Planning the Space
Setting up a good home office is about more than sticking a desk in the corner of the living room. It should be tailored to your needs and ideally kept separate from the rest of the house. What kind of home office you need depends on what kind of work you do.
For some, all that is required is a quiet space with enough room for a desk and shelving. However, if you regularly have visitors for meetings, you will need to put in more planning. A separate entrance is ideal for anyone with visiting clients — converting an integral garage is a popular way of doing this amongst renovators, or for a totally separate office, creating an office in the garden is an ideal alternative. Failing that, at the very least locating the office well away from living areas in the home is a must.
Planning in space for a WC and a small kitchen area with a sink and an electrical point for a kettle is also sensible if you have visitors, or even if you just want to keep your work day isolated from your leisure time and are likely to get distracted if you stray into the house.
Getting the Basics In
Draw a scaled plan of your space and mark windows and doors first to give you an idea of where to place large pieces of furniture.
You can then decide where sockets and other connections will need to be, and how many you will require. Ensuring electrical connections are in the right location and that you have plenty available is vital.
Computers, printers, scanners, photocopiers and telephones all require sockets, plus it is useful to have extra for other equipment.
Consider installing a separate business line for your telephone rather than competing for talk time with your family. You will also need to set up an internet connection. This is normally a broadband connection via cable or your telephone line. If you want to be able to access the internet from anywhere in the house using a laptop or would prefer not to have network cables in the house but wish to have several PCs connected to one another, you will need a WiFi router.
Even with broadband, make provision for a dial-up modem connection in case your broadband fails. Most laptops have modems built in.
Light & Lighting
When planning the lighting in your home office space, there are a couple of main considerations. Include a good level of background lighting in the form of uplights or adjustable ceiling spotlights, as both types of lighting can be positioned so as not to cause glare on a computer monitor. Task lighting, such as that provided by adjustable desk lamps, is also important. Ensure you choose a light fitting with a hidden bulb, again to avoid glare and a harsh, uncomfortable light. Aim to position lights so that the beam falls on your keyboard as opposed to your screen.
Good sources of natural light are also important. Many people choose to place their desk opposite a window, whilst others find rooflights provide a pleasing, bright yet indirect source of daylight. Fit Venetian-style blinds that can be adjusted throughout the day as the sun moves to avoid bright light shining in. Also try to plan the space so that you will not be sitting with your back to a window, to avoid glare on your monitor.
Using Small Spaces
If you are not lucky enough to have the space for a dedicated home office, you will need to look at areas of the home which will serve the purpose well. Using the space under your staircase is a good option, often allowing for a built-in desk and shelving — just remember that you will also need space for a chair and for people to walk past you when you are sitting on it.
Alcoves, for example those either side of a fireplace, also work well, and if deep enough can also be fitted with a door to shut away any work paraphernalia when not in use. Likewise, fitted wardrobes and corners of rooms can also provide office space. Products are available targeted specifically at those trying to fit offices into small spaces, with ‘workstations’ incorporating shelving, desk space and room for electrical equipment being a great idea. With all these areas, ensure that they will work on a practical level, providing enough space and light.
If you have no option but to locate your office within a main area of your home, invest in a storage unit that doubles up as a room divide, to section off the space.
More than a Shed
You can usually build a garden room under Permitted Development, and if you have the space it is worth considering constructing an office in your garden, allowing you to leave the office behind at the end of the day.
There are various options available, from summerhouses that come in kit form to buildings that can be designed and installed in your garden complete with electrics, insulation, security, heating and lighting, such as those from Green Structures or OfficePOD.
Furniture & Storage
With around 3.9 million people now working from home in the UK, you will have no problem at all finding suitable furniture and storage systems to kit out your home office, but ensure you make the most of the space you have available when it comes to choosing what to buy. Set out desk areas in either a U-shape (this works best in larger spaces) or in smaller rooms at right angles to one another, in a V-shape in a corner. This will not only maximise the work space you have but will mean you have everything to hand, too. In addition to a desk you will need filing drawers, a chair that provides good back support, and shelving. Workstations tend to incorporate all these elements in one unit, and some feature doors that can be closed up when you are not working.