WORDS: SARAH MARJORIBANKS & JULIA FREEMANTLE – IMAGES: LEMON SHOWROOM & SHUTTERSTOCK
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic was even on our radar, there was a move towards remote working. Avoiding peak hour traffic and fostering a better work-life balance were just some of the reasons it became a desirable perk for many in the corporate field.
The lockdown, however, has made it a non-negotiable. While it’s unlikely that offices will disappear completely, many people will continue to work a good portion of the week from home. Having a space that’s conducive to productivity is thus essential.
Pre-lockdown it was a boon to live close to the office, but suddenly that’s less of an issue. Top priority now is access to fibre, excellent cellphone coverage and a reliable internet service provider. While landlines have come to be regarded as unnecessary in recent years, many will now consider reconnecting their Telkom line or subscribing to a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) service to bring down their cellphone costs.
Apart from technical convenience, there are other comforts that the office brings. As winter rolls through the country, many remote workers must be missing the ambient warmth of their former workplace. Spending a fortune on gas and electricity every winter is impractical, so a home that’s well insulated and energy efficient will make for a better long-term option.
Noise pollution is a distraction that people may not have noticed in their homes before – interventions such as triple glazing and high-performance windows will help increase workplace productivity while also increasing insulation.
Water-saving toilets are not only a great idea in general, but are even more important if you’re going to be spending the full day at home.
Keep it together
Open-plan spaces, while great for gathering the family, are less conducive to remote working. Being able to keep your work behind a door will be better for work-life balance and productivity in the long run. Even better if there’s a separate building on the property that can be converted into an office. And if you can find a room that’s sunny, all the better – natural light creates a feeling of well-being, and reduces your electricity costs.
Home Office Design 101
Kevin Frankental, founder of Lemon (lemon.za.com), a design studio that specialises in printed products, furniture and accessories, has perfected the art of designing versatile pieces that work in both commercial and residential spaces.
He believes that Covid-19 will forever alter how we designate our workspaces at home. “I think people are now increasingly starting to create a division between living spaces and workspaces at home, rather than creating multipurpose spaces as they did in the past. As we spend more time working in earnest (and sometimes for good) at home, we need spaces where we can escape and focus,” he says.
As a result, you’ll start to see people investing in high-quality essentials – a good chair, a beautiful desk – and adding depth to the space with artwork and greenery. “At Lemon we encourage people to buy pieces that will live with them for many years,” says Frankental.
No need to go overboard
In terms of the how-to of creating a great WFH space, Frankental says you don’t need to consider any major structural changes. Create privacy with a screen if you can’t devote a whole room to your office, and demarcate it further visually using wallpaper to create the feeling of a separate space.
Must-haves for a successful space include an ergonomic chair, a table that’s warm (so ideally it should be made of wood), and a book or display shelf with your favourite items on show.
Keep it comfy
“We advocate for timeless rather than trendy, but our advice definitely aligns with what we’re seeing now – people are moving away from the curated Scandi style spaces and towards more comfortable rooms that feel lived in. We propose that interiors should be functional as well as beautiful. Minimalism has its place, but people confuse minimalism with just a lack of furniture, and they’re not the same thing.”
Frankental suggests gradually acquiring furniture and accessories and buying high-quality pieces that you love rather than filling the space quickly on the cheap.