“Hi Rowena, we’re well but just stuck at home a lot – luckily we have a beautiful home to be stuck with designed by Liquid!”…a recent message from a Liquid Interiors client.
If there is anything us humans are good at doing its adapting and evolving! That’s certainly what we’ve had to do that over the last year here in Hong Kong as we’ve been forced to work and study from home to avoid protests, tear gas, typhoons and now Corona virus. Many of us are also having to do this while also dealing with school suspensions and limited or no child-care.
This presents many challenges for our living spaces and means we have to adapt them to allow for work, luckily changes to technology and communication mean this is easier than it has been before.
To help out our fellow home-workers in Hong Kong we’ve put together some top tips on how to adapt your home spaces into productive workspaces for the new normal!
Practical Tips For Improving Your Work Space
In a tiny flat most of the time you don’t have the luxury of having a purely dedicated workspace. This space may be shared with an eating space, a bedroom, a storage room, playroom and sometimes all combined. The most important thing that you need for a productive workspace is focus.
1) Visual Focus
Clear off the desk space as much as possible. Put away things you don’t need, store the things around you in closed storage so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with clutter. Since many of us communicate through video calls it is also important to think about the visual focus of your camera view. You may need a secondary working position mainly for video calls with a clear backdrop and suitable lighting.
2) Natural Daylight
Far too many times I see people try to work in a dark space of their home, or even in a storage room and it is far less efficient than a place with natural daylight and a view to outside. If you are facing east and the sun then buy a sheer curtain thick enough to block out the heat and strong glare but still thin enough to allow light to pass through as well as some view of the outside.
3) Acoustic Privacy
If you have children or noisy distractions like construction happening upstairs, or someone watching TV nearby it will be hard to focus. If you can be in a separate room from noisy distractions with a closed door this is always best. If this is not possible all the time then try noise cancelling headphones with relaxing music to keep you focused for deep thinking work.
4) Pop Up Desk
If you have imagination and the right furniture then you can create desk space in places that are less obvious. For example, over bay windows, fold down from the wall, a shelf, pull out desk or have a hidden desk.
Tips to Improve Your Well-being While Working At Home
Aside from natural daylight it is important to have a good general light from the ceiling as well as a task light. There are now many more options for lights for both the ceiling and desk lamps that can change from cooler white light that can be used for concentration during the day for concentration to warmer light that is better for working in the evening. A warmer colour light in the evening will make it easier for your body to adjust and relax for an easier transition for restful sleep.
Materials that are natural or mimic natural materials can lower stress levels as well as having plants around. It’s best to not have plastic nearby that can off gas especially if it’s near a window all day as direct sunlight increases off-gassing of plastics. If you are buying new furniture buy Greenguard certified furniture or use a formaldehyde remover treatment and air it out before using it.
I remember the first interior design firm I worked at… every evening at 5pm my boss would light up a cigarette at his drafting table. Oh, how times have changed!
Good air quality can improve your productivity, concentration and creativity so is essential for a good workspace. To ensure you have good air quality in your home you must consider:
Dust & Particulates
At home, most HK flats have split type AC’s without heaters. During this time of the year you may find it cold or warm depending which direction your flat faces. If you are cold, then use an oil radiator as it will be less dry.
When taking showers make sure you are properly using your exhaust fans and when drying laundry indoors put it in a separated room with a dehumidifier and closed door. High humidity will feel less comfortable and breed mould. Clean and rectify any signs of mould.
To control CO2, open the window occasionally to bring in fresh air no matter what the temperature is outside. If the environment allows, keep your window open slightly. Unless your flat has a central air system that brings in fresh air, chances are that you are breathing unhealthy stale air which may make you feel sleepy and less productive.
Dust and pet dander collectors such as bookshelves, carpets, open storage bins, curtains and AC’s must be vacuumed regularly and deep cleaned with non-toxic cleaners. Once those things are done then you may consider an air purifier if you have allergies, for anti-viral protection or more comfort.
Make sure that your air filter has a 3-stage filter including a pre-filter, activated carbon filter to remove odours and a HEPA filter for particulates, VOC’s and particulates. Look for filtration of 99.97% of airborne particles.
If you feel that scents keep you focused, then try a small amount of natural essential oils in a mist diffuser for a short period of time or directly on your wrists or temples and stay away from burning candles and incense.
It is less necessary to have an expensive office chair and it is more important that your workstation is set up so that you have good posture and position. Starting from the bottom, your feet, knees and bottom must be in a 90 degree angle. If not, use a foot stool. Then, your keyboard must be closer to your bellybutton.
We hope that some of our design and well-being advice will help you to adapt your space at home for better working conditions. Or if you’re looking to renovate we can design it for you! We’re often asked to create multi-purpose work spaces in homes across Hong Kong and it’s something we love to include in a design; with smaller spaces every inch needs to work hard!
Wishing you all health and wellbeing in your homes and workplaces across Hong Kong and beyond.