Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Location key to home office

Natural light, minimal distraction key

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Working from home is definitely a growing trend. According to Statistics Canada, more than one in five university-graduate employees works at home. While a conference call from your sofa may sound ideal, working in the same place you relax and play can be less than picture-perfect. But designing a home office doesn't need to be complicated. Follow these pointers to ensure you can be as productive at home as you are in an office building.

Location, location, location

Interior designer Ellen Lee of Ottawa says designing a perfect home office begins with finding the ideal location. If the majority of your working time is spent at home, the location of your office can either spell success or disaster. Lee recommends finding a dedicated workspace away from the main traffic areas of the home. "In the basement, off the sunroom, someplace where it's not really part of the main thoroughfare of the home," she says.

Separating work from family space was one of the challenges that caused writer Laura Byrne Paquet and her trivia-columnist husband, Paul Paquet, to move from their home in Ottawa.

"Paul's office was in what would have been the dining room," she says. When they moved into their semi-detached home in another city neighbourhood, they were struck by the amount of light that entered what was originally set up as the master bedroom -- a large room stretching the width of the home with two south-facing windows.

"Our (home-office) alternatives were bedrooms that were small, dark and faced north. We wanted (our workspace) to be where it's bright and cheery," says Byrne Paquet. The master became the office for both of them.

Minimize distractions

While the couple had separate offices in their former home, combining them into one large space in their new house made them realize they'd have to find a way to minimize distractions.

Placing their desks in the middle of the room facing each other could have been cause for distraction were it not for the credenza on top of Paquet's desk.

"We actually have to work to see each other, which is good because otherwise we'd be like the kids in the back of the classroom chatting all day," says Byrne Paquet. Good-quality headphones also help each of them to focus on the task at hand.

Even if you don't share a workspace, getting distracted from noise in other parts of the home is a common complaint from stay-at-home workers. Lee says while locating the office away from the home's main traffic areas is key to limiting distraction, she recommends adding extra insulation and a solid-core door to keep noise out. Using soft furnishings such as carpets, area rugs and curtains can also help to contain sound.

Paint to inspire

While there have been plenty of studies that show certain colours such as green and red can inspire creativity, Lee says the Paquets' office has something going for it that's more important than colour.

"Natural daylight is better than any colour you can put in a room," she says. Natural light can enhance mood and improve productivity and creativity. Take advantage of natural light by positioning the desk near a window.

Light it up

Using multiple sources of lighting creates a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, making the room a place you want to spend time in. Layer overhead lighting with ambient lighting through floor lamps or cabinet lighting as well as task lighting on a work surface placed in front, not behind you. "You don't want to be working in your shadow," she says.

Clean up clutter

"Clutter is the biggest problem I find with home offices," says Lee. Byrne Paquet agrees, saying her office often becomes a dumping ground for everything that doesn't have a place in the rest of the home.

"Even though we've got seven bookshelves and a file cabinet, we've still got bankers boxes everywhere and plastic file drawers," she says.

Since the office is likely the one place that requires the ability to focus, Lee recommends finding storage solutions throughout the home so non-work-related items don't end up cluttering the office environment.

"If there's a lot of clutter, it provides a distraction."

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2013 F21

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