Like it or not, Working From Home (WFH) is here to stay, and so is Home-Based Learning (HBL) – your family members are also your coworkers and classmates. So, whether you are thinking about redecorating your home to suit the new normal, or planning to build a new home that could accommodate extended WFH + HBL, here are some tips to make everything work for everyone. 

1. CREATE PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES

Workspace at home can’t always be a separate room, we know, so strive to have a defined space with clear boundaries instead. The point is to make it clear for everyone that the space serves a specific purpose.

This could be a simple workstation comprising a desk and a chair, or as fancy as a corner hidden by shelves or curtains or acoustic panels. The boundaries can transform throughout the day according to the schedule. 

Signage is a great idea to let everyone know that the space is in a “private” mode. A simple “busy” or “do not disturb” sign stuck to the wall will do. Parents can use this to establish boundaries, and so can the kids, with an added sense of importance.

2. INVOLVE EVERYONE IN THE DESIGN PROCESS

In designing a space, it’s always best to involve the primary users of that space in the process, so sit down not only with the adults, but also with your kids, and involve them in the design process.

They are both your coworkers and clients in this exercise. When they are happy with the space, they will use it appropriately and keep everything in order. 

Involving the children as active players in the design process instead of relegating them as passive subjects will cultivate a sense of ownership in them, making them proud stewards of the space. This shared parent and children study by The Scientist above has a combined aesthetic input from both.

 3. RETHINK THE FUNCTION OF THE SPACE

Most spaces in traditional homes have a single, specific use. But that’s the old normal. Flexibility has become one of the most important considerations in our domestic spaces today, which are expected to carry double duty now that most (or all) family members work and learn from the same location.

A corner in the living room with a nice display shelf may become the go-to place for zoom meetings or classes. The kitchen may double as a science lab. Some tables may be used as a work surface, but not others. 

Think of the domestic space as a coworking space. Which area can accommodate hotdesking? Which corner can be a quiet zone for calls and focus tasks? Which area is a no-work zone? These questions will reveal the full potential of your existing spaces.

4. POST A PUBLIC SCHEDULE

A printout of a schedule posted somewhere visible is helpful to keep the whole family clear on the plan for not only the shared space but also for breaks, meals, chores and other domestic routines. This schedule will limit overlap in the use of space or resources like internet bandwidth or shared computers. 

A writable surface, like this one above from Formica, is an excellent design element to host the family’s schedule. It also invites everyone to unleash their creativity.

5. INVEST IN THE RIGHT DESIGN ELEMENTS

Now that you’ve rethought, planned and envisioned the shared workspace that caters to everyone’s needs, it’s time to translate it into reality.

A good workspace needs four basic components: a work surface (usually a desk), a chair (best if it’s an ergonomic work chair), good lighting (both natural for daylight activity and artificial for nighttime work), and storage. 

DESIGN TIPS

Lighting

• Adequate natural light has been scientifically proven to increase work performance. To place the workspace near the window, get an operable blind to adjust the intensity of the lighting.

• Invest in a desk light or floor light with adequate lux for work. Choose one with several modes of lighting that is easily operated by small hands so your children can have control over their work environment. 

Storage

• Storage container with castors is a good idea for added flexibility.  

• Consider using pegboards and dowel or dahl rods to create flexible shelves that can accommodate almost anything from storage containers and books to stationery and supplies. The upper shelves should be designated for adult’s reach while the little ones can claim ownership of the lower ones. 

Work Surface

• Height-adjustable desks work great for postures and different users with different heights. 

• Counter or ledge work surface is a great substitute for a workstation that can accommodate both parents and children at the same time. Keep the width at a minimum of 60cm to provide adequate space.

Task Chair

• A dining chair may work as a work chair for a short time but it’s always best to invest in an ergonomic chair for everyone for its durability and long term effect on your posture. Choose ones with adjustable arms and back that can cater well to different users.

• Beanbags are a good idea for informal work or study format, especially for children. They are portable, comfortable and provide a variety of seating modes that prevent fatigue from sitting on the work chair.