Working from home, or WFH, isn't just common in the workforce today – it's increasingly the norm. Companies and employees are realizing that a lot of work can be accomplished without actually coming into an office. Video chat platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and Hangouts have enabled people to attend meetings from anywhere in the world, not only prompting companies to rethink the importance (or even relevance) of office attendance, but also causing people to rethink how their homes double as offices.
While the commute to work has long been considered a key factor for homebuyers, it seems to come up less and less for real estate agents working with their clients, perhaps because of the proliferation of working from home.
If working from home is becoming the norm, here are a few things that you can do to make your home more WFH-friendly:
- Perfect your video chat background.
- Designate a place for work.
- Get good lighting.
- Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks.
- Upgrade your technology.
[Read: Tips for Using Zoom Conferencing]
Perfect Your Video Chat Background
At the start of a workday, most people groom and dress based on the meetings they have on their calendar for the day. Depending on the day, you might put on a suit and dress shoes, or jeans and sneakers. Even if someone is working from home in pajamas, they might put on a nice shirt before logging into a meeting via Zoom or Hangouts.
But what’s going on behind you? When you're in a pitch or strategy meeting trying to be taken seriously, will your clients and colleagues see an unmade bed behind you? You’re inviting the people you work with into your home, or at least into a small section of it.
Consider picking a plain wall. Pick out a spot in your home for videoconferencing and think about the background behind you. Having a plain wall behind you might be ideal, with solid paint, brick or even contemporary wallpaper, to convey a neutral message.
Declutter the space behind you. If you have shelving behind your desk, then declutter and organize those shelves. Remove beat-up, soft-cover books, dead plants or cheap collectibles, and replace them with elegant coffee table books, fresh flowers or a tidy plant, and simple but attractive objects. If the shelves are sagging, can you tighten them? You don’t want your colleagues to worry that the shelves will collapse in the middle of the call.
Keep cushions neat. If you’re beaming in from a bedroom or living room, make sure the cushions and blankets are straight and look plush.
Try out the background. Take a screenshot and apply a critical eye to edit out anything distracting or off-putting, or run a test video call with a friend whose opinion you trust, and who will tell you that the edgy contemporary art behind you looks like a crime scene.
Stage your background with video chats in mind. If you have video chats with clients who are tightening their belts, keep the background simple and not ostentatious. If your clients are entrusting you with fresh ideas, the visual message you’re sending about your own home needs to convey your modern taste. Ultimately, if your home in the background looks messy and disorganized, it may convey that you don’t have a handle on the work you are being paid to do.
Designate a Place for Work
Corporate strategist Marc Schechter and his husband recently applied to rent a house in Connecticut, leaving a one-bedroom apartment in New York City that was walking distance from work. “We are both telecommuting now, and our comfort in working from home has become the top priority," Schechter says. "As working from home became more the norm, our apartment just seemed to shrink. This house has separate home offices for both of us, unlike a few houses that we passed on."
Find a private spot. Having an office setup separate from the rest of the house also makes it easier not to be sucked in by the many at-home distractions that we all have. “Working in the house is tough with our kids also at home,” says Amanda Hirsh, who works in artist and trade relations for Simply Framed, a custom art-framing company. She lives in Aspen, Colorado, with her husband and two young sons, and adds that, fortunately, “our office is off our bedroom – the boys can still find us, but it’s harder with one more door separating us from them when we are working.”
Pick a corner that will keep you motivated. Of course, having a dedicated home office is ideal as we transfer more and more to a WFH workforce, but if you don’t have enough space or separate rooms, pick a corner or nook to set up your desk.
Reena Patton is an entertainment professional in Los Angeles and has been working from home more often. “When I work from home, I sit at a sunny table-and-chair setup by the window in my kitchen. It’s a nice change of pace from the office.” She admits that she plans to buy a more ergonomic chair since her current desk setup isn’t great for hours at the computer, but she isn’t sure how productive she’d be if she worked from a bed or sofa. By setting aside a spot where you do your work, it helps to mentally turn “work mode” on and off.
[Read: How to Set Up a Home Gym]
Get Good Lighting
Whenever a home goes on the market, one of the first things many agents discuss is whether to add light to a home, often with floor lamps that shoot light up to the ceiling and then reflect back down again.
