Considering the ‘New’ Home Office
Societal trends are making this a must-have for many homeowners, but careful planning is the key to getting a space where you can be truly productive
Remote work arrangements have been on the upswing for a long time. Research firm Global Workplace Analytics figured in 2019 that there were 4.3 million telecommuters in the US, or about 3.2% of the workforce. That was before a pandemic-related lockdown. Now, with even more individuals and companies seeing this as a viable solution, those same researchers project that up to 30% of us will be working at home at least part-time by the end of next year.
It should be no surprise that this trend is elevating the home office from an amenity to a must-have. A new custom home is a chance to create an office that's functional and useful—a space you will look forward to stepping into each morning.
The home office is also a natural multitasker. Besides hosting your day job, it can offer the kids a quiet nook for doing school projects. It can even be laid out to double as a guest room.
Of course, those elements that make a good workspace are very personal. You can create an aesthetic that makes you more productive, organized and efficient than would ever be possible in a corporate cubicle. But you will be more likely to gain that productivity if you work with your builder to create an infrastructure that supports it.
For instance, while most people understand the importance of natural lighting, not all light is the same. North-facing windows provide diffuse light, while light from the east, south or west will vary by time of day. There's no right or wrong when it comes to window placement, but it's a good idea to consider your preference when planning the office.
While you obviously need plenty of electrical outlets, it's best to place them to minimize exposed cords. That means thinking through the location of the desk as well as of items like printers, scanners, floor lamps and TVs. You will also want to decide where to charge devices like phones, tablets and wireless headsets. If you don't like clutter, you can place electrical or USB outlets in a cabinet or drawer—some outlets are specifically made for in-drawer installation.
Then there's data. The office needs data connections for the TV and computer. When it comes to Wi-Fi, if the router will be in another part of the house, then running data wire to the office for a wireless access point will boost the signal. Some people also like having stereo speakers in walls or ceilings.
It can be helpful to collaborate with your builder on the office floor plan to make sure it can accommodate all the features you want. For instance, if you want to hang some favorite artwork on the wall, they can help you decide where to put it before locating those outlets and built-ins. And if you plan on doing a lot of video meetings, they can help you create a backdrop that reinforces what you want people to think about you, whether it's a wall of books or a painting that makes a bold statement.
The bottom line is that if you will be spending a lot of time in this space, you want to invest to make sure it's perfectly suited to your needs. You will be glad you did.
Q: Do we still need data wiring?
A: Despite ubiquitous Wi-Fi, data wiring still earns its keep. When TVs, games, computers and security systems are all competing for bandwidth, a wireless router can’t match the speed, stability and security of a hardwired network. The benefits you get from data wiring are well worth the small monetary investment.