Thursday, February 7, 2013

When work is part of your lifestyle

At In Your Home we talk a lot about the home environment fitting one's lifestyle, which encorporates our family situation, our stage of life, our hobby's and passions  as well as any impairments we might deal with. And increasingly this lifestyle view includes a suitable home workspace or office. 

Architect and author Charles Schwab had a good article on the topic you can read here. If, like me, you work from home (even on a part time basis) then designing a functional home office is an important part of keeping the home environment in step with your lifestyle.  A few key themes in the article for me are:

  1. Ensure there is an egress path that does not take you through the house.  This can be purely a safety concern (if the house is on fire you can get away) but it also helps to make the office more professional and set off from living areas, which is good both if you plan to have clients visit you and also to create a mental seperation between work and home. My office is actually in a detached former garage, so I commute 15 feet across the patio.  I find it much easier to turn off work for awhile than if my computer is in the house.
  2. That mental separation is great for stress reduction and balance.  Build in other design elements that will help you manage stress, such as access to a nice exterior space, a couch or comfortable chair for a change of place during the day, maybe a music system or a good surface to practice your putting.  My office includes a small kitchenette where I can get up and make a cup of tea without getting too distracted.
  3. Having a bathroom handy is also a great idea--and a dedicated half bath is especially important again if clients will be coming to your home office. I find it also give flexiblity.  I often start work in the wee hours of the morning and wind up squeezing shaving or showering into a mid-day break. If you are adding a bath or powder room in the design of a your office, ensure it is visitable (a wheelchair user can easily navigate in and out.)
  4. Natural light is important--ensure you get plenty of it.  Charles says to face the desk away from the windows to avoid glare. That's a good idea, but my preference is to face out where I can see the weather and the hummingbirds at their feeders. It also encourages me to look up from my computer screens regularly, which is good for the eyes. So, my desk sits up against a bank of windows that is protected on the outside by a large eave.  In the winter when the sun is low (and the clouds part), I have a roll-up blind on the outside to block the sun--in the summer the angle of the sun and the shade trees take care of that for me.
There are a lot of other issues covered, from electrical requirements and lighting to landscaping.  Definitely worth a read.