With some surveys predicting that by 2020, 50% of the entire UK workforce will work from home to some extent, homeowners are thinking about how they can design efficient workspaces in their properties - and home office architecture is a growing concept, as designing a positive space that is conducive to productivity requires an understanding of the design elements that influence this.
There are a few cornerstones of good design that can transform a space from adequate to ideal. Everything from the visual aesthetics to the interior climate of a space have a part to play, and great home office architecture takes these things into account. In this post, we’re going to take a look at what these are, and how to ensure the design of your home working space helps you perform at your very best.
The flexible working phenomenon
Flexible and remote working are no longer seen as a privilege by a large proportion of the workforce - they’re seen as a necessity. This is true across all sectors of the UK, from cities to rural hamlets. In 2016, the government found that of all those in employment in England, 14% worked from home at least 50% of the time.
Of those living in the most remote areas, a massive 34% work from home the majority of their hours. This also doesn’t include people who work from home less than half of their week. As people redesign and renovate their homes, they’re having to think carefully about where they’re going to work - and how to design this space.
Simply having an ‘office room’ might have been adequate in the past, for the odd hour or two here or there - but if you’re spending more than half of your workdays in a space, it’s important to think carefully about how it’s put together.
What makes a good working space?
Fundamentally, it’s important to understand what it is that makes a space conducive to productivity in the first place. Our ability to focus and maintain our energy levels is dependent on a few factors which are influenced by our environment, and these fall into both physical and psychological categories. When it comes to home office architecture, these are the vital elements to consider, and they include:
We’ve written plenty about it before, and it’s almost impossible to deny the profound benefits of natural light on our overall wellbeing. As well as regulating our sleep cycles and our mood, natural light also has a direct impact on our energy levels and ability to focus. The amount of natural light in a space is thus a vital thing to consider if the space is going to be used predominantly for work.
This naturally means the inclusion of glass. It’s important to think in terms of maximising light exposure - not just in terms of ‘adding a few windows’. This is particularly relevant during the winter months, when daylight is in short supply.
Opting for something like a frameless window or glass wall, or even including something slightly more elaborate such as a glass roof, can be a hugely positive step. It’s also worth noting that these installations can be combined with one another, to create bright and open-feeling workspaces.
When consulting with an architect, consider structural glazing solutions such as the ones we’ve mentioned above, from the early stages of your consultations. Doing so will mean they can be integrated seamlessly into the structural design of your space from the offset, and you can keep the window open (we’ll see ourselves out…) for things such as box extensions made entirely from glazing.
With lighting and glazing in mind, aesthetics are also an important thing to think about. No one likes to work in an uninspiring or dingy space, so the overall ‘look and feel’ of your office is an important consideration. This can be both in the interior design of the space (which you can amend at your leisure), but also in the architectural design of your home office.
Glazing again here can serve a valuable purpose - but for a different reason. A connection with nature and the world outdoors is biologically programmed into our minds - if we have even a small amount of exposure to the natural world, we’re measurably more productive.
One study for instance, of a university building in Oregon, found that workers in proximity to a window facing trees and greenery took 19% fewer sick days compared to those without this kind of view. Another fascinating piece of research in Australia determined that even a screen image of greenery made a difference - workers returning after a break in front of such an image were 6% more productive, while those presented with an image of an urban landscape actually dropped 8% in productivity.
As such, it’s essential to try and maintain a connection with the world outdoors in the architectural design of your home office. Glazing solutions are a must, and ideally one which provides a seamless link to an exterior environment (such as a sliding glass door or glass wall).
Ventilation & air quality
Picture being stuck in a stuffy, humid office, with no view outside and no respite for hours on end. The chances of you working at your best are slim, and the same logic applies when you’re consulting with your architect on the design of your home working space.
Again, the research is there to back this up. A study by Harvard University found that workers in a ‘green’ environment, where ventilation was improved and levels of carbon dioxide and emissions were reduced performed 61% better on cognitive tasks than participants in standard office conditions. Even more surprisingly, by doubling the ventilation in the green environment, cognitive performance increased by more than 100%.
As such, maintaining a high level of air quality is crucial to getting the best out of your home office. Adding houseplants that filter air quality (such as a peace lily) is one of the simplest steps, but it’s more impactful to think about how the architectural design of your office can factor this in.
Ventilation systems can do the trick, but nothing beats fresh air, so think about installing a solution that can provide high quality ventilation when you need it. This can be anything from a simple window to an opening glass roof.
Isolation & privacy
One of the main reasons why so many more people are working from home now is the need to look after children, and similar family commitments. If you’re lucky enough to be working at home when you have the house to yourself, that can be fantastic - but if you’re going to have loved ones around as you try to focus, it’s important to provide yourself with a space you can retreat to, free from distraction.
These distractions can be auditory and visual, so it’s a good idea to bear both of these in mind. Firstly, think about the placement of your office. You’ll likely want to choose a location that’s not in proximity to any prime distractions both visually and audibly (as direct access to rooms with TVs, washing machines etc. are probably not a good idea!)
You could also consider soundproofing or other insulative technologies to ensure privacy when the door is closed - you could even go the extra mile and opt for switchable glazing on the doors and interior windows. At the flick of a switch you could obscure your workspace, and let everyone know you’re not to be disturbed!
A home office is more than just another room, it’s an opportunity for you to provide a sanctuary of focus and productivity in your property. If you’re in the process of designing and building a section of your home that is explicitly intended for professional use, then factoring in the above considerations is a good place to start. Make sure to think about these things early on, consult your architect, and weigh up the options.
If you’re thinking about glazing options, we’d love to hear from you. Our clients are always welcome to visit our showroom, for a no-obligation consultation. Also feel free to drop us an email, or give us a call.