Remote working can often mean working from home. But with a household full of family members, finding a suitable, quiet space to set up your desktop PC or laptop can be difficult. So, what can you do about it?
While you should be prepared to work from anywhere in this scenario, some rooms and places in your home are better than others.
Do you have a spare room?
Want to save time? Just use the spare room.
If you don't know how long you're going to be working from home for, it makes sense to be prepared. Take a day to empty or rearrange the spare room, leaving space for a desk. Also ensure a power supply is in easy reach, and if not, ensure you have an extension cable with enough plug sockets available. If you're saving work to your own PC and don't want to lose it during a power failure, consider getting a UPS (uninterrupted power source).
Then, all you need to do is set up your work space. For desktop computers, this will take a little longer; if you're used to flexible working, you probably have a laptop or tablet. Be sure you have a good mobile signal, too, if you're expecting a lot of calls.
A dedicated work space like a spare room should be kept clean, of course, so take a few minutes to tidy up before you finish every day.
If, on the other hand, you don't have a spare room, you'll need an alternative location to keep up to date with work.
Your living room is probably bright, homely, soft, and welcoming. Who wouldn't want to work in here?
Realistically, however, it's potentially the busiest room in the house, with the sofa a magnet for family members. Work might be punctuated - however lovely it might seem - by cuddles and conversations.
Oh, and then there's the television. Industry-related news programming might be acceptable. Everything else, not so much. You can't binge-watch NCIS while working.
This makes the sofa and your lounge space unsuitable for work. At least not while people are at home with you. Besides, you want your living room to remain the place that you relax in, and not somewhere to think about work.
At the table
Theoretically the best option, working at the table could result in a massive productivity boost. You've got the space you need for your laptop or tablet, any documents you're working on, even a headset with microphone for making calls or remote presentations. There's a good chance that your dining table is larger than the desk in your office.
This alone makes it an ideal space for producing competent, focused work.
But as soon as mealtimes approach, working from the table becomes a problem. While a laptop can be closed and put away in seconds, any peripheral devices, pens, paper and notes, reports, etc., might take longer.
The same is true if children want to paint or use glue. Best keep them at the table than risk a clean-up of an entire bedroom.
In the absence of a home office, working at the table can be a smart choice, but with limitations. Just give yourself plenty of time to pack up.
Work in the kitchen
Your kitchen might also be a great place to open your laptop and work. If you have a breakfast bar to sit at, and a coffee machine nearby, there's potential here for some focused, caffeine-fueled application to the task at hand.
You shouldn't be short of power sockets, either. With lots of space on your bar, working should go well. The surface might even give you the height you need if you suffer from back and shoulder problems and require a standing desk.
Like your dining table, however, the kitchen is perhaps not the best place as mealtimes approach. Additionally, any cooking activity means potentially lots of steam, which is not something you want near your electronics.
- Check out our pick of the best office chairs around today
Don't work in the bathroom
For a similar reason, there's really no way you should be considering the bathroom as a place of work. Not even your en suite bathroom. Electronics and water don't mix water.
Additionally, your cohabitors will require ad hoc access to the bathroom throughout the day, plus it's potentially unhygienic, regardless of how often you clean the room.
Besides anything else, working in the bathroom is just weird. Stop that.
Can you work in the bedroom?
In smaller properties or homes where everyone is self-isolating, the bedroom might seem a smart location for some work. Just grab your laptop and pull up a chair at your dressing table. You might even get comfy on the bed with some pillows.
Sounds great, right? If you can get enough privacy, it might be. The bed should be big enough to leave printed documents on while you work.
On the downside, working in your bedroom might be a problem long-term. While it's a nice option to use to change things around, getting up to work at a table in the corner of your sleeping quarters could lead to trouble sleeping.
Additionally, working from home can be a tough gig as a it is, but working from the same room you sleep in can have you feeling that you never leave that room, making it feel small, isolating, and constrictive. Only consider this option if you can ensure you get up and about the house through frequent breaks.
Work in the garage
This might not work out for everyone, but if your usual work involves a large office or studio and no suitable space is available, the garage might be the answer.
With good lighting and a power supply, your garage can double up as a productive and creative home office. There should be space for a desk, any media production tools you need, a whiteboard, drawing board, and multiple monitors if required.
In short, in the absence of a spare room or dedicated office, the garage is potentially your best domestic location for working from home. No garage? Much of this can be applied to a basement or attic.
However, as a long-term place of work you might want to consider converting it into an actual room, especially to make it more comfortable, which is more easily done if your garage is built into your home. You'll also need to find somewhere to store what's already in the garage in the first place.
Use dedicated office space
While most of the rooms in your home can be used for home working, it is best to rely on space that no one else is using. This might be a spare room, loft or attic, basement, or even a cupboard under the stairs.
If you don't fancy the Harry Potter approach, the garden could prove to be a suitable alternative. In the garden, consider your decking area or summer room. And if you have an orangery or conservatory, they're also good options to consider working in.
In most cases, the best home office space is one that you can close the door on, leaving you focused on family and household tasks when your day is done.
One last tip: if you're looking for peace and quiet for phone calls or video conferencing, try your car. Built-in sound proofing will help to focus the conversation. Just don't have the heaters or engine running!
- We've featured the best alternatives to Microsoft Office.
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Christian Cawley is the editor responsible for Linux, Security, Programming, and DIY content at MakeUseOf.com, where he also regularly contribute articles and video reviews. With over 10 years' experience writing in the consumer electronics, IT and entertainment media, Christian has been fortunate to work with some of the best websites and print publications in these fields.