Creating A Woman-Centric
A recent article in the Pittsburgh
Sun-Times identified there are between 18 million and 38 million
home-based businesses in the United States today, depending on who’s doing
the counting . Telework Research Center estimates another 20 to 30
million Americans currently work from home at least one day a week.
Add to those statistics the millions of us who bring work home from
the office to finish at night or on the weekends and it’s easy
to understand the increasing interest in home offices.
We talked to a number of ladies who at least occasionally work from
home and they shared wonderful insights and real world advice on creating
an inspiring, productive home office.
THE SPACE TO YOUR SITUATION AND NEEDS
The type of work you will do from home is one of the first considerations.
Ruth, a corporate recruiter, needs quiet privacy. Cindy, a
seamstress whose specialty is repairing flags, needs a large open
folding those 50-foot flags.
Take into consideration how often you will use this space (daily,
twice a week, etc.) and whether it is your primary work space or simply
supplements a traditional office elsewhere. Christy is an office manager
who found a flex/computer room at home is fine for finishing accounting
duties and other paperwork.
Also, how long at one time would you be using
that space? The “occasionally
bring a couple hours worth of work home from the office to finish
it” need for office amenities is quite different from someone
who will be using the home office for several hours at a stretch. Sheri,
who was running a graphic arts business out of her basement lamented
the lack of natural light. “It threw off my body’s bio-rhythms.
Without windows I would totally lose track of time.”
LOCATION As alluded to in the sidebar “What
about other people?,” your
privacy needs and whether or not you expect others in your home
office help identify the best location for this space. When frequently
with colleagues and clients, a highly public location, such as
a home office accessed from the entry foyer is often desirable. Conversely,
many individuals who tend to work from home solo prefer a secluded
location such as a rear corner in their home. Additionally, the
of a larger, open space vs. a more private space that can be
closed off behind a door needs to be determined—often dictated
by whether the office space will be kept clean and presentable all
the time. If
the flexibility of an open space is appealing, consider a divider
such as bookcases or decorative panels to provide some privacy.
ACCESS Location needs to be determined
in tandem with access for your home office. A home office accessed
from the entry is convenient and
benefits from the design character of the entry foyer. Some home
offices offer such public access as well as private access, such
as from an
adjoining master suite. Home work spaces accessed via a hallway
can be made more special by careful selection of the door, perhaps
glass door. Do you have larger items going into this space? You’ll
want to design with double
doors in mind. Is frequent shipping and receiving a part of your
home business? Consider a secure shipping vestibule where delivery
persons can drop off items rather than leaving them on your front
porch. Or, at least locate your office within a few steps of where
and deliveries take place. Finally, some people attempt to achieve
more separation for their home office by having a separate exterior
entrance into the home office for visitors. If this is your desire,
consider the impact of that door’s location on the overall
look of the front of your home as seen from the street.
BATHROOM ACCOMMODATIONS This might
seem like a minor point, but is one that comes up in people’s
regrets. Bev, who along with her husband runs a building company from
their family home, didn’t
plan for an extra bathroom to serve the home office. This resulted
in construction personnel, clients and her kids all using the
same bathroom. And what about you? If you’re going to build a
2-story home with your bedroom upstairs and a main floor home office,
probably not going to want to run upstairs every time you need
to use the bathroom.
MAKING YOUR HOME OFFICE WORK
Having worked through the issues already discussed, it’s
time to start designing your office space! Start with your
actual work space.
How much space do you need? Is the type of work pretty consistent
or should this space be fairly flexible for easy re-configuration
arise? And what type of furniture do you want? While some women
we spoke with described a traditional desk setup, more
often we heard
requests for work surfaces that were counters or tables, not
desks. The seating you will primarily use is one of the
most important considerations.
If you will typically be seated in front of a computer or at
a desk/workstation, posture and ergonomics are critical
to reduce fatigue, increase comfort
and productivity. Be sure to look for chairs that tilt, swivel
and move easily on the flooring. Additionally, many people
home are looking for another, more comfortable chair in their
home office. Two such seating options address task-oriented
work as well
as fostering out-of-the-box creativity.
