Don't have much space at home to work in? Here's how you can work around that

Creating a conducive workspace at home goes a long way towards boosting comfort and productivity. Photos: Ikea

We've reached the end March and it’s been a year of working from home for many people due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even as the national vaccine rollout offers hope of a return to normalcy somewhat, it may take a year or two before things really go back to the way they were.

With many businesses and industries still affected by the pandemic, office spaces have also reduced in size or shut down, with companies asking employees to work from their home to save on rental or overheads.

According to a recent survey by US-based Enterprise Technology Research (ETR), the percentage of workers worldwide who will be permanently working from home is expected to double this year due to increased productivity during the pandemic.

In a new survey done by US-based Pew Research Center, 71% of workers in America who could mainly carry out their responsibilities from home are currently doing so all or most of the time, and more than half of them said that given a choice, they would want to continue to work from home even after the pandemic.

Hence, creating a conducive workspace at home is crucial to maintaining productivity as well as our physical and mental wellbeing.

“The rise in flexible work practices means more of us are choosing to work from home more often. With more time spent at home, you will start to realise that having an organised space is key to balancing work and home activities, ” says Syarifah Izzah Sakinah, interior design specialist at Ikea Damansara.

However, when one is short of space, carving out additional room to work in can be a challenge, especially with both spouses working or there are multiple housemates under one roof.

Award-winning architect and designer Teh Wan Yan says there are often spaces which are unused, or passed over, as a workstation.“The living and dining room, and in some circumstances, the guest room or kitchen would be the more commonly overlooked spaces.

“I would suggest filtering out existing used and unused spaces, and then picking one which would be easier and beneficial to transform. Try to focus on recreating that selected space and making it multi-functional, ” says Teh, founder and creative director of Epic 8 Design.

The space under the stairs can easily be converted into a working area by fitting a work table, work chair, lamp and shelves.

Syarifah Izzah suggests turning a corner of the living room into a home office. “You’ll not only need the door openings to have clear paths, but also ensure a smooth flow in your home so you won’t be obstructed when you are moving around the house, ” she advises. There are also other places which can be easily converted into a working area, such as space under the stairs. “Try fitting a work table, work chair, work lamp or shelves into the space and you will have a mini home office. If the area is exposed, you can add curtains for privacy, ” she says. Multi-functional solutions also work wonders for small-space living. “The wide surface area on your dining table gives you ample space to set up your workstation. However, it does get tricky when you need to stash your things away during mealtimes and set up again for work. “As a solution, turning a kitchen trolley into a mobile work storage option is always convenient for a smooth transition. Just roll your kitchen trolley to where you want to set up for the day. “Be dynamic and turn your workspace into a creative space where you can also enjoy your hobbies or work on DIY projects, ” advises Syarifah Izzah.

Turn a kitchen trolley into a mobile work storage option that you can easily wheel around at your convenience.

Organise, organise, organise When it comes to furniture, lighting and storage for your workstation, there are some things to bear in mind. “A flexible workspace can be good for you and your productivity. Think drop-leaf table (which can be folded down when not in use) and foldable chairs. Not only are they convenient, you also get extra space with everything fitted neatly against the wall. “When there is no more floor space, observe your surroundings and visualise where storage can fit. Save floor space by dedicating one wall to storing all your office essentials. Make use of the full height of your wall and customise it to your storage needs by using pegboards, picture ledge and wall shelving, ” advises Syarifah Izzah. Stationery, books, printer units, cables and wires should also all be stored in accessible storage areas to make the most of your small space. “Even the tiniest space can boost your productivity. You can mix boxes, trays, drawers and shelves in the same colour combination to create your own customised unit. Label files and boxes so that everything is neatly arranged and easy to find. For bigger items like paper rolls and files, try storing them on shelves, ” she adds.

Add curtains to secure some privacy while you work.

Often, good lighting is lacking in small spaces, so make sure there is adequate lighting that helps you focus without straining your eyes. Of course, ensure you have a comfortable work chair that allows good posture.

It’s also important to have some privacy where you work.

“If you and the rest of your household are working and studying at home, create seclusion by adding curtains to cover your workspace, ” says Syarifah Izzah.

Adding a personal touch

Personalising your work space also brings many benefits, says Teh.

“Users will feel a sense of belonging. Just like fashion, design, style and lifestyle distinguish each one of us from others.
Make full use of the wall and customise it to your needs by using things like a pegboard.

“Personally, I love indoor plants and lo-fi background music. Introducing some potted plants will lighten the mood of stay-at-home orders as well. Not only aesthetically pleasing, they benefit your general wellbeing by purifying indoor air too.

“Paintings, wall art, interior colour selections and home accessories all help to create and personalise your home office or any space, ” adds Teh.

Syarifah Izzah suggests placing a notice board where you can put up inspiring pictures, calendars and notable reminders to take care of yourself.

“Work lamps can also be a statement piece in your home, so consider the material, colour and shape and how it best represents you.

“Create a different look once a week or every month to switch themes and moods in your working space. To add a personal touch, get creative and decorate your working space by adding colourful cushions to your work chair.”

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