Remote work remodels: designing productive home offices and flex work spaces

Remote Work Remodels: Designing Productive Home Offices and Flex Work Spaces

The rise of remote work

Working from home has become the new normal for many of us. Over the past two years, working from home has evolved from a short-term response to the global pandemic to permanent remote work. Based on countless in-house and independent studies, and annual reports, it has become evident that this flexible work arrangement promotes increased productivity, work-life balance, significant cost savings, and improved overall well-being.

As we delve deeper into the concept of remote work, it becomes clear that what was once considered a temporary measure has now transitioned into a preferred mode of work for countless professionals and companies around the world. Remote work has reshaped the traditional concept of the workplace, and it allows you to work from the comfort of your own home or any location with internet access. People got a taste of working from home and are now engaged in remote work remodels, ’cause they’re not going back.

Is remote work good for business?

“Shark Tank” star and investor Kevin O’Leary has stated, “The economy has changed radically. The problem with saying everybody has to work in the office is you won’t be able to hire the best talent… 40% of workers won’t return to offices, a big difference from the 15% that experts estimated two years ago.”

A study conducted by Standford of 16,000 workers over 9 months, discovered that working from home increased productivity by 13%. A similar study by ConnectSolutions revealed that 77% of those who work remotely at least a few times a month showed increased productivity, with 30% doing more work in less time.

The top talent discovered they could thrive working remotely. John Feldman of Forbes writes, “Now that many offices have reopened, employers realize the necessity of a hybrid workforce and continue to accommodate remote workers to retain top talent.

Designing a productive home office

What may have started as setting up a laptop computer on the kitchen or dining room table has evolved to include dedicated workspaces for one or both providers in many households, and even lavish executive home offices, with waiting areas and teleconferencing boardrooms.

Dedicated workspace and a professional office remodel?: If you now find yourself working remotely full-time, or splitting your time between your home and corporate offices, it is crucial that you establish a dedicated area solely for work. This space should be separate from the rest of the living area, ideally in a quiet and low-traffic zone. This helps create a psychological boundary between work and personal life, promoting concentration and minimizing distractions.

Creating a dedicated home office space, by repurposing a bedroom, or with a more extensive remodel, offers many advantages. By having a designated area solely for work-related activities, it establishes a clear separation between your work and personal life. A remodel allows for complete customization of the space – such as a basement, attic or addition – to suit your needs, ensuring the incorporation of essential elements such as proper lighting and ventilation, ergonomic furniture, sufficient storage, and perhaps even a waiting room or meeting area. Basement offices have become particularly popular because they can provide a separate entrance for clients and team members.

Ergonomics: It’s important to prioritize ergonomics in your home office design to ensure optimal comfort and your physical well-being. Sit-stand electric office desks have become very popular in home offices because all the time spent away from the desk at the corporate office, chatting with other employees in the hallways or around the water cooler, and lounging in the coffee breaks, has been eliminated. Disciplined remote workers are typically more productive as a result.

Switching between sitting and standing positions, by raising and lowering the desk between preset positions, is a fantastic solution to spending more productive time in front of the computer. Switching between sitting and standing positions throughout the day promotes movement, reducing sedentary behaviour, while preventing the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

Ergonomic chairs provide essential support for proper posture, with adjustable features such as lumbar support, armrests, and seat height. They help maintain a neutral spine alignment, reduce strain on the back and neck, and enhance overall comfort.

Large high-definition monitors, whether two side-by-side displays or a curved widescreen model, offer significant advantages for remote workers who spend long hours in front of the computer. High-performance HD monitors provide a more immersive and expansive visual experience, reducing eye strain and making tasks more comfortable to perform.

With increased screen real estate, users can have multiple windows or applications open simultaneously, allowing for efficient multitasking and seamless workflow. The high resolution ensures crisp and sharp images, enhancing readability and reducing the need for constant zooming or scrolling.

Blue light emitted by electronic devices, such as computer screens, tablets, and smartphones, can disrupt sleep patterns, cause eye strain, and contribute to digital eye fatigue. Blue blocker glasses or blue light-filtering apps work by selectively blocking or filtering out harmful blue light, reducing its impact on your eyes and overall well-being.

