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The Bright Side of 2020: The Home Office is Moving to the Home and Shrinking Carbon Footprints!

For many years the leaders of the urban centers of American have put forth one initiative after another to reduce congestion, from “flex-hours” to expansion of mass transit. Despite these best efforts and increasing frustration with multi-hour commutes, the daily “trudge” has continued to worsen. And then came COVID…which finally forced EVERYONE’s hand…

Few would discount the ingenuity of Americans when it comes to tackling challenges in daily business and the economy as a whole, including keeping companies running during a worldwide pandemic. Massive companies being forced to produce with a remote workforce proved for many not to be just a temporary fix, but a better way of doing things. Many are not looking back, pandemic or not, and in one fell swoop we’ve changed a decades old paradigm.

“Work from home” is the “new black”, and everyone has switched from trying to survive it to figuring out how to thrive within it. There are countless obvious benefits from a fiscal perspective (once everyone vacates their expensive metropolitan leases), but also from an environmental perspective with the reduction in traffic and our overall carbon footprint. This, like all other panacea, is not without its challenges.

For many companies the first concern is productivity, with theoretically more hours available to their staff members, offset by the distractions that can come from being at home (kids, pets, TV, etc.). Beyond that, and perhaps of greater concern are the psychological effects of being isolated from the groups of people we’re so used to seeing on a daily basis. Not to mention the fact that few homes have a workspace designed with attention to work flow and/or ergonomics that large companies do. The good news is that most, if not all of this can be mitigated with a thoughtfully designed “home workspace”, dedicated to that purpose.

A dedicated workspace has a range of benefits, not limited to creating a mindset of “when I’m in this space I’m at work”. Having this equate to actual productivity takes much more, however. First, if at all possible, the space should be separated as clearly from the daily activities of the household, to minimize distractions. If possible, it should be locked, or at the very least other family members (even pets), need to be trained to treat you as if you were not in the home during your work hours. We’ve all seen and/or heard the stories of the “interesting” disruptions of countless Zoom meetings.

Getting into the “details” of the space itself, it is critical that the design plan and FFE’s (Furniture, Finishing, and Equipment) are well thought out. Organization is key! The tools that you need to perform your job every day need to be visible, readily available and efficiently usable. They should also all “have a home”, so that you can keep the space neat and workable, remembering that this also part of your home. Creative storage solutions enable productivity while minimizing any permanent change that might impact the home’s long-term value.

Lighting is important, poor or insufficient lighting can cause eye strain, headaches, other medical issues. We recommend the overhead lights are assigned to dimmers and use LED natural bulbs that simulate daylight. Keep the lighting indirect and have installed on dimmer switches. Consider the task areas: desks, files, and conference areas to supplement with task lamps.

What color should you paint your home office? Key word is “home”. In color theory we believe that color affects our behavior and moods.

  • White: is medicinal, clean, pure

  • Blue: is stimulating, productive and focused

  • Red: urgent, physical and stimulating

  • Yellow: emotional, creative, happy

  • Green: balance, finance, reassurance

  • Brown: Masculine, warm, strong

  • Gray: Classic, melancholy, relaxed

  • Purple: Regal, feminine, Royal

At the end of the day, the highest levels productivity come from a combination of comfort and focus. Companies invest millions to ensure that corporate workspaces balance these two factors. Given that home generally provides at least some level of comfort you’re probably halfway there already. A bit of additional thought and some pragmatic investments will get you the rest of the way, and allow you to enjoy the elimination of your commute for years to come.

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