How to turn that workspace at home into a conducive office space

Here are some ideas to create a professional work environment at home

We have spent more than half the year working from home and navigating the new normal, and will likely continue to do so going into next year.

In the recent years before the pandemic, there had already been a trend of infusing the comfort of home into the office environment, most notably through the design of furniture, which features softer finishes, generous proportions and greater flexibility.

A recent survey of 1,500 corporate employees in Singapore, Australia, China, India and Japan revealed as many as 60 per cent of those aged 35 to 49 and two-thirds of those aged below 35 say they missed the office, reported The Business Times.

One of the main reasons for this, as relayed by respondents in Singapore, was that they saw the office as a professional environment that allowed for a clear distinction between personal and professional lives.

At home, that distinction is elusive but not impossible to achieve.

One way is to do the reverse of the aforementioned furniture trend - borrowing some wisdom from office furniture brands and applying them at home.

Ms Angela Ng, Asia marketing manager at furniture company Vitra, said: "The home study will have to function as our offices and schools, at least for the time being.

"That brings with it a cognitive challenge: Finding focus in chaos. Rooms and daily routines have to be rethought to maximise productivity."

Here are some tips on how to create an optimum workspace from prominent office furniture brands.

Set the boundaries

Ideally, a workspace at home is a separate study or home office. But in reality, we are bound by constraints - space, budget and so on - to various degrees.

But setting a boundary is universally important, and it is best when this boundary is tangible, to provide the acoustics and privacy conducive for working and learning.

"Segregating spaces with acoustic screens is a great way to do this," said Ms Kate Clarke, sales manager at commercial interior finishes company Woven Image.

"They not only absorb sounds but also separate work from play."

These screens can be set up and packed away in a jiffy, which is handy if someone needs to clear the room for a Zoom yoga class just after a meeting.

For a more permanent solution, opt for modular acoustic panels for your wall. You will be surprised at how well some of the designs fit your home.

Get the all-important ergonomy

Ms Samantha Giam, product marketing director at Steelcase Asia Pacific, advocates a height-adjustable desk that allows change of posture throughout the day, paired with a task chair that supports these body movements.

"It will also be valuable that these furniture pieces are highly customisable so they integrate well into our living space."

The task chair - the ultimate machine for sitting - is the "most essential piece" in a home office.

Ms Shauna Stewart, market manager of Singapore and Malaysia at German office furniture brand Wilkhahn, agreed: "For a chair to be considered ergonomic, it must have four adjustable features: Height, tilting mechanism, armrest and lumbar support, so that the chair can be tuned to its user's natural body movement."

These fatigue-reducing features are what justify the price tags, so invest wisely.

Mr Yuki Kanamori, deputy editor-in-chief at Japanese workplace publication Worksight and research coordinator at furniture brand Kokuyo, said: "Adjusted at the right height and position, the armrests alone support a total of 16 per cent of the user's body weight. This way, they reduce the strain on our elbows and wrists."

Optimise the intangibles

A conducive environment is made not just with tangible design elements but also intangible ones like air and light.

"Locate a place within your home that gives you plenty of natural light and good ventilation. Decorate with some plants if possible, to help lighten the mood while working," Mr Yuki said, alluding to the study that biophilia (connection to nature) can help boost our wellness, which in turn will increase productivity.

After sundown, make sure you have adequate artificial lighting that closely mimics natural daylight to reduce the strain on your eyes from staring at your computer screen.

This article was first published in Home & Decor Singapore (