Natural light: Good lighting increases your productivity, so integrate natural light into your home office design where possible. Exposure to natural light has been proven to enhance mood, productivity, and overall well-being. Consider installing a skylight in your office, position your desk near a window or use translucent window coverings to allow for maximum daylight penetration.

In the workplace, exposure to natural light has been linked to higher energy and increased productivity. Many companies have seen anywhere from a 2% to 15% increase in employees’ productivity by exposing employees to natural light. Overstock.com installed about 30,000 square feet of View Smart Windows to eliminate the cost of traditional blinds, and partially reduce their cooling system by 21%. “More daylight translates to more creative, innovative, and optimistic employees… Our annual payroll is $100 million,” says Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. “If we can do something that makes people 2% more efficient, then that is worth $2 million.”

Client waiting rooms and boardroom/video conferencing spaces: Client waiting areas offer a comfortable and welcoming space for your clients to connect and wait before their scheduled meetings, creating a positive impression and setting the stage for productive discussions. Make sure the area is clean, offers some recent and relevant magazines or brochures and has comfortable seating. Automated beverage machines, like the Symbol, Velocita Bean to Cup or NVCS Vitro X3 can significantly improve your clients’ experience.

Home boardrooms provide the ideal place to meet with local team members and also connect online with an expanded virtual team. With the integration of high-quality video conferencing technology, freelancers and remote workers can engage in face-to-face interactions and team meetings that foster better communication, build trust, and enhance collaboration.

Storage and organization:: Efficient storage and organization are essential for maintaining a clutter-free and productive workspace. Incorporate shelves, drawers, and storage solutions that suit your specific needs. Utilize digital applications and systems to manage files and minimize paper clutter. Keep essential supplies within easy reach to reduce interruptions and distractions.

Acoustics: To minimize noise disturbances from family and pets, add acoustic treatments in your home office. Utilize sound-absorbing materials, such as acoustic panels or carpets, to reduce echoes and external noise. If it’s not practical to isolate your office, use noise-cancelling headphones to create a focused and distraction-free environment.

Planning a home office remodel: When planning your home office space, first assess your needs and determine the primary purpose of the office. Consider the tasks you’ll be performing, the equipment you’ll need, and the storage requirements. Will there be more than one of you sharing the office space? Evaluate the available space in your house and decide if you can repurpose an existing room or if you’ll need to build out a new area for the office.

Establish a budget to guide your remodelling decisions. Research and select ergonomic furniture, electronics and accessories that prioritize comfort and productivity. Take into account the lighting needs, both natural and artificial, to reduce eye strain and create a well-lit environment. Adequate storage solutions, such as shelves, cabinets, and desk organizers, should be incorporated to maintain an organized workspace.

Consider the aesthetic aspects as well, ensuring the design aligns with your personal style or business branding and creates a visually appealing and motivating atmosphere. Plan for the integration of technology, including power outlets, internet connectivity, and any audiovisual equipment required for video conferencing or presentations.

Creating flexible workspaces

While a dedicated home office provides a designated area solely for work, a flex space offers the flexibility to use the same area for multiple purposes. This versatility allows the room to serve as a home office, a guest room, a workout space, or a creative studio, depending on the needs of the moment.

Multi-functional furniture: Flex spaces often feature multi-functional furniture and storage solutions that can be easily reconfigured, maximizing the usability of the room. This adaptability is particularly beneficial if you have limited space or you desire a more dynamic living environment. Multi-function furniture plays a transformative role in creating versatile spaces that can seamlessly transition from an office by day to a bedroom, living room, or dining area in the evening.

Pieces such as sofa beds, wall beds, and convertible tables are designed with dual functionalities, allowing them to serve different purposes depending on the time of day or specific requirements. Convertible tables can function as a desk during work hours and then be extended or transformed into a dining table for meals or a coffee table for social gatherings.

Hidden desks: Concealed desks are an important element in designing multi-purpose flex spaces, providing a seamless integration of workspace into a room that serves multiple functions. These cleverly concealed desks can be tucked away within cabinets, wall units, or furniture, allowing the space to transition effortlessly from an office to a guest room, a living area, a workout space or a hobby room.