Sit by a window. Many people looking for a new home prioritize natural light, and in the northern hemisphere, southern exposure is the brightest. When setting up your home for WFH success, make sure your workspace is well-lit. “I love how bright and light our home office is,” Hirsh says. She adds that the right lighting “makes it really motivating and easy to work from home.”
Tommy Wiles, a marketing executive at Google in San Francisco, feels similarly: “I choose to work near the largest windows in our house, and even occasionally take a video-conference call from our patio. I find that natural light keeps me energized and elevates my mood. And when my team sees me on videoconference in such a sunny workspace, I think they all raise their game a little as well; it telegraphs that we aren’t slacking off, sitting in a dark room watching TV all day when we should be working.”
Avoid dim lighting and shadows. Not only is good lighting important to keep you motivated, but it’s helpful for videoconferencing as well. Your workspace should appear conducive to getting work done, not telling ghost stories by the campfire.
Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy Snacks
On any typical day at work, many employees are accustomed to taking breaks and grabbing coffee or a snack in the kitchenette.
Treat your kitchen like your break room. While special treats in the office kitchen may include birthday cake or junk food, a peckish scavenger during the workday will find that snacks like nuts, fruit or chocolate help re-motivate to get back to work without wasting time. If this is you, invest in a coffee maker and stock your kitchen with healthy snacks that don’t require much preparation.
Upgrade Your Technology
As we all become more reliant on technology to get our work done, make sure your internet connection can sustain the needs of long videoconferences, and that requires colleagues and clients to see and hear you clearly. It might also be time to invest in a printer and scanner, even if you’ve avoided these in the past.
It may be time to update your decor.
You may not be moving into a new house in 2020, but you can make your home feel new again by taking stock of each room and updating the design. You may want to make your living room more functional by finding a better furniture layout, brighten up a guest bedroom with new paint or go big with a full renovation of your kitchen for a more modern style. To make any design changes a success, however, you’ll want to know what styles will become more popular in 2020 and what fads are on their way out. Here are 10 interior design trends to consider in 2020.
Updated on Dec. 6, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Zen dens break up floor plans.
Zen dens break up floor plans.
Open floor plans may be here to stay, but many homeowners are interested in creating a room that lets you separate yourself from the goings-on in the rest of the house. For some people, open floor plans are "too open,” says Tim Bakke, publishing director of online home and design plan company The Plan Collection, based in Scarsdale, New York. “If you have the TV on in the living room, everyone in the kitchen and the dining room is hearing it and seeing it.” Bakke says separate, closed-off living spaces called “zen dens,” are ideal for reading a book or having a more private conversation, and he thinks they’ll gain popularity in the coming year. “It’s not splitting up the house, but you have someplace where you can kind of get away from it,” Bakke says.Master suites expand.
Master suites expand.
As wellness gains emphasis, more homeowners are looking at spaces where they’ll most likely benefit. As a result, master bedrooms and bathrooms are getting more love. “Maybe a little bit of square footage is taken away from other parts of the house and put into the master suite,” Bakke says. Whether it’s to expand the bathroom and add a soaking tub or to make room for a sitting area in the bedroom, homeowners are considering their bedrooms as a space where they can spend more time beyond sleeping and getting ready for the day.Inside and outside continue to blend.
Inside and outside continue to blend.
Outdoor living has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and designers continue to see blurring the line between outdoor and indoor as a desire among homeowners. Gena Kirk, vice president of design for homebuilding company KB Home, based in Los Angeles, describes successful interpretations of the trend as “extending the great room into the backyard,” which not only makes entertaining easier, but also allows you to relax on comfortable seating on the patio when the weather is nice. For homes that experience colder seasons, a fire pit, outdoor fireplace or outdoor heaters allow for snuggling under a blanket while still enjoying the outdoor living space when the weather is chilly.Organic elements are here to stay.
Organic elements are here to stay.
