How to get off the dining room table and create a proper home office.
Of all the changes that 2020 has brought to our lives, one of the most positive, for many, is the move to working from home. The benefits of WFH are wide-ranging: not having to commute, being able to spend more time with family, cutting out a lot of (what now turn out to have been rather pointless all along) meetings to work in a more focused, productive manner. The positive effect on the environmental is huge. Oh yes, and you can do it all in your pyjamas while drinking endless cups of tea and not having to share the biscuits!
If you are ready and able to make the switch a more permanent one, the next step is to upgrade your home office from a corner of the dining table (jostling between the homeschooling ‘classroom’ and the breakfast dishes anyone?) to a dedicated work space. So, what are the options?
Spare room: The most straightforward option if you are lucky enough to have a room in your house that is rarely used. Even if you don’t have an entire room at your disposal, with some creative thinking perhaps you have a landing that is ‘dead space’ but could be turned into a work station? Alternatively, somewhere like an alcove in a dining room could house a slimline desk and shelves (see Ikea for great, affordable home office inspo).
Converting an existing area: For example, a garage, a shed, an attic or an outbuilding. It is important to check out the planning implications involved (see below).
A specialist pod or shepherd’s hut: There’s something distinctly appealing about having an office that’s at home but not in the home. That way, you still have the distinction of leaving the house to go to work and being able to close the door on it at the end of the day. If you have space in your garden there are some seriously cool options. Some of which can simply be lifted into place.
There are some rules of course: in the case of a garden pod you can only use 50% of your original garden space and there are issues such as foundations and groundworks to consider.
Pod has some gorgeous examples.
Based in Chalford, Millar + Howard Workshop have designed an office pod that can be assembled in a really small space.
Shepherd’s Huts have the advantage of not requiring any building work. Also, they are movable, making them pretty much future-proof and good for the indecisive. Check out Blackdown Shepherd Huts.
Thinking outside of the box (pun intended), if industrial chic is your style, why not go for an office in a shipping container. Look at Universal Container Services Ltd to fire your imagination.
We asked Nicky Pugh, Associate at Plan-A Planning & Development Ltd in Cirencester for the planning lowdown:
“Most internal alterations to domestic properties can be carried out without the need for planning permission (unless you live in a listed building) although, depending on what changes are proposed, you may still need to obtain Building Regulations approval.
Many domestic extensions can be undertaken without the need to apply for planning permission under what is known as Permitted Development Rights (PDRs). PDRs can also apply to the erection of an outbuilding within the curtilage of your property, such as a home office.
Always check whether your plans are eligible to be considered as ‘permitted development’ prior to carrying out works to or at your property.
Your Local Planning Authority (normally the District or Borough Council) planning department will usually be happy to provide initial free advice to householders on simple planning matters. If something is likely to raise complex issues however, you should seek professional advice and the assistance of a suitable qualified planning consultant or architect.”
Once you have your home office in place, it’s time to concentrate on the finer details.
The essentials: A desk; an ergonomically designed chair; good lighting; electrical sockets in the right places; well-designed storage; and great WiFi. Invest in getting your technology and internet connection as speedy and reliable as possible and upgrade if necessary. WiFi connection dilutes the further you are from your router so consider buying a, relatively cheap, range extender or install a home WiFi system with a central router and satellite modules which can be placed where needed. If tech support is not provided by your company, make sure you have a great local helpdesk that you can turn to if things go awry. You should also think about reviewing your insurance policy to make sure you are covered both personally and in terms of contents and also if your business involves visitors coming to your office.
And finally: a really good coffee machine, a few on-trend house plants and some great art on the walls will provide the perfect finishing touches.
For more information on permitted development rights, the Government has produced a helpful guide for householders: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/permitted-development-rights-for-householders-technical-guidance