Top Tips For Creating A Functional Workspace at Home

Since March 2020, the world has been turned upside down.

With the Covid pandemic people from all walks of life have had to drastically change the way they lead their lives. 

No matter what part of the world you’re in, things that we took for granted in our everyday lives have changed dramatically to adapt to this new normal.

On a personal level, I know that not having the freedom to simply see friends and family has had its challenges.  Schooling our children has also changed – many of us opting to homeschool – and even how we go about doing our grocery shopping and enjoying our leisure time (from going to a restaurant to vacationing) has changed so completely that it has left the world spinning…

That said, as an online entrepreneur working from home the last 16 years, a home office has been my normal, but since the start of the pandemic many people have had to adjust to working remotely or starting a new way to make a livelihood by working from home because of job loss. 

Over the past year what’s changed for me is not only have I had more people contact me about creating a business from home (in addition to small business owners who need help with digital marketing solutions) but what has changed is that now I find myself having to counsel people on setting up workspaces at home that will serve the purpose of building and sustaining a business/working remotely for the foreseeable future.  

The Challenge of “Working From Home”

It’s a challenge to learn “how to work remotely” from home.  

(This little device certainly helps me out a ton!)

There is a delicate balancing act that involves adjusting to a new workflow having family around (especially if you have children and they are home during the day), learning to keep your personal life at bay, and keep it from invading your working hours. (This can be challenging especially when you want to do something around the home that you've been putting off.)

And this requires many of us to create a more multi-functional home than you may have ever intended it for when you first purchased your home.  

In fact, where I am in Canada, my rural area has seen an influx of people moving here as we are within 35 mins of a major urban center but far enough that they are able to buy homes within budget that will cater to the new situations (as mentioned above) that we are finding ourselves in since the start of the pandemic.

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Moving: Bigger Spaces and Multi-Functional Homes

In fact, according to the Financial Post, a total of 87,444 people left the three major Canadian cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal) between July 2019 and July 2020 for other parts of the same province, up from an average annual exodus of 72,686 the previous three years… which is pretty significant.

Families are finding they need bigger spaces and different types of setups in their homes. People are now adjusting to raising their families and working from the same space whereas these traditionally were kept separate with having a workplace to go to pre-pandemic.  

In fact, some of our close friends just bought a house sight unseen (except for pictures on the internet) and recently did a cross country move to accommodate working from home (both remotely for one parent and a start-up home business for the other parent) all the while homeschooling their children. 

One of the main reasons for moving into a new home was the fact that interest rates have been so low since the pandemic started that buying a home with the space they needed to function in their new situation made the most sense versus renovating or staying where they were.

From my own experience, having always worked from home, we have moved several times and any space we move into has had to accommodate our home life as well as our work life – which means at least 2 rooms need to be dedicated to work offices.  The latest home we bought had 4 bedrooms, 2 of which were converted to workspaces and an opened attic loft that now serves as the bedrooms of our 2 children.

Different Businesses, Different “Work From Home” Set-Ups

Let me start by saying, if your work situation has changed because of the pandemic and you find yourself needing to create a workspace for yourself, (whether that be in current home or if you are in the market to find a new home to suit your needs) budget is obviously a huge consideration. 

If that’s the case, I have some tools later on that I’ll share with you like a mortgage calculator, tax programs etc…) to help you determine what you can realistically afford, but the first thing to brainstorm is the type of business you operate and the type of space you need.  

work from home set ups

For example, if you operate a freelance photography business like one of my clients, your workspace might be a studio where you set up your props, lighting etc…in which case you will need a large, and undisturbed area – preferably away from the hustle and bustle of the family, and possibly even a separate entrance for clients.  

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A friend of mine, who is a photographer, just bought a new home during the pandemic because of the low-interest rates and the need to increase her studio space. Her old studio did not have a separate entrance which meant clients always had to pass through her private home which she didn't like. And of course now, with the pandemic, she wanted a complete separation of work and family space and found a larger space to comply with some of the new pandemic regulations.

If you offer massage therapy like another one of my clients do, your workspace will probably be a portion of your home dedicated to a  treatment room.  Again, a separate entrance might be helpful.  A massage therapist I knew ran her business out of her basement, another out of a second bedroom.  Again it all depends on the existing space or if looking to buy, what they can afford in a new home.

Another one of my clients needed a home office to conduct Skype sessions for personal development classes she held online or in my case, we needed 2 offices for each of us and a video creation room for all the tutorials and informational products that we created.  

So as you look at your own home or prepare to look at homes to purchase, here are some different setups you might want to think about:  

What Is Important In A Home/Work Space?

Since I have to deal with balancing the business-family dynamic, I look for spaces that can be shut off from the hustle and bustle of the house. 

If the space is available and you can afford it, choose a separate room as a dedicated workspace. You want to minimize distractions.  

importance of work from home space

Closed off areas that come to mind would be a dedicated separate room like a spare bedroom, a dining room that has French doors to which you could close, a finished basement in which to put an office, or even a separate structure on your property like a small studio space is ideal.  If you are in the real estate market, when looking at houses keep in mind all the above points, but don’t overlook the garage.  A converted garage is a great space to create an office.  In fact in one of our rental properties, the tenants use the garage as an artist's studio and can work from there to create her beautiful pieces of art.

Other tips are to select a workspace that is large enough to operate your business. Instead of working out of several spaces in the home, keeping everything related to your business in one area is much easier to handle and to keep from your business taking over your home. 

If clients will be coming to your home, the ideal is a workspace with a separate outside door or very close to an outside door.

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My First Home Office

For those of you who can’t find the space or lack the budget, the least expensive way to create a home office is to set up a space in the corner of your home.  In fact, many kitchens have a small nook or workspace that could function as a workspace for your business.  Clients of mine in small condos or flats have simply extended kitchen counters to make a functional workspace.

When I started my online company, the only space I had in my small basement apartment was a corner in the kitchen, right by the fridge.  Amazingly, that first year cramped into that small space my business made 6 figures year – which goes to show you that you can work from anywhere!

Helpful Resources

Having gone through many of the potential options for creating conducive workspaces in the home, I wanted to leave you with some of my top resources.

First, if you are new to working from home and are branching out on your own, there are definitely expenses that can be written off. I use a great program called Taxbot that helps me get organized so it’s one easy transfer to my accountant come tax time.  It tracks many of the deductions that I incur running a business and so I encourage you all to check it out.

For those of you realizing the limitations of your current home/workspace and are looking to find a new home, understanding where you are financially and having a good understanding of what you can afford is paramount. 

I have included a link to a mortgage calculator to help you figure out what you can afford and what I like about this particular calculator is that it provides graphs of loan repayments along with monthly and yearly amortization tables.    

Lastly, be sure that when you are planning your ideal workspace that you take into account how your own life works around you. Working from home is a delicate balancing act and with much thought and reflection can be a very positive and rewarding experience.

Good luck and welcome to the “new normal!

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