Indoor plants have made a resurgence in recent years because they add life to a space. Meanwhile organic elements are expanding into furniture and decor as designers incorporate more natural wood tables, natural fiber rugs, coral, dried flowers and branches into decor. While these items are no longer living, they offer a connection to nature and the outdoors. Keep an eye out for sisal, jute or seagrass rugs, which can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, Ikea and Wayfair. While it’s easy to find faux coral tabletop decor, you need to read product descriptions carefully to find real coral for purchase.Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
Rather than sticking to traditional eggshell wall finishes and basic cotton throw pillows, design experts are looking to patterns and textures to make rooms feel more dynamic and personal. Interior designers particularly encourage wallpaper in a half bathroom, where you can have a bit more fun without overwhelming the space. Wallpaper is making a comeback in other parts of the house as well. Barbara Kavovit, CEO and founder of Evergreen Construction in New York City, says wallpapering a room makes a great do-it-yourself project, requiring little skill – just the patience to do it right. You can also experiment with texture on walls, whether it means creating a faux stucco look with plaster and paint or incorporating upholstered panels or reclaimed wood.Velvet becomes a staple.
Velvet becomes a staple.
Velvet is becoming a preferred furniture fabric over microfiber or leather, since it offers a soft texture that looks luxurious in bright, bold colors. Expect to see more bedding accessories and throw pillows in velvet, which can provide additional texture in a bedroom or living room. This trend isn’t just for winter, either – if it's the right color and paired with other textures and materials, velvet works in a room year-round. Light pink or mustard velvet pairs well with just about any color.Blue is the color to incorporate.
Blue is the color to incorporate.
Both Pantone and paint company Sherwin Williams have announced that their colors of the year for 2020 are dark shades of blue: "classic blue" for Pantone and "naval" for Sherwin Williams. Dark and navy blues can serve as neutral colors for a room and pair well with lighter colors, bold jewel tones and even metallics for an art deco look. Lighter blues and greens are also popping up more in furniture, decor and paint palettes, which can make for a soft look or a bold statement in different combinations. As a wall color, navy creates a darker setting, leaving room to play around with lighter neutrals and pops of color in the decor. It can also be used as an accent in a lighter room.Say goodbye to gray.
Say goodbye to gray.
If you’ve been watching HGTV renovation shows or have toured homes at just about any point over the last decade, you know that gray has been the go-to neutral for walls, furniture and even home exteriors. But over the last couple of years, other neutrals have been threatening gray’s domination of the color market. “Those very cool grays – they’re dying. They’ve been dying. Everything’s starting to warm up,” Kirk says. Interior designers are seeing a return to shades of brown and beige, as well as navy, to offer a warmer palette. Don’t be afraid of looking outdated if you use gray in your color scheme for a room, but if your entire house is painted in the same gray shade, it’s time to add some variation.Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
If you’re still dedicating part of your kitchen to house the family desktop computer or it has its own designated room, rethink that space. With everyone using laptops, tablets and smart phones to browse the internet, do homework and pay bills, there’s no need to take up space with a bulky desktop that no one’s using. A family computer room can be converted into the "zen den" your house has been missing, a guest bedroom or another space your family would use more. But there’s still something you can do for the family electronics: “Phone, tablets – all those things need to be charged,” Bakke says. He recommends creating a charging station with enough outlets to plug in multiple devices, located in a common drop zone where people enter and exit the house like the mud room.Minimalism moves over.
Minimalism moves over.
People still like clean lines, but these days designers are seeing more homeowners embrace eclectic decor styles, with modern vases and bowls as well as imperfect antiques that add variety. While a simplistic, uncluttered look is still popular, designers and homeowners now look to "incorporate focal points with an older piece," says Jim DiGiacomo, board member for Olde Good Things, an architectural salvage store based in New York City. Flea markets and antique stores are prime shopping targets. The opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces has expanded online as well, as eBay, Etsy and more specialized stores like Olde Good Things offer extensive online inventories, allowing you to find vintage prints, vases and even architectural gems like mantels, doors and ceiling tiles to incorporate in a room remodel or new home design.Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:
Interior design trends to keep an eye out for in 2020 include:
- Zen dens break up open floor plans.
- Master suites expand.
- Inside and outside continue to blend.
- Organic elements are here to stay.
- Wallpaper and texture provide depth.
- Velvet becomes a staple.
- Blue is the color to incorporate.
- Say goodbye to gray.
- Computer rooms are out; charging stations are in.
- Minimalism moves over.