A new way of life brings new challenges within every home, the first one being we are now nearly all working from home as well as homeschooling our children at various levels. So although the challenges that this brings us is specific to each family; the one we all experience is how we can re-organise our home and minds to accommodate all the varying needs throughout the day - a quiet room for meetings or calls, a school classroom and a home office; whilst not forgetting the overlying requirement for organisation, planning and experiencing much-needed downtime.
From a design perspective, we have always designed our kitchens and bathrooms for clients with varying areas to provide space for specific family tasks – whether that is a drink and juice station in the kitchen or a place to only store dirty crockery or to have an area in the bathroom for clients with mobility problems or simply a Zen environment for relaxing in after a busy day.
When we work with our business customers, space has also come into the design mindset – what does each member of a team need on an individual basis and how does the space allow for this? Or when the team comes together as a collective how are they accommodated in one space, that may also need to double up at the end of the day to host clients or provide a quiet space for smaller meetings?
With the current situation putting us all into a state of confusion and worry we thought we might share some of our design expertise and experience to help you recreate useful and managed spaces within your home to help ‘separate’ your family during work and school time, but also keep you feeling ‘connected’. As well as some other tips we are all improving on to design our day around everyone’s needs within our own homes.
Whilst you may already have a dedicated home office, you may now need to double it up as a classroom and share your normally quiet and isolated space with children, maybe consider the following ideas:-
- Add an extension to your current desk or an extra desk, if space allows, to allow one child per time to come in and work alongside you, figure out the timetable so you may not all be in there at the same time, giving you all much-needed solitude and focus when needed.
- Keep it simple – If you have space for more than one person in the room, maybe use a nice curtain or piece of material to hang between desks for some privacy during the day.
- Keep things vertical – those with smaller rooms or even those in flats may find that finding more space is very challenging, so this is where going vertical comes into play. Using the walls to have clipboards for notes, homework, timetables is very helpful. Plants that are high and tall rather than wide help to create space for more desks but keep a clean air feel to the room. Use stacking shelves on desks to keep all the work and homework in, one divider for each family member.
- Declutter – whilst we cannot make massive changes to our spaces that we are used to, a declutter will provide more room for other family members as well as more plants and storage areas for the influx of more PC’s, documents and supplies.
Whilst most of us would not really want our children to work in their bedroom other than an hour of homework each night, with these current living conditions it may become the temporary norm, here are a few ideas to help: -
- Focus on an area within each bedroom to make or enhance a desk area. Put some personal touches on there such as a plant or picture to make the area inviting, then rotate around if need be to accommodate multiple family members.
- Use vertical corkboards to create a useful pinboard for weekly and daily reminders to be pinned as well as homework sheets and gold stars!
- If the current desk does not have drawers, use baskets and stack them underneath to store exercise books and arts and craft materials etc. to give them an organised storage place.
- Have rules to these areas, to appreciate and respect each other’s “Workspace” – so suggest that they do not leave toys and things on each other’s desks, and ensure that if someone is working they ask politely if someone can help them and not expect to play in a room where a work desk is in.
- Try and position desks by natural light as much as possible – not only is this better for their eyes as the sun moves around a house but gives them some much needed Vitamin D as well as a view to look at rather than a wall.
- And lastly, maybe the best option is to convert a spare bedroom into the main office for you all so you can keep it clutter-free and shut the door on it during breaks, lunchtime and at the end of the day – a really important part of compartmentalizing your day during this lockdown.
The Kitchen / Dining Area
Regardless of how big or small your house is, the kitchen may end up being the only usable area of the house where you can use a desk, table or island to “set up” the office and school desk. If this is the case, do ensure you have some baskets or containers for each person to keep all their items in – laptop, books, pencils and pens etc.
This means when there is time for a break or lunch you can easily clear the work side of the day away for a dedicated amount of time and focus on just ‘being you’ with your partner or family. Or if you have younger children, they can move their Primary school requirements around the house with ease to be with parents in different rooms.
It makes for more work this way but having separated and dedicated time during the day for each activity is important to manage moving forwards.
From experience, we do feel that the lounge should be the last area you consider to use as the “Workspace”, and we say this because it ends up being the only room in the house you can all escape to where there are no laptops, timetables, cooking equipment or school books around to distract you from the important times to relax. It stops you from seeing something that may get you thinking about work or school stress. If this self-isolation continues it becomes more and more important to separate your days out to give you and your daily much-needed breathing room and time to focus on Mindful activities as well as just “slob out in front of the TV”
The last two areas to consider if you are struggling for space in your home is to consider temporarily organizing the garage or a summer house into an office, make sure you focus here on lighting, plants and heat!
Some non-space ideas to help you organize and stay sane!
- Set expectations – who needs to do what work and when? When can Mum and Dad not be interrupted (on a call or conference) and when can you book in the breaks and lunchtimes so you all get much needed time together to have fun, eat and be together?
- Set up a whiteboard or paper in your kitchen to show clearly everyone’s timetables, meetings and lessons. We revise ours each week and take each day as it comes and adjust where we need to. It’s often nice to sit over breakfast and “prepare” for the day ahead.
- Do not break the bank trying to achieve any of these ideas, work with what you have in the house and how much patience or time you have to rearrange – the Easter holidays are the perfect time to think all these ideas through and try them out.
- Involve children more than ever in keeping rooms and bedrooms neat and tidy so there are no distractions during the day – it keeps the whole household focused and allows for that work/school balance to occur with less stress during work hours.
- Make sure when you finish breakfast you all gather what you need for the day so there are not a run of questions which can add to stress levels and a later start to your timetable. Give children a tick list to run through each day.
We hope you can find a few ideas in here to help with setting up a multi-person household during the coming weeks, we would love to see pictures of anything you may implement and whether it worked or not.
The Team at Sapphire