When not in use, the desk remains hidden, preserving the aesthetics and functionality of the room. Hidden desks also promote a clutter-free environment, as work materials and equipment can be neatly stowed away when not in use.

Room dividers: Room dividers or movable partitions enable you to create flexible zones within a larger space. This allows for privacy when needed or open collaboration when desired. Folding screens, bookshelves, or sliding panels are effective options for dividing spaces without permanently altering the layout.

Versatile lighting: Consider using a mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting to create layers of light. Adjustable desk lamps, floor lamps, and dimmable overhead lighting provide flexibility for focused work or create a more relaxed ambiance.

During work hours, the right lighting will enhance visibility, reduce eye strain, and promote a sense of alertness and focus. Using warm-coloured lights in break areas or relaxation zones can create a more soothing and comfortable atmosphere. Then, when the work day is finished, the desk is hidden, and killing the task lighting and some of the accent lights magically transforms the space for its next function.

Mobility and portability: Consider incorporating mobile workstations or portable furniture that can easily be moved to different areas of the home or even outdoors. Mobility enables you to choose your preferred workspace based on factors such as natural light, temperature, or noise levels. Many remote workers enjoy unlocking the wheels of the desk, sliding open the glass doors, and rolling their workstation onto the deck for a few hours.

Green spaces and biophilic design: Include elements of nature and biophilic design into your flexible workspace to connect you with the natural environment. Access to green spaces, indoor plants, natural materials, and views of nature has been shown to boost creativity, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Incorporating these elements can enhance the quality of your work environment in a way that is often impractical in a corporate office.

The importance of work-life integration

While creating a productive home office or flexible workspace is vital, it is equally important to focus on work-life integration. Here are key considerations to promote a healthy balance:

Establish boundaries: Since your “job” is just in the other room, it’s important to set clear boundaries between work and personal life to avoid burnout and maintain well-being. Define specific work hours, establish routines, and communicate boundaries with family members or roommates to ensure uninterrupted focus during your working hours.

Breakout areas: When your work day is no longer bookended by a commute, your work is always beckoning and it’s important not to blur the lines between work and personal life. Remote work consultants are recommending designing breakout areas or relaxation zones within your home or outdoor space.

Breakout areas can be used for short breaks, meditation, a quiet cup of tea, exercise or yoga, or simply somewhere to unwind. Your breakout area could be your client waiting area or another adjoining space with comfortable seating, calming colours, and soothing elements to create a rejuvenating space that encourages relaxation.

Personalization and inspiration: Personalize your home office or flexible workspace with elements that inspire you. Display meaningful artwork, motivational quotes, or items that reflect your interests and passions. Create a space that sparks creativity and champions a positive mindset.

Personalized touches can provide a sense of ownership and pride in your workspace, making it a place where you feel comfortable and empowered.

Mindful design: Incorporate elements of mindful design into your workspace. Consider using natural materials, calming colours, and uncluttered layouts. Create an environment that promotes focus, reduces stress, and encourages a sense of calm and being fully present.

Including elements of nature, such as indoor plants or natural materials, can create a rejuvenating atmosphere. Elements of minimalism, such as clean lines and uncluttered surfaces, can contribute to a sense of order and tranquillity.

Remote work remodels: the takeaway

As remote work continues to reshape the modern work landscape, designing a productive home office or flexible workspace becomes increasingly crucial. Many home office spaces also need a client waiting area and boardroom/video conference room to build and maintain client and team relationships.

By prioritizing factors such as a dedicated work area, ergonomics, natural light, and flexibility, you can create an environment that supports focus, creativity, and well-being. Recognizing the importance of work-life integration and incorporating elements of relaxation, personalization, and mindfulness can contribute to a balanced and fulfilling remote work experience.

Reid Madiuk

Reid Madiuk's been putting on a toolbelt since he was twelve years old, alongside his father, one of Whistler's first residential builders. As a third-generation Squamish and Whistler builder, Reid brings over 20 years of carpentry expertise to designing and constructing exceptional homes.

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