As many of us are expecting to work from home more often, even after lockdown eases, now is the time to think about getting properly set up with a comfortable and productive working space.
The first thing to decide is where to put it. Think about the space you’ve got and what your requirements are. If you need to keep an eye on children while working, converting the space under the stairs into an office nook close to family areas could be ideal. Some might consider converting a spare bedroom, but it is worth remembering that when you sell, the more bedrooms the better. If you have the space and the budget, you could convert the garage or build an office in the garden.
Wherever you decide to set up your working hub, there are a number of functional aspects to consider.
Put your desk where you want it, not just where the nearest power point is. Avoid extension leads and trailing cables by having new power points installed where you need them. Updated wall sockets with USB charging ports are ideal for the home office and keeping all your devices charged up. Read our guide to electrical safety in the home.
Good lighting is essential for a productive and enjoyable working environment. If natural light is limited, new LED lighting can be effective at creating a similar effect. Overhead lighting can be repositioned and pendant light fittings can give a softer feel. If you’re lucky enough to have good natural light, window dressings such as shutters are a good option for avoiding glare.
Many of us can’t dedicate an entire room to being an office, but you can hide the things you don’t want to look at and make sure the rest of the space is clutter free with custom built in storage. Wall storage such as shelves and notice boards will keep surfaces clear and help you stay organised by displaying what you need. Wall mounted fold-away desks are another great option if space is really tight.
If noisy neighbours or family life is making it difficult to focus, there are a few options depending on how bad the problem is.
If the noise is coming from next door, it might be worth having the party walls checked by an insulation specialist. Missing insulation in the cavity between yourself and them can create an echo chamber, making things a lot louder than they need to be. If this is the case you could look to have that cavity filled, but as it is a party wall you will want to discuss this with them, and possibly share the cost.
Another option would be for a conversion specialist to stud your adjoining walls, insulate and re-plasterboard. This will eat into your space slightly, but it may be worth it if the problem is bad. Specialist acoustic plasterboard can reduce the sound transfer between rooms, but will have less effect than the more heavy duty options such as insulation.
Soft furnishings can also help to absorb sound so if you have hard flooring, you may want to consider carpet.
If you’re considering an outhouse in the garden, there are plenty of off-the peg products, but many are little more than sheds. A contractor can build you a bespoke design, which will give you more control, particularly with features such as bi-fold doors, proper insulation, heating and electricity.
Think about how much space you’ve got and your design preferences, such as a flat roof or pitched one, and whether you prefer brick to timber. It is advisable to talk to a conversions or extensions specialist early on, to get a handle on any building regulations implications and planning, and to explore options. Try to work within permitted development rights if you can, to minimise red tape.
It might seem like a luxury, but if your garden office is good quality it will be an asset to your home. With a timber summer house, you probably won’t make your money back, but a well built and insulated structure can add up to five per cent to your home’s value. Read MyBuilder trade expert Carl Goulding's advice for creating the ultimate garden office.