Often an afterthought, consider the seating position
and whether you would be facing others as they walk by or enter this
space, or whether
your back would be turned to them. Most of us feel uncomfortable
when others see us but we’re not aware of them. If the only option
for a functional workspace requires having your back exposed, think
about placing a mirror directly in front of your workspace to observe
what’s going on behind you.
LIGHTING A nearly universal desire with regard to home offices is
lots of natural light. Exposure to natural light has numerous health
benefits, both physical and mental. Importantly, natural light has
been shown to improve concentration, reduce eyestrain and fatigue,
and generally improve mood. For some who work from home, natural light
must be accompanied by operable windows for fresh air and calming breezes
and nature sounds. Another camp requests multiple high transom windows
only, providing the desired sunlight but avoiding the distraction of
movement outside. When increasing windows simply is not an option,
consider adding skylights to the home office space. Control over lighting
makes a big difference.
For natural light, that usually means easy-operating window shades
or blinds. For added lighting, dimmers and individual on/off controls
for the various lighting fixtures is welcome. Try to avoid lighting
directly overhead computer screens as that can cause glare problems.
Similarly, bright sunlight can wash out computer screens, another factor
in deciding the best workspace
Generally, people prefer lighting fixtures other than
fluorescent tubes. When planning for lighting, combine general
ceiling fixtures) with direct task lighting and indirect/accent
lighting such as recessed lights and wall sconces. Care should
be taken in choosing
light bulbs and their “color temperature.” Incandescent,
compact fluorescent, halogen and LED lights vary in color temperature,
ranging from blue and green hues to more reddish and yellow shades.
Many of today’s light bulb manufacturers offer color temperature
choices across the different types of bulbs which you can try
STORAGE One of the most obvious
evidences of a well-designed home office is adequate storage.
After addressing the first question—how
much storage is needed?—the follow-up question is open storage
or discrete storage? Open storage, such as cubbies and shelving
units, provides for quick scanning to locate what you’re looking
for. Based on what you choose to have on display, it can also
about you to others who come to visit you. If wall shelving is
your preference, be sure to note the weight which the shelves
to hold. A dramatic alternative to traditional wall shelves are
glass shelving products that appear to “float” without
visible brackets and hardware. Discrete storage includes all
types of closets,
cabinets, files, etc.. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is visual—the
reduction of clutter and a streamlined, organized appearance
of the home office. Flexibility comes into play with storage,
as several ladies
identified a desire for easily reconfigurable storage systems
such as stacking units and storage cabinets on casters. If storage
be permanent, such as cabinetry or furniture, pre-plan amenities
such as pull-out drawers and other built-ins.
The opportunity of a storage area closed off by a door, curtains or
even sliding walls from the rest of your home office allows you to
keep everything from client files to paper clips to your fax machine
out of public view. As well, such discrete storage areas do not necessarily
have to be kept as tidy as the more public areas of your home office.
Planning for waste is essential and practical. Avoid future regrets
by deciding now the wastebasket size and placement (a pull out wastebasket
drawer is wonderful!), and how to incorporate a recycling center.
ORGANIZATION. A close cousin to storage is organization.
Visual scheduling and organization of concurrent projects came up often
in our discussions,
with typical solutions identified as large, write-on wall calendars
and large “idea walls” which were usually envisioned
as long bulletin boards or magnetic boards for temporarily adhering
to the wall (does your home office offer such wall space?) Write-on
white boards were also frequently mentioned.
Large work surfaces were similarly important for organizing
multiple projects-inprogress. Not having to stash everything else away
a conflicting deadline demands immediate attention is golden.
Finally, determine where the items you need most frequently will be
accessories for everything from staplers and paper clips to pens
and Post-It notes are one way to keep things organized. The bottom
sucks energy out of you. You won’t be happy (or productive)
in a cluttered home office!
COMMUNICATION NEEDS. While the proliferation of cell
phones makes having a separate land line for your home business optional,
probably wise to at least drop a phone jack into the future home
office space. And if you have a separate fax machine from your office
might as well make that 2 phone jacks being installed. Importantly,
the location of those jacks can in large part minimize visible
phone wires, so care should be exercised in having those jacks placed
where you want them.
