The prevailing identity crisis – home or office?

Before lockdown, taking work home was an occasional occurrence for most people and any paperwork or office paraphernalia that was used was immediately packed away afterwards. It was, after all, a home not an office.

Before lockdown, taking work home was an occasional occurrence for most people and any paperwork or office paraphernalia that was used was immediately packed away afterwards. It was, after all, a home not an office.

However, since lockdown, the line between home and office has become inexorably blurred, especially with the addition of months of home schooling for many families.

Portions of living areas have morphed into zoom rooms and offices and dining tables have been annexed as workstations with the detritus of all this work having become a permanent fixture in most homes.

Steve Thomas, Secure Estate Specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Constantiaberg, says: “After almost a full year of lockdown, it’s become clear that many people will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future – or even permanently.

“And, with remote working no longer being a temporary measure, many of us are feeling the need to formalize our home offices, to reclaim our homes and to reinstate a definite line between home and work life.

“It’s therefore no surprise that in recent months both sales and rental agents have been reporting a growing number of enquiries for homes with additional space that’s suitable for use as an office, whether it be an extra bedroom, purpose-built office or even a flatlet.

“However, not everyone is in a position to move right now and many would actually prefer not to give up homes they love for a little extra space – but most also don’t want to continue to live with their current set up.”

Thomas says that with a little imagination, reorganization and inspiration, it’s possible to create an effective and efficient work space and re-establish the necessary boundaries between home and work life.

He suggests the following practical steps:

Identify What You Need – This will depend on what type of work you do. For instance, you might require only a small desk for your laptop or you might need to add a larger table or workspace for artwork or large documents.

Find the Best Location – When space is tight and you don’t have an unused bedroom to annex, you have to think creatively about your office space – and the available space. Is there an unused corner in one of the larger rooms or do you have a cupboard that has enough space for a small desk? Even the space under the stairs can be effectively used as a work station.

Prioritise Comfort and Back Support – If your budget stretches to a decent office chair it’s well worth the investment. Yes, it’s easier to simply grab a dining chair, but back support is really important if you are spending hours at your desk and want to avoid future back and posture problems. Consider it an investment in yourself.

Increase your Privacy – If you have set up office in a corner or portion of a room, it’s a great idea to use a room divider or even a curtain on a railing to give you the privacy you need and to shield you from distractions.

Storage Savvy – Although few people need large filing cabinets anymore, we all still use pends, notepads, staplers and so on and need to be able to clear up and store away these items to avoid cluttering the desk. Compact options include stacked storage baskets, a simple cubby system with small bins or even plastic storage tubs. If you need a bot more space you could place a small bookshelf next to your desk.

Don’t Forget Lighting – Poor lighting can cause you to strain your eyes and, over time that can lead to headaches and tiredness, neither of which are conducive to productivity. The first choice is to set up your office in an area that gets as much natural light as possible, but if this isn’t an option, make sure you select the right kind of lighting for your area and purpose. Indirect lights/lamps with shades or diffusers that soften the light and dampen the glare will be easier on your eyes.

“The suddenness of lockdown last March was especially difficult for people whose jobs usually entail being out and about and dealing with people much of the time. As estate agents, we had to adapt really fast and move our offices into the ‘cloud’ within a matter of days.

“And whilst some of us adapted the home office quite easily, others, like our wonderful PA, who is far less used to home working, created a full on office in a tent in her garden, complete with table and chairs, electrical power and wifi as space and privacy from young child indoors was difficult.

“Last year much effort and time was spent just getting to grips with juggling home schooling and adapting to remote working, and, although we may not have excelled, most of us mastered enough to get by and bid 2020 farewell without abject failure.

“However, if remote working is now your ‘new normal’, it should be approached a little differently, both to preserve your sanity and to allow to you be as productive and constructive as possible.”

Thomas believes that because a home office environment differs in many ways from the traditional office workplace, there are a number of factors one has to consider and implement:

Learn to recognize when you are most productive – Once you have done so, ensure you guard that time religiously and dedicate it to work as far as possible. However, during the times that you are more distracted and less focused, don’t start watching your favourite series from which will be hard to tear yourself away. Rather take a constructive break and have a snack or accomplish a small task such as hanging up the washing or making the kids lunch.

Take regular breaks away from your desk – Don’t simply open Facebook on your laptop, go outside and take a walk or sit in the sun and fresh air. Try to move as often as possible – when on phone calls, walk around the room, or even the garden.

Embrace a new hobby – Without the lengthy commute, you finally have time to take up that hobby or activity you’ve always wanted to – if you ever had more time. Try to get something accomplished each day; it will make you feel much more productive.

“Although it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to create the dream corner office with breathtaking views to which you’ve always aspired, you are able to create your dream working environment in your own home,” says Thomas.

“There are no rules against playing music, using aromatherapy diffusers or allowing the cat on the desk. You can wear your comfiest clothes, take a tea break when it suits you and, best of all, the commute to your desk is a mere 30 seconds.”

Bandile Mathebula

Award wining writer and Journalist. Founding Editor In Chief at Sibizi News. Managing Director at Sibizi Media. Vice-Chairman at Ignite Young Minds SA. I have worked in the media industry for the past 7 years working across different brands and industries.

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