My new home office

PICT0022 Sam asked me a couple of weeks ago to blog about my new Office. I’ve been resisting because I wanted to spend at least a month working in it before I felt ready to really comment on how it’s changed my life.  Seems a bit of a bold statement “changed my life” but I don’t think I’m overstating it.

I’ve always been very focussed on workspace design, I can remember over 20 years ago convincing my boss to radically change our office around and – inspired by the book peopleware – I’ve been working to improve the working environment of my teams every few years since then.  I’ve previously written about the great opportunity I’ve had in the past to design a couple of offices from a pretty blank sheet of paper and I think we did a pretty good job and I learned a lot. 

Last year though was the first time I’ve ever designed a workspace for myself and it’s been great fun.  I started with these objectives in mind.

  1. I wanted a space that I felt was my own, the rest of the family, friends and colleagues would be very welcome to visit but it would be on my terms and I wouldn’t be storing any of their stuff.
  2. I wanted a space that allowed me to seamlessly and easily transition from work to play to exercise.  I suffer from a rare form of arthritis and low intensity, varied but long days are a must for me.  The ability to work for an hour, chill for 20 minutes, work for another 30 then exercise for 20 suits me perfectly.
  3. I wanted to feel as relaxed as possible throughout the day, so the space had to feel less like and office and more like a holiday home.
  4. I suffer a little from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I wanted as much light as possible
  5. I wanted to be able to able to work in a range of different positions, seated, standing, exercise bike, sofa, to keep my joints and muscles working and moving and it’s just more fun
  6. Collaboration and team working are important to me so I wanted to be able to have effective virtual and physical meetings

This is how it turned out:

  1. I decided to build a conservatory, it was a pretty cheap option, addressed the SAD issues, has been plenty warm enough through a cold January with mostly no heat required during the day and radiators at night.  I’ve invested in window blinds that have been essential and have worked well.  I’m waiting to see how many days this year I’m driven out of the room due to lack of roof blinds in the summer.  Roof blinds are expensive and the top investment priority right now is to turn our old shared office into a great lifestyle space for Debbie, and that’s where I will retreat to on hot summer days as well.
  2. PICT0023 I’ve got a huge glass wall (between conservatory and lounge) that has roller blinds behind it to turn it into a massive whiteboard, it also works great for tacking up A3 slides that a group of people can scribble on together.  I have a Bluetooth eBeam (electronic whiteboard) that suckers onto the glass for virtual meetings.
  3. I’ve got a 4 seat sofa that I retreat to whenever I’m on the phone, I just love sitting back and looking up at the clouds on those long conference calls, with my Tablet PC on my lap when I need it.  I’ve a wireless DECT headset that lets me move freely around the whole house (thanks to a repeater). 
  4. PICT0026 From the sofa I can watch conference DVDs and downloads, PowerPoint presentations etc on my 27” Dell high res display which is attached to a media centre PC so I get to watch TV as well.  I’ve previously struggled to watch more than 20 minutes of video on a computer, but the big screen “TV like” experience from the sofa makes hours at a time practical.  The big screen is great for watching while doing the ironing as well.
  5. I’ve got an exercise bike and it’s perfectly positioned for watching the big screen too.
  6. PICT0016 I’ve got all my favourite reference books and books i’d like to read – right there in full view to remind me not to buy any more for a while and hopefully to inspire me to chill out and read for at least 30 minutes a day.
  7. Previously I’ve been a dedicated user of 3 displays and It’s still a great setup, but this time around I decided to go for 2 screens, one 27” 1900*1200 and the other 1280*1024.  I’ve loved the extra screen real estate from the large screen and as I’ve already mentioned it’s enabled the “work from the sofa” scenario, further helped by a wireless media centre keyboard and remote.
  8. I don’t have a desk chair right now, I’m loving using a – cheap – exercise ball.  It’s great fun and I can feel it strengthening my back already.

From a green perspective it’s mixed:

  1. It’s turned the lounge from the coldest room in the house into the warmest, and the conservatory keeps warm with a couple of small radiators with the thermostatic valves cranked down
  2. All the lights are ultra low power LEDs or fluorescents
  3. When I suspend my desktop PC, all the displays and peripherals auto power off
  4. The blinds and glass are both coated to keep heat inside in winter and out in summer

The end result:

  1. PICT0012 I’m able to work for longer
  2. I feel much more relaxed
  3. I feel more effective
  4. I’m having a lot more meetings at home, and we’ve had a great Carvery restaurant open just on the sea front that’s perfect for business lunches
  5. It’s much nicer to be able to work and interact (through the glass) with the kids without being disturbed and for them to be able to see when I’m disturbable and pop in for a chat or a hug
  6. Debbie and I are having more lunches together
  7. I enjoy doing the ironing
  8. I’m watching more TV – perhaps the only negative
  9. I’m getting more exercise
  10. When I’m not working we have a great family room
  11. The Sofa is actually a sofa bed, so we have a guest room and the girls love having sleepovers there and watching the stars
  12. It’s definitely been a worthwhile investment

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing! You’ve incorporated quite a few good ideas into your new space. I’m sure many home workers would envy all of the daylight you have coming into your room. Under bright sunlight, can you still make out the LCD displays okay? I have one of those exercise balls as well and you’ve inspired me to try substituting my office chair with the ball (at least for a bit). My own home office project is currently on temporary hold pending additional resources, but I do plan to resume work soon. I’ll plan to blog about it and include some video. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Steve Richards says:

    Hi Chase

    The main reason for choosing the Dell display was that it is ultra-bright, to date I’ve had no problems at all seeing it even on sunny days, although i’ve upped the brightness to max a few times.


  3. Samantha Sheppard says:

    Thanks Steve, for sharing your work environment ideas. We have one home project this year and that is to convert the garage into my office. After almost 3 years of working in a small space and Lucy starting school it is more and more apparant that I need somewhere to close the door on the house but not be too far away for others to come and join me if they like. You have given me lots of things to think about, especially the factor of natural light.

  4. Lemay says:

    Hi Steve;

    great post on home office- hey, I could work there! nice design. Light is number one priority, I agree.

    btw, liked your post from 2006 about “A whole new mind”, but oddly the mind maps bleed into the right side bars. I wanted to link to this on my blog, but hoping you can figure out the problem and remedy it.

    keep blogging!

    Lemay Henderson

  5. INGAAS says:

    ,:. I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information ‘,~

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