Designers, they’re just like us! But they give legit useful tips for your working from home set-up and their prediction for the way we work/live in the future. Here they are in their own words.
Dennis Cheok – Upstairs_
The best part of WFH? Being always comfortable. The worst? Also being always comfortable. It’s important to draw the line and establish boundaries with yourself, and with the ones we live with. I love that my family now knows my day-to-day routines (and also the curveballs thrown my way on a daily basis). It gives me strength and comfort to be in their company, and I find myself more grounded during these unprecedented and challenging times.
I primarily work off a bulky iMac, and “base camp” for me is the “reading room” in my HDB apartment. This is where I share table space with my eight-year-old, and we made it a rule not to disrupt each other’s attention whenever our headphones are on. It’s usually bright and airy, and we’re surrounded by plants. Depending the tasks involved, and my mood at the particular moment, I might close off the blinds, dim down the lights, and put music on to allow myself focus and calm.
Work also happens over iPhone, especially for quick communications. This frees me to roam around the apartment and park myself on the sofa, at the dining table, or basically wherever that makes sense for me.
My personal favourite spot to reflect, unpack my thoughts and breathe is in the most utilitarian space in the home – the laundry yard. The spaces we have can perform a multitude of functions, when we let ourselves imagine their potential.
Softer elements, like music, greenery, or just simply a lack of accumulated clutter, are often overlooked. I find that these elements can be much more powerful than the actual physical setup, and are also much more easily available without having to incur costs nor time; just mindfulness, care, and constant reminders to self.
The entire world is now a click or two away. On the other hand, physical space will also evolve to perform better. Nothing can ever replace interpersonal connections, and physical space is where some of the true magic can, and will, happen. I’m so excited for the day when we can all finally come out to celebrate, but till then, there’s always zoom parties.
Goy Zhenru – Goy Architects
Goy Architects’ data and workflow has been fully cloud-based, which allows us to work collaboratively remotely – our team is based in Singapore, Chiangmai and Bali. The transition from my office to home has been relatively smooth as my office hardware is technically just a notebook.
We live in an apartment together with two other working professionals. Our living room is our headquarters nowadays. Two work desks are set up in the dining area, and my work desk is set up in the living area, next to a very tempting daybed and an open garden terrace.
Good lighting is the number one priority for a home office. A functional working space would require approx 500 lux. On average our home settings would be approx 250-300 lux. Working in an area with insufficient lighting makes one moody and sluggish.
If having permanent lighting fixtures installed is not possible, do invest in a floor or desk lamps – great if they have up down lighting features so that you can have both ambient and task lighting.
The floor lamp that I’m currently using is from Occhio Sento Lettura, it has a CRI (colour rendering index) of 97 that closely mimics the visible light spectrum of the sunlight (natural daylight is CRI 100). Having good lighting puts you in a good mood and also makes you look good when you are having conference calls with your clients!
Chan Chia Gunawan – Studio Jia
We founded Studio Jia as home studio in 2013 so we have some mileage on WFH. During our seven years in the business we have addressed the problem of productivity, space limitation and flexibility to employ people.
It would be ideal to allocate a dedicated room for the home office. This not only to avoid clutter to the rest of our home area but also to give some privacy and the ability to concentrate better during the dedicated working hours.
This may be more specifically for professionals who have children at home.
In Studio Jia’s current set up, we had not have the luck to have this dedicated room yet. The best and worst parts of WFH are two sides of the same coin. On one side, you can see you family every day and enjoy your time with them. On the other side, it makes it challenging to have a continuity and long stretch of concentration when you are working. Sometimes I compensate by working later at night after the children are asleep.
Our dining table doubles as a meeting space on day time. Our own bathroom and kitchen also do double duty as show bathroom and kitchen.
This difficult time has definitely introduces WFH for a lot of professional out there. WFH would minimise the business expenditure significantly for small business set up such as ours.
The biggest pitfall of working from home is the failure to separate the comfort of home – every day might feel like a holiday – from the necessary productivity. We need to be more disciplined to manage ourselves, deadlines and deliverables in a blurred boundary between workspace and family space.
In my opinion, WFH would be a permanent future set up for many small businesses and professionals out there, and the set up will only be getting more sophisticated with more advanced communication tools.
Quck Zhong Yi – Asolidplan
Working from home is nothing new: freelancers, especially stay-at-home parents, have been working from home for a very long time. The rest of us are now starting to learn from them: like the need to change out of one’s pyjamas (including putting on underwear!), do up one’s face and hair, having a routine, etc.
My personal discovery is that physical acts to convert the space from home to work use – like shifting furniture, also help to reinforce the ritual. For those of us who have a movable desk against the wall, I suggest a daily routine of moving the desk out in the morning, sitting between the desk and the wall, to give yourself a useful backdrop, and to create the daily ritual, for work-life balance.
