Work In Style

BY CATHY CASSATA ON MARCH 2ND, 2016

For many, working from home sounds like a dream come true, but not having to leave the house to do business comes with its own set of challenges. And those challenges begin with creating the best workspace possible. Most people strive to create a calm and distraction-free home office, but entrepreneurial and creative work requires a unique type of space.

Contrary to popular belief, refined and polished environments are prohibitive in terms of getting people to be productive, says Scott Witthoft, one of the authors of “Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration” (Wiley, 2012) and co-director of the Environments Collaborative at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.

“This is the truth in conference rooms where you’re asking people to come up with ideas, yet they’re sitting around a $40,000 table made of mahogany,” Witthoft says. He believes that people are better off treating their workspaces as workshops where they are willing to experiment and get messy.

Get Flexible

As obvious as it sounds, defining enough space for the work area should be a priority. “People tend to think of a home work space as something that’s at the scale of supporting a laptop, but creative space requires more room than that,” says Scott Doorley, the other co-director of the Environments Collaborative at Stanford and Witthoft’s co-author of “Make Space.”

Doorley says that people who work at home should allow more room than they think they need. The space should easily expand and contract.

“You might literally have your dining room table as your office, but you want to be able to clean it off and have a nice dinner and then get back to work right after,” he says.

He suggests hanging removable boards or including large shelves to store work in progress. “You can also store a corner table in the room to pull out to make your desk double sized and then easily put away without having to take anything off it,” he adds.

Go Vertical

Most entrepreneurs want to see overnight success, but rapid expansion means business owners need to get creative with space use.

PJ Jonas, owner of Goatmilkstuff.com, makes all-natural soap out of goat milk from her Indiana-based farm home. In the more than six years she’s been conducting business, the company has sold hundreds of thousands of bars of soap worldwide, and she had to keep up with orders without destroying the house.

“As we grew rapidly, there were many nights when we had picnic dinners on our floor because our kitchen table was covered in soap products,” she says.

Jonas decided to make use of all the vertical space in her home. “We didn’t just look at the floor space or where we could put a desk or table, but anywhere we could put shelving and cabinets up high to make use of all that wall space was so helpful,” she says.

They used closets to store soap and installed racks above all their windows to keep materials and equipment.

Witthoft says the Jonas family got it right. “So often, people think the flat horizontal square footage of a desk or table is the extent of their work space when in reality all of the walls surrounding a desk and volume overhead have the opportunity to be used for creative work.”

Get Away from the Screen

With adequate space, Doorley says, a person has more room to work outside the computer. “If you have enough space to spread out and work on paper, you can sketch out early ideas more quickly than if you’re doing it in, say, PowerPoint. Once you start using a computer tool, you start to get bound by the constraints of that tool,” he says.

While the computer is certainly multifunctional and useful, keep more materials on hand to experiment with, Doorley suggests.

Stay inspired by displaying creative pieces of art, other’s work or your own work that makes you proud.

Time away from the computer can also have a rejuvenating effect. To escape the constraints of a home office, Witthoft says to consider contrast. “If you think about how a home work space smells, looks or sounds at any given time, mindfully think about what would be the opposite and go to that place,” he says.

 

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