My WhatsApp is filled with messages from friends creating makeshift workspaces in their dining rooms or setting up mess-free corners to serve as a backdrop for conference calls. Tensions run high. There are cables everywhere and not enough cups for tea. And while we all hope the situation is temporary, nobody knows how long it will last. Creating a functional workspace now will help your sanity (and your back).
Like so many people, interior designer Suzie McAdam (suziemcadam.com) found herself unexpectedly working from her dining room table last week. Getting the basics right is important, she stresses: "Make sure the table you're working at is a suitable height and that your chair is comfortable. If you need to, look at swapping furniture around to make things work better."
Find a spot that has plenty of natural light, she says, or, if that's not practical, swap in an adjustable lamp. If the room gets good daylight, opt for blinds over curtains as to give you control over the light and avoid glare on your screen.
Dividing work time from downtime is one of the trickiest parts of home working. For example, if your work is constantly visible, it is even more likely you'll be sucked into 'quickly checking email' at 9pm and find yourself still typing an hour later. Keep a large tray nearby to store notebooks, paperwork and charging cables so they can be tucked out of sight when 'home time' begins.
"Even if you're working on a desktop computer instead of a laptop, look at ways of hiding or packing away the screen," says Suzie. "Try to make sure it's not directly in front of you in the evening, as it can be difficult to step away when there isn't that separation."
Chances are that if you can annexe an entire room as a home office, it will be on the small side (and has been used as a dumping ground). Start with a good declutter to give yourself as much of a blank space as possible.
If you are planning to invest in a desk - and many stores are still delivering, Ikea is even offering contact-free deliveries - avoid clunky furniture and go for a slimline model that is less intrusive. It's worth investing in storage, ideally a bookshelf or at least a few shelves over the desk. Stacking boxes and magazine files will also be your friends here.
As much as possible, keep your desk clear of everything but the essentials. If you want to bring in decorative elements, make sure they're functional - you can easily dress up your desk with a cool brass pen holder, wooden tray catch-all or cute notebook. Keep your colour scheme calm and neutral, using textiles to add colour and texture. If you're adding a rug, make sure it's thin, as thick ones may prevent your desk chair from rolling freely.
Set up a reading nook with a chair and light in a corner if you have space, it will give you a welcome break from sitting at a desk.
The secret is to remember a few simple things: yes, shower and get dressed (the working-in-PJs thing gets stale fast), but soft, comfy 'loungewear' is a good option and so is avoiding anything with buttons or that needs ironing. Give your desk a reset at the end of the day, cleaning away the mugs of half-drunk tea, work in progress, to-do lists… but, perhaps most important of all, be done when you're done.
Soft touches "I love having some natural elements, like a plant or a few flowers, and I always work to music," says Suzie McAdam