant and are good sound absorbers.
- Microphones specifically designed for audio conferencing are highly sensitive. As long as the conference room microphones are centrally located, most microphones will capture sound within eight feet of the device. So I bought a good mic, which means I can sit on my living room sofa and still conduct my online meetings with ease and comfort.