This week marked the fifth month of full-time working from the home office in our house since mid-March 2020. Back then, we were cavalier – perhaps even optimistic – about how a bit of home working. We do this a day a week or so already! We love our home! Perhaps we’ll get more done than before!
Reader, it did not go like that. Of course it didn’t – it’s been months of a terrifying, tragic global pandemic taking lives and liberties. And it continues to rage on. While we were lucky to work throughout lockdown, our cobbled-together work set-up wasn’t fit for the medium- or long-term.
With an office return soon looking unlikely, I decided to make long-overdue improvements to my home office. There’s no dual monitor here, no expensive ergonomic chair. And these are not health-and-safety tips, they are very much superficial and frivolous. But I’m a creature driven by environment, and as you’re reading an interior design blog, I expect you are too. Working in a space that’s cohesive and coherent has improved my work – and more importantly, my mood.
Some, all or none of these might work for you. That’s fine – how we work is intensely private. But if you’re struggling with working a few feet from your bed each morning, see if these refreshes help…
1. Rise Up
A practical start: you need a laptop riser for your home office. I know you don’t think you do – you think the stack of magazines you’ve been using works. It doesn’t.
A simple riser will instantly improve the alignment of your neck. And – as a bonus – it’s amazing what a difference it’ll make to your web cam is (I’m looking at you, out-of-nowhere double chin??).
I managed without a riser for months until I got this IKEA one and what a difference it instantly made!
Acacia Wood Tablet Stand
Eco Crossed Laptop Stand
Wooden Cooling Laptop Stand
2. Home office themes
Styling a small home office space truly, honestly isn’t that difficult. To instantly and dramatically improve the appearance of your ‘office’, pick one colour or texture. Go on, right now – choose one. If you’re not sure, here are some ideas that are easy to make happen for workspaces:
- Untreated wood/plywood. My chosen theme – you can see it in my binders, riser, mirror frame and the ash of the chair
- Matte black – super easy to find luxe-looking but affordable office accessories for this scheme. Think black leather notebook, matching pen holder, then tie it in with black picture frames on your nearest wall
- Rose gold – perfect if you’re lucky enough to have a rose gold MacBook (the dream). The big stationery places stock lovely accessories in coppery tones, from paperclips to the ring binding on a diary
- Cork – a richly textured, androgynous and bohemian option for your workspace. If you’re into this, try IKEA cork mouse mats – tack to the wall for a cheap pin board
- Neon – want something a bit more punchy? Bright neon accents are a great way to use several colours, using the tone to tie them together. Neon pops lend themselves to a creative workspace – look out for postcards you can stick up and neon office supplies.
Wooden Stacking Desk Organiser
Yamakazi Tower Desk Organiser
Terrazzo Base Headphone Stand
Podium Marble Desk Organiser
Horizon Document Organiser
Plywood Mini Drawers
3. Style your home office with personality
It’s a home office, but it’s still your home. Yes, it’s important to keep the space professional and functional so that you’re able to transition between work and life.
But if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent your career amongst ceiling tiles, dodgy carpets and peeling wood laminate desks. Now you have the chance to work somewhere that actually reflects you back – take advantage.
Use prints, postcards, accessories, objet d’art that particularly resonate with you. A space that feels like a good fit can help with those feelings of uncertainty and yawning ‘temporariness’ we’re experiencing.
Ceramic Bust Sculpture
Stoneware Speckle Glaze Urn
Grecian Stoneware Vase
Shallow Bowl With Face Motif
Clare V. Francophile Journal
Gold Hexagon Note Holder
4. Minimise home office clutter
Organise your papers into folders or trays. Keep your pens in a holder. One water glass on the desk at all times, not three or four (I’m talking to myself here).
Space is at a premium with home working. The more you can bring order to the space around you, the more you can bring to work – and to your busy mind.
And as we’ll see later, it’s important to ‘close down’ your workspace at the end of the day. That’s much easier if there’s a few key items around than if your desk is overrun with bits and pieces.
