Many Americans feel working from home would be a dream job, and more than one-third are already living that dream; 37 percent of U.S. workers telecommute, according to Gallup. However, unless you’re a full-time telecommuter or an entrepreneur running a business from your home, it may be hard to justify dedicating an entire room in your house for home office space.
Today’s home offices must be able to multi-task as efficiently and effectively as the people who work in them — and that’s something you should keep in mind when making renovation plans.
“We see fewer and fewer buyers requiring a dedicated home office when setting their search criteria for buying a new home,” writes Gwen Daubenmeyer, a real estate professional who recently blogged about home offices on the Integrity Real Estate Team blog. Daubenmeyer notes that laptops, cloud storage and online filing services have made it possible to work from virtually any room in the house, so it’s no longer necessary to have a room dedicated solely as office space.
Instead of turning that spare bedroom into a space strictly used for work, why not consider improvements that will help the room multi-task? With a few smart upgrades, spaces such as attics, basements, spare bedrooms and other smaller areas can serve as multi-functional spaces for work, play, working out and socializing.
Tips for multi-tasking offices
* Good lighting is essential for any home office, but if you want to avoid the institutional look of traditional office lights, consider increasing the amount of natural light that enters your multi-purpose office space. Adding Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights, like those from Velux America, is a cost-effective way to bring natural light, as well as passive ventilation, into any home office space. Solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns enhance the blended decor of a multi-use room, while allowing you to control the amount of light entering the room with a programmable touchpad remote control. Plus, a 30 percent federal tax credit is available to homeowners on solar-powered skylights, blinds and installation costs. Roof windows, which are very similar to skylights but are in-reach and operated by hand, are another popular option, especially in attics. For home offices without direct roof access, a Sun Tunnel tubular skylight with an optional light kit can provide light 24/7. Visit www.whyskylights.com to learn more.
* Divide the room visually to define functional areas. You can do this in several ways, including using a folding screen to partition off the room’s work area, or hanging curtains to conceal lesser-used sections of the room when they’re not in use. You can also use the room’s layout to create a natural flow. For example, tuck a desk and shelving into an attic dormer area as office space.
* Many home offices need to double as a guest bedroom. If working beside an inviting bed all day makes it difficult to resist the temptation of a nap, consider alternative bed styles. A daybed can be dressed up with pillows to serve as a sofa where you can comfortably read reports. Or, completely hide the sleeping area by adding a Murphy bed to available wall space.
* Make it easy to rearrange furnishings in the room by putting your desk on coasters just like your office chair. Whenever you need the room to function as a workout space, home theater or social center, just roll the office furniture out of the way.
* If you’re turning a bedroom into a multi-purpose office, no one should need the closet for hanging clothes. Instead, convert the closet into a cozy spot for a workspace. You can place a small desk inside, or hang wide shelving that can function as a workspace for your laptop, printer and files. When you’re not working, simply close the closet doors!
* Whenever a room has to serve more than one purpose, organization is critical. If you don’t have the space for filing cabinets, or simply don’t like the way they look, bookcases and shelving can be a great alternative. Don’t overlook the possibilities presented by extra wall space; you can layer shelves to maximize storage space above your desk/work area.
Daubenmeyer says that following the housing bubble, homeowners are smarter and want more functional space. The multi-function home office is one solution that is gaining popularity.