Design trends: home offices

As more people are working from home than ever, having a good workspace makes all the difference.
The workplace revolution is coming home. According to the Confederation of British Industry, 59 per cent of bosses are now happy for their employees to work from home, up from 15 per cent in less than a decade. The Government's Labour Force Survey data also points to a rapid increase in home working.

Homes offices
A small space at the top of the stairs was just enough for this luxe business nook, by architects SHS for a Chelsea private client (shh.co.uk)

It claims 1.5 million people are freelance in the UK now — about five or six per cent of the workforce. Numbers of home workers have risen 20 per cent in a decade, more than at any time since records began, and they are thought to make up nearly 14per cent of the London workforce.

Computers and, more importantly, fast and reliable wifi, are the main reasons employees are able to choose the productive peace and quiet of their home rather than the cut and thrust, noise, distracting gossip, politics, stress and endless meetings of the workplace. It doesn't suit everyone.

Inspiring productivity
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Oliver Marlow is creative director of TILT, an innovative company that specialises in designing workplaces and work-related furniture. Marlow's clients include Islington council and Devon county council, with both bodies encouraging their employees to spend time working at home or away from the office. "People don't always want to work in a traditional way," said Marlow. "One in four small businesses is run from home now. It's an exciting time and people expect more from their space."

Jenny Brewer, features editor of specialist design magazine onoffice, explained: "Some trend-setting employers only have desks to accommodate 60-70 per cent of their staff.

It means that when those workers are at home, they want to make their workspace interesting and inspiring. That's the beauty of a home office — however small your space, you can make it how you like it. A lot of manufacturers are recognising this shift and creating interesting multi-tasking furniture that can be used anywhere."

"In the home, space is at a premium," said architect Graham Harris, managing director of SHH, a practice whose projects include office design for commercial and residential use. "We sometimes create bespoke built-in units, with doors that can close things away — people want to minimise visual clutter. But we all need inspiration when we're working or creating, so we try and integrate a view into our schemes if there is one to be had.

"Some people like a day-to-day office that's close to the action in the home so you can keep an eye on the kids and the kitchen, and others prefer a contained study they can retreat to. It's important to sort out your working requirements."

Challenging spaces
Making room for work can be a challenge in many a London home, but it is becoming a necessity. However small the workspace, with careful planning it can be made into the right space.

Economical design is the key, but just because it might be a tight squeeze, it doesn't mean your health should be put to one side. The best workplace designers consider light, sound and air quality, all of which can be incorporated at home.

Perhaps most important is to think of the length time you spend at your desk at one stretch. Too many sedentary hours can take their toll on your well-being, and desks such as the Stealth C5 workstation, from Swedish manufacturer Ragnars, allow for work in sitting and standing positions.

Homes offices
Belsize Architexts used built-in joinery to create a compact but functional workspace from this corner of a client's home in Hamstead

"Specialists in ergonomics recommend that we change working posture regularly and split time between sitting, standing and moving. The only way to be able practically to do this is to have a desk which you can adjust up and down," explained Neil Jenkins, managing director of Ragnars UK.

Oliver Marlow agreed: "Keep your body moving — it takes more than a chair to make your environment comfortable. Most people want their workspace well-integrated into their home and today there is so much good design out there for multifunctional furniture and finishes that can inspire and motivate you."

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