Matte Black Large Wall Shelf
Gold Metal Wire Basket
Wooden Storage Box
5. Inspiration, not distraction
While a gallery wall or notice board collage may look great, they could also be a distraction. Especially if, like me, you’re going to find yourself wanting to neaten, rearrange and faff with it almost constantly.
If you’re easily distracted, place something large and uncluttered just beyond your laptop view. I use this abstract Matisse gallery poster – I can focus on it while thinking, and if my eyes land on it they’re less likely to stray to my phone and magically open the Twitter app by themselves.
Moody Romantic Floral Poster
Vintage Style Flower Illustration Poster
Slim Oak Wooden A4 Picture Frame
Cool To Be Kind Black & Gold Wall Art
Iro Leaf Green Framed Wall Art
Henri Matisse Burned Orange Dance
6. You deserve fresh flowers
In the offices I’ve worked in, fresh flowers are reserved for the reception area, not the ‘factory floor’.
Well, you don’t have a reception area anymore and you’re in charge. You deserve the bright, fresh scent of flowers on your desk (if there’s room – otherwise put them nearby instead). It’s indulgent, but affordable if done every couple of weeks (peonies and hydrangea are in season now, and can be easily, naturally dried in situ so that they last much longer).
7. The “work mug”
Sounds mad to have a work mug when you’re working from home, right? The entire mug cupboard is yours now! No digging around for the least stained plain white mug that’s the wrong size and the handle’s uncomfortable…
Probably, the mug you take to work is your Worst Mug. The one you don’t really care if it disappears, or you spot Jeremy in Accounts Payable using it for his cup-a-soup.
But we’re at home now, and looking for moments of joy wherever we find them. Don’t sully one of your normal mugs – treat yourself to a new one you really, really like. H&M Home, John Lewis, IKEA and all supermarkets have really lovely tableware for under £5. Don’t drink from it on weekends – this is the Work Mug. It matters.
I know it sounds daft, but if it makes your morning coffee break a little brighter, why not?
Retro Style Mustard and Gold Mug
Carmen Pink Stoneware Mug
Hestia Mug With Abstract Illustration
Zabra Glazed Elegant Mug
Crystal Clear Glass Mug
Set of 2 XL ’70s Ceramic Mugs
8. End of the day = put it away
Without a commute to act as watershed on your work day, it’s SO important you to ‘leave the office’ by closing down your workspace. Of course, if you’re working in a study or spare bedroom, it’s easy enough to close the door.
But if you’re working from your bedroom or living space, I recommend you put the work stuff away. I put my notebook and laptop in a drawer, and hide the riser under my desk. It’s a simple visual cue that it’s no longer work time, so I won’t be tempted to crack the laptop after dinner.
9. The backdrop back-up
If you’re on video calls all day, you’re probably already thinking about the backdrop pressure! What can your coworkers see behind you, and what does it say about you?? The truth is: they probably aren’t looking, they don’t care, and they’re wondering when they next have time to make a coffee.
But if you do want to smarten up your space, stick a big plant off centre behind you. It can cover cluttered corners, and is effortlessly bohemian. If your back’s against the wall (literally speaking), think about a couple of minimalist prints in frames to frame your face.
Tall Faux Potted Monstera
Artificial Trailing String of Hearts
Faux Potted Rubber Plant
10. Take more breaks
This one isn’t a design tip. It’s just a gentle nudge to be easier on yourself if you’re working from home right now. You don’t work for 9 hours straight in the office – no, protest as much as you want. I don’t believe you. You’re up, chatting, running into colleagues, fetching tea rounds. You’re moving between meetings and spending the first 10 minutes of them making small talk.
At home, my partner and I work in separate rooms (because we’re constantly on calls) so we pop in on each other a few times a day for a chat – it helps it feel like an office environment. And we walk the dog, nip out for a take-out coffee, and sometimes go out for lunch. Remember, this isn’t just working from home – this is working through a pandemic. You deserve a break.