Earlier this year, I faced an enigma that many of us who work from home know well: where in the house can I really work?
Unless you have been blessed with a home large enough for a dedicated office, that is, a truly nomadic worker and can settle on a couch with nothing but a cup of tea and your laptop, you will inevitably have to forge space in a room that is not naturally intended for work.
Any place you choose has the potential to diminish what you had before. Set up a camp in your room, and you will stare at your desk when you try to sleep, all those unanswered emails that call you while you are awake at 4 am. Go to the kitchen or dining room, and snack time becomes an endless loop. (Why work when you could try that fresh salsa from the farmers market?) Steal a corner of the living room, and suddenly your main social area feels like a strange rest room outside an office cubicle.
These were my options when I gave my roomy bedroom office to my son when he passed the room he had shared with his sister. He knew this day would come and yet, when he did, he still didn’t have a good answer on where to go.
So I went to the place where all the obvious homeless objects inevitably end up: the basement.
I convinced myself that it could work and equipped the room with as many cozy details as I could gather. I installed new floors and removed the false ceiling, exposing the wooden beams, which added height and dimension to the space. I painted the room a light color and installed recessed lighting, turning part of the space into a cozy TV room for the family. The rest would be mine. I bought an aromatherapy diffuser, filling the air with the smell of citrus and rosemary. I filled the built-in shelves with books and photographs. I even had a window. I thought, how bad could it be?
In the end, it was the window that made me enter. Half the size of a normal window, and placed on top of my head when I was sitting, provided an unobstructed view of the back of a bush. If he stretched his neck, he could see the sky and briefly glimpse the daylight, unlike a prisoner trapped in a medieval dungeon.
Increasingly, Americans work from home, either teleworking or working independently. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost a quarter of full-time employees worked at home at least part of the time in 2018. However, our home-based work spaces often do not reflect our eagerness to leave the office, leaving us dissatisfied with what could otherwise be an excellent configuration.
Of course, it is good not to have to dress and get on the train every morning. But the agreement can quickly lose its shine. A 2015 study published in “Psychological Science in the Public Interest” found that telecommuting can blur the lines between work life and family life, leading to family conflicts, while leaving workers feeling socially and professionally isolated. . Do you know what it is isolating? Sitting alone all day in a basement, accompanied only by the low noise of the boiler.
In “My creative space: how to design your home to stimulate ideas and drive innovation”, a book that will be published in October, architect Donald M. Rattner argues that we do not give our work spaces all the attention they deserve, and should instead, think of our entire house as a creative vehicle, designing it with colors, light, music and art with the aim of inspiring.
“People do many things that they don’t realize are contradictory to what a good office space does,” Rattner said.
Too often, we find half solutions for our work needs, such as turning a closet, yes, a closet, into an office. Empty its contents, put a desk in it and voila, you have a home office. “Your mental space contracts in direct proportion to your physical space,” Rattner said of such a configuration. “Your mind is going to narrow.”
But sometimes your options are limited. When Savannah Ashour, 41, a freelance doctor and book writer, moved to a studio in Los Angeles five years ago, she wasn’t sure how long she would be working independently, so she didn’t want to invest too much time and money. Creating a home office. Its sunny dining room kitchen had a window overlooking a jacaranda tree, and was large enough to squeeze on a desk, an Aeron chair and a table. With his back to the rest of the apartment, he could forget that he was at home and concentrate.
Last year, long after it became clear that this was not a temporary agreement, he made a commitment to space. He switched to a white Ikea desk and bought a cheerful red and orange carpet for outdoor Target to define the space. Instead of buying a traditional office chair, which worried that it was a monstrosity in a small apartment, he opted for a stool where he could sit, lean or move to the side to stand.
“Something about being locked in an apartment just for work, it is necessary to build additional benefits” by making the space aesthetically pleasing and stealing the best assets, such as the window that overlooks a glorious tree, for work, he said. “At least you feel that there is good compensation for all the challenges of working from home.”
After three months locked in my basement dungeon, my room began to seem a much more attractive option, despite all the warnings that it would ruin the serenity of my sleeping space. On a particularly sad afternoon, I dragged my desk up the stairs, planting it on the back wall. With my back to the bed, and in front of a window, I could almost forget where I was.
Sharing your office with the bedroom brings new challenges. In the morning, they often greet me with a discarded shirt, thrown in my chair by my better half, or with an empty glass of water on my desk. When I enter the room, it’s hard not to notice the huge computer monitor that stares at me, just a relaxing aesthetic. These inconveniences serve as daily reminders that this is still a temporary measure: an improvement of the dark underworld, but it is not equal to the lovely space it had before. The reorganization game feels far from over when I see other parts of the house in search of a more perfect little corner.
Or maybe, with some modifications, my room office could be good enough. Anjie Cho, an interior architect and designer of feng shui, keeps her home office in her room, saying that the arrangement, although not ideal, is common. He suggested that I could cover the monitor with a scarf at night, or hang a curtain or add a screen to separate the sleeping area from the workspace. I doubt that a screen works, as it would mean losing light for the rest of the room, but a scarf on the monitor seems quite simple.