Everyone suddenly needs a home office, whether we had one before now or not. Working from home is new for a lot of people, and it’s working better for some than others. While this whole experience may inspire you to renovate and create your dream home office, you also need something that works right now.
Privacy, More of a Goal than a Fact.
Candace, a Project Manager and a mom of two young children who are home from school, shared with us some of her struggle to adjust to working from home. She says that while she technically has a home office, it was set up for hobbies, not as a serious workspace. She immediately had to adapt it, bringing in work monitors and her desk.
If you have a room that can be requisitioned for dedicated office space, the privacy it affords can lower your work stress and increase focus. While Candace does have a dedicated room, its beautiful french doors don’t give her much privacy. She says that being visible, even through closed doors isn’t ideal, “It's not uncommon for me to be in the middle of a meeting and see a spouse, a child, a dog, somebody needing my immediate attention, as I'm trying to be on a video call. Or the mailman drives by and the dog goes off. So it's not the most ideal working situation. It's better than I think a lot of people have, but it really is a challenge whereas when I go to work, I'm in a separate space that can be left alone. I'm here and so I'm perceived as available and that can be really difficult to draw those lines.”
Renovating During Quarantine
Candace decided that since she and her family are spending more time at home right now, she would get her downstairs flooring replaced. “With the extra COVID time we went ahead and pulled out all the flooring in the downstairs of our house and put in that vinyl plank. It’s actually been really fantastic. I think it was a great project to undertake to allow me a little bit more happiness in the place that I work. Not feeling like, oh, I’m going into this dirty room right now I don't really want to do this call because of that. Even if the call sucks, to be in a place that makes you happy is immensely powerful.”
For five days, their entire downstairs was in complete upheaval. She admits it was stressful with everyone quarantined at home. “There's no two ways about it. It is uncomfortable. It is inconvenient. You know, you really have to adapt to it. But, I think the cost-benefit analysis there was really positive. “
Contractors Taking Safety Seriously
In spite of the fact that getting it all done, and having half of your house out of commission for 5 days was stressful, she said her contractors really went above and beyond in safety and respect. “They wore booties, they wore gloves, they wore masks, they ate outside, you know, more than anything, we just had to go in afterwards and sanitize everything and you know, wipe everything down. I really can't say enough for how great of a job that they did on the actual install and how clean they were and how respectful of our family and the dogs and everything else. So I really think that contractors as a whole are taking safety seriously and they're not being nonchalant about it or cavalier at all. They're making sure to really protect their clients and rise to the occasion, even at additional, financial cost to them. We didn't see an impact to our bottom line, if anything, they were probably more understanding of financial constraints than they would have been otherwise.”
Working in Non-Office Rooms
While the flooring was being put in, Candace had to find more ways to adapt her office, since her home office was one of the rooms being re-floored. “It forced me to work in spaces that I hadn't worked in before. And I actually was surprised that change caused more efficiency versus less efficiency for me on a personal level. I found that, where I had felt like if I had two monitors, I would be more efficient, I was actually more productive in meetings if I sat on the couch and did my meetings, which surprised me, I didn't expect it to be like that. I expected to be at a desk and feel more focused. It's just been an interesting learning experience.”
She said it was certainly high stress, but coming off the experience, the previous stress she was under somehow felt more manageable, “I shifted up to our master bedroom, I worked on the floor and leaned up against the wall and took my calls. And then I would, you know, if there was something on our kids, I would, I would shift into a guest bedroom that we had. It was I won't lie, it was a very, very stressful transition and coupled with a larger than normal workload for that week. I was very happy to get it done. But, you know, it's, it's like after you run a marathon, you're like, oh, going for a jog. That's no big deal. It's kind of the same thing. It kind of primed me and then allowed me, psychologically, to breathe for a second.”
Clean Slate, Welcoming Work Environment
Now that it’s all finished. She says it was so worth it for the improvement in her work-space. “For a lot of different reasons, it caused me to break out of this mold that I had set for the office; everything got moved around and shuffled around and you're able to see things in a different light too, so to say.” So she took the opportunity to make more changes in her office than getting rid of her ratty old carpet. “I also switched out my desk chair for one that I thought was a little bit more chic and more comfortable. And actually switched out the more utilitarian desk that I had to one that was more aesthetically pleasing. I had another desk in there that I used to do photography editing on my Mac. So basically, I put the Mac away for now just because there's no bandwidth for me to do photography and switched over to the desk that I like more.”
“You know, just having a pretty space has made me happier versus, you know, a more cluttered space. So now I enjoy going in that office before it was like, oh, should I have to go in the office and the carpets dirty, and there's this over there and there's that over there. It kind of gave me a clean slate to start with. And making it a space that I wanted to go into has psychologically helped tremendously.”
What does Your Office Need?
Do as much as you can with furniture, curtains, and a good office chair. If your home office still isn’t coming together, it may be time for a bigger change. Would a new floor make a huge difference? Do you need to put in a window for more natural lighting? Or do you just need to replace those french doors for a little more privacy? These temporary measures may be longer than any of us hoped, so go ahead and make changes to be comfortable in your office, the pay-off will be worth it.