Surviving pandemic squeeze: Tips to design a family-shared workspace
Set boundaries and give due attention to the four basic elements every workspace needs
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 co-workers and classmates.
So whether you are thinking about redecorating your abode to suit the new normal or planning to design a new home that can accommodate extended WFH and HBL, here are some tips to make everything work for everyone.
CREATE PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES
A workspace at home cannot always be a separate room, so strive to have a space with defined 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, curtains or acoustic panels.
The boundaries can transform throughout the day according to the family's schedule.
Also, signage is a great idea to let everyone know 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.
INVOLVE EVERYONE IN THE DESIGN PROCESS
In designing a space, it is 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 co-workers 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.
RETHINK THE FUNCTION OF SPACES
Most spaces in traditional homes have a single, specific use. But that is the old normal.
Flexibility has become one of the most important considerations in today's domestic spaces, which are expected to carry double duty now that most, if not 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 co-working 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.
POST A PUBLIC SCHEDULE
A printout of the schedule posted somewhere visible helps keep the whole family clear on the plan for not only the shared space but for breaks, meals, chores and other domestic routines.
This schedule will limit overlap in the use of spaces or resources like Internet bandwidth or shared computers.
A writable surface is an excellent design element to host the family's schedule. It also invites everyone to unleash their creativity.
INVEST IN THE RIGHT DESIGN ELEMENTS
Now that you have rethought, planned and envisioned the shared workspace that caters to everyone's needs, it is time to turn it into reality.
A good workspace needs four basic components: A work surface (usually a desk), a chair (best if it is an ergonomic work chair), good lighting (both natural for daylight activity and artificial for night-time work) and storage.
• 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. Choose one with several modes of lighting that is easily operated by small hands so your children can have control over their work environment.
• A storage container with castors is a good idea for added flexibility.
• Consider using pegboards and dowel s 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 an adult's reach while the little ones can claim ownership of the lower ones.
• Height-adjustable desks work great for postures and different users with different heights.
• A 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.
• A dining chair may work as a work chair for a short time but it is always best to invest in an ergonomic chair for everyone for its durability and long-term effects on your posture. Choose those with adjustable arms and back that can cater to different users.
• Beanbags are great for an 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.
This article was first published in Home & Decor Singapore (homeanddecor.com.sg).