Computers have become an indispensable communication
tool, and though many people are enjoying wireless connectivity between
the internet and to the printer/ scanner, currently the speed
and reliability of wireless networks does not yet rival the traditional “hardwired” approach.
At the time a home is being built, pulling data cabling into
your future home office area represents a very minor expense which
makes it a good
Also, folks working from home often talk about the need for a TV/DVD
player in the home office. From watching training videos to monitoring
news headlines and the weather, plan for where a TV would work well.
If others may be joining you in your home office gathered around that
TV, its location becomes even more critical. Electrical outlets and
cable TV jacks properly located will again minimize visible wiring.
a woman-centric approach to home office design
means designing the environment
of our senses.
Compared with men, women’s senses are generally
more acute than men’s,
with women taking in much more than the
guys via sensory appeals.
you select, such as flooring,
wall textures and furnishings all contribute to the
overall look you achieve.
TOUCH AND FEEL Certain products practically
beg to be touched. Natural stone counters or work surfaces…interesting hardware…soft-closing
doors…all are enhanced via their feel. Heavy, solid doors have
a sense of heft that translates into security, permanence and
success. Quality carpeting with a thick pad exudes a sense of luxury
while tile or wood flooring suggest traditional sophistication.
Almost too obvious, the heating and cooling of your home office space
issue of touch as well. If there are multiple electronic gadgets
running, you may well produce excess heat which could make your office
warm in the summer, though the rest of the home is cool. Be sure
to discuss this aspect with your builder and heating/air conditioning
TASTE Though perhaps the least important when it comes to designing
your home office, many telecommuters wish for a minifridge and/or bottled
water dispenser in their home office for themselves and their guests.
Individuals who prefer their caffeine hot desire a coffee station or
at least hot water for tea. Yes, the kitchen may only be steps away,
but that trek to the kitchen may interrupt a critical line of thought
you are working with. So, reflect on your beverage preferences, factor
in refreshments for visitors and talk about this issue with your builder
(and possibly the plumber!)
SOUNDS This is an interesting paradox—people
are either striving to achieve serenity by minimizing noises that may
be audible in the
home office, or, people seek to add sounds to their home office
to actually aid concentration or create a more calming or invigorating
Many things can be done to help soundproof a home
office space. A major aspect is the flooring choice. Carpet and pad
absorbs a lot of
sound, but noises typically bounce off of hard flooring such
as ceramic, woods, laminates and concrete. If you opt for hard surface
think about large area rugs to help control sound levels. Solid
core doors, as opposed to less expensive hollow core doors, help keep
household noises out. Locating the home office away from frequently
used areas of the home or loud areas such as a media room is
important. And if peace and quiet is at the top of your list, talk
to your builder
about different soundproofing measures from insulating the walls
to using quieter drywall products.
On the other hand, adding background
music can have a similar effect, in that you’re not as likely
to hear other extraneous noises. We also heard several requests for
natural sounds, whether that be operable windows opened for Mother
Nature’s serenade or wind chimes.
SCENTS This one is pretty
straightforward. Fresh air and proper circulation help
eliminate odors. An air cleaner makes a
big difference for smoking
environments or if your particular business deals with a product
that has its own distinct smell. In addition, lots of women add
fragrance to the home office environment. Essential oils,
potpourri can help create a pleasing aroma. A word of caution—as
you become used to your home office setting, you may be tempted to
add higher levels of fragrance. Don’t, as it will overpower
VISUAL This is limited only by your imagination. The
materials you select, such as flooring, wall textures and furnishings
to the overall look you achieve. Because they serve as the backdrop
to most everything else, your walls (and ceiling—the “5th
wall”) and the paint or wall paper chosen have a major impact
on the visual story told by your home office.
First impressions are strategically important if you
will have clients and co-workers in your home office. As you approach
the office area,
what do you see? (Note, studies show women have greater peripheral
vision than men!) Upon entering your home office, what is the main
focal point? The decorations, the furnishings, the materials and
surfaces and colors, unique pieces—what do you want them to say about
you? Finally, what about you? What in your home office space would
inspire you? Is it family photos or memorabilia? A waterfall? Artwork?
These are “must-haves” in your new home office!