One of the unexpected changes coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the potential it holds for changing the face of the US workforce. While work-from-home (WFH) initiatives were first put in place as a temporary measure to keep companies running during the first days of quarantine restrictions, they are now becoming the permanent policy for many businesses moving forward.
At the same time, many school systems are wrestling with their own COVID-related responses. As the school year ends, superintendents and school boards are looking ahead to the fall and determining whether or not to hold in-person classes. While some schools plan to go back to business-as-usual, others are talking about reducing the number of hours in the school day, splitting time between in-school and at-home work, or offering an option for virtual schools.
While a home office has long-been a wish list item for families, the last few months have seen homes with two parents and multiple children on simultaneous Zoom calls, spending hours on office and schoolwork, and often sharing the same desk or dining room table. This leads to frustration and a less-than-ideal setup for both kids and parents. In many homes, it’s time to find a way to create multiple workspaces to accommodate the increasing need for privacy and focus.
Optimizing Your Existing Spaces for Multiple Home Offices
You may have a variety of options already available in your current home. It just takes some ingenuity to reimagine or reconfigure your current space.
Formal Living Spaces
Though many people live and decorate more casually today, many older homes are still broken up into multiple living spaces. Some of these end up being used less than others, becoming formal living rooms, sitting rooms, or keeping rooms. In addition, while you may eat in the formal dining room on Thanksgiving and over the winter holiday season, you may find that it sits empty for much of the rest of the year.
Look at the underutilized spaces in your home and determine whether one of them would make a likely home office for you, your spouse, or your children. Want to retain the room’s current use while adding functionality? Think vintage with a roll-top desk, armoire desk, or escritoire for an elegant workspace that can be hidden away when not in use. Similarly, you can turn a little-used coat closet into a hideaway desk by installing a work surface and some vertical shelves.
Many homes have small office spaces in the kitchen that are primarily used for looking up recipes, paying bills, or writing notes to the teacher. If your kitchen currently has an office space, this might make a great full-service home office. Convert nearby cabinetry and drawers into specialized storage for your computer and office supplies. Add task lighting to reduce the glare from overhead lights and reduce eyestrain.
We all have them—a space under the stairs, a small nook, a stair landing, a bench seat under a window. These awkward, dead spaces normally get filled with a basket of blankets or a storage bin, but they can make a great option for a tucked-away home office. Add shelving and a worksurface to create plenty of room for your supplies, or consider a foldaway desk design if you want to keep things neatly out of sight.
Do you have a little-used storage space? A potential apartment over the garage? A would-be man-cave or a she-shed? It may take just a few days and a little ingenuity to convert an under-utilized existing space into a private and functional office. If you’ll be working from home long-term, you will realize solid return on your investment through increased productivity and concentration.
Workspaces for the Kids
If you’re transitioning your children to homeschool or virtual school, you’ll want to create a well-designed space that is just right for students. Consider the following guidelines as you set up your children’s long-term home learning environment.
Differentiate Work/Play Spaces
The most convenient place for a desk may be in an existing playroom or bedroom. However, this means more distractions from toys and games. Consider separating the spaces with a screen, or choose a cubicle desk or study carrel. This visual interruption may help your child focus more on schoolwork so that they can stay in the study zone.
Keep It Fun
A desk space doesn’t have to be boring. Consider one of the following additions:
- A brightly colored or fluffy office chair
- An exercise ball in place of a desk chair
- A DIY painted desk with design details chosen by your child
- A fun poster or other artwork
- A reading nook with a comfortable beanbag chair and bookshelf
- A themed space with matching desk accessories
Make It Special
Want to keep your children motivated when it’s time for schoolwork? Talk to them to find out what would make them happy. Some kids love office supplies, so they’re sure to enjoy a small filing cabinet with grown-up folders to organize their space. Some outdoor types might do well with an office set up on a covered porch or patio. Still, others may get excited about a new computer monitor or laptop. Rather than focus on the way you like to work, adjust your child’s home office to his or her learning style and personal aesthetic to keep them inspired and tuned-in.
Make It Affordable
You don’t have to spend a fortune to create a winning look for your child’s desk space. Sometimes a new coat of paint is enough to give a boring cast-off chair or work surface a fresh look. Maybe a new lamp or lighting fixture would provide additional illumination while making the space feel more defined. Need some fun artwork? Let your child create a collage or a nameplate for the wall or desktop. The more they make the space their own, the happier they’ll be to sit down to complete schoolwork.