I’m privileged enough to be living with my husband in a two-bedroom apartment, so we have more than enough space for the two of us. Our usual teleworking setup is at this long communal table. The table space is shared: for working, baking, dining. The need to clear the table from one activity to the next helps to compartmentalise our time.
If the home office space has little or no view, consider adding plants and mirrors. The biophilic benefits of plants need no explanation. As for mirrors, they act as the next best substitutes for real windows: focusing on farther views through the mirror helps to relax eye muscles.
With teleworking being full-time now, we’ve also figured out alternative spots at home for videoconferencing. We recently realised an old console table could double up as a small desk and decided to use place it at the living lounge as an alternative workspace. The shelves behind provide a good backdrop for videoconferencing while the abundant natural light energises us. This setup blocks the living space, which is fine for us, as it forces us to transition into working mode. In the evening, we shift the table away to get back our living lounge.
For videoconferencing, a good backdrop is important, especially if we don’t want a “BBC Dad” moment. In our small spaces, we tend to place our desks against the wall, leaving the background open to all possibilities of video-bombing.
For families sharing a study, I’d suggest considering a large table in the centre of the space instead of desks against the wall. It gives each family member a personal space (table in front, wall/shelves at the back) and provides opportunities for conversation.
After this episode, I believe we’ll see the many benefits of teleworking and less commuting. Perhaps we would see more shared working spaces in apartment complexes, more study corners and rooms in residential design.
While some observers see this period as an end of globalisation, I hope that international collaboration would increase after this, as online collaboration tools become better and more ingrained in our working culture.
Leong Hon Kit – Wynk Collaborative
It’s important to understand your own work habits, and set up a space that fits those habits. For most people who work from a computer, you really only need a comfortable chair and table.
I recommend people try to designate certain areas at home for work, so that you are able to “end the work day” and walk away, and not let work life consume your home life.
The usual spot I have for working at home is the table that I have in my bedroom. The setup is simple with just my laptop. I don’t have a printer, so I try to be paperless as much as I can. I sometimes move over to my dining table to work just for a change of environment and to have a different mindspace.
On a personal note, I find that I end up cleaning the house more often when I work from home, doing bits of household chores in between bouts of work, perhaps as a replacement for the other distractions that I normally have in the office.
I usually can’t sit still in one spot for too long, so I do move between my desk and my dining table. And I keep my kitchen well stocked so I am not distracted by a trip to the supermarket for drinks and snacks.
I predict that many of the online communication channels and project management tools that people picking up during period will continue to be utilised once normal work arrangements resume. And many will come out of this period with greater insight of how to pare down unnecessary practices and communications that have been done previously.
Si Jian Xin – Wynk Collaborative
The best part of WFH has to be the time saved from travelling. Plus, your toilet is as clean as you want it to be! The downside has to be the increased distractions and tasks to complete in between work commitments.
To minimise disruptions, work areas should have some flexibility of being separated, at least acoustically, from other areas of the house when required. Finding a chair which is comfortable for long sitting hours would also be something I’d consider important as I often stay rooted to a spot.
I have my laptop, mobile phone (that also doubles as my scanner) by my side and some pen and paper for quick sketches. Working in common areas of the house often doesn’t work so well for me even though I find myself using the living room quite frequently because I do not have enough table space elsewhere.
The importance of face to face communication is something we usually take for granted. But at the same time, I’m glad that we are in an age whereby telecommunications is seamless in disseminating information. However, the sense of collective belonging to an office space and its immediate vicinity is something that cannot be bridged by current technology and that is something that I miss.
As people adapt to functioning in smaller work groups, organisations may opt for to take up more satellite work spaces as opposed to large open plan offices.
There will also be more flexibility for employees to work from home. At this juncture, it is also good to consider the notion of privacy and its context within the sanctity of a home, as the boundaries between areas where work and rest take place become increasingly blurred.
Cherin Tan – Laank
I’m on my laptop so it’s easy for me to be anywhere around the house. These days, my colleagues at home are two cats, my husband and a pile of laundry that’s staring at me.
My advice for working from home is: wake up early, work efficiently and productively, and stop working when you’re supposed to. This is so you can distinguish work from play and take the opportunity to enjoy the time you have on hand.
Most days I’m at my coffee table, being comfortable sitting on the floor; but for Zoom calls, I’m always at the dining table with a decent backdrop to appeal to the client.
For me, getting to stay home is a luxury and i have been enjoying the quiet and personal time.
The best part of WFH is I’m actually more productive because there are fewer interruptions. You’re also being forced to be more direct and clearer than ever when it comes to team and work management. I also get to save on travel time and have gained more hours on hand – that means I get time to have some fun in the kitchen and garden.
We are now forced to ask ourselves: what is the new normal for us? You would also come to realise you really don’t need much. Perhaps, at the end of the day, we don’t need a physical office space. This is a good test to evaluate our processes, what are the necessities we need to operate efficiently and build a resilient team.