There is no question that U.S. workers increasingly value the option to work remotely. Not only does it eliminate typical office distractions and nix the need for a stressful daily commute, it creates flexibility to work around your life. In fact, according to a study released earlier this month, 95 percent of so-called “knowledge workers” (those that rely on a computer to do their jobs) would like to work remotely. And nearly three-quarters of those employees would actually quit their job to have the option.
If you are the owner of a small interior design business, however, working from home isn’t necessarily a perk, but a reality. And many home-based practices have to do double (or triple) duty as a personal residence, an office, and even a showroom. “Like many designers, my home not only serves as a laboratory where I experiment, but is also a place where I can showcase my work,” explains Maryline Damour, whose design firm Damour Drake is based in her residence in Kingston, New York.
But what, exactly, are the keys to successfully creating a home office for your design firm—one that allows you to be productive while maintaining a work-life balance (not to mention your sanity)? AD PRO consulted four interior designers with home offices to find out.
Set a Schedule…
“The most important way to stay productive in a home office is to keep true working hours,” stresses Deena Ottensoser, cofounder DOSK Interiors, who works with her business partner Shani Kramer out of her home in Englewood, New Jersey.
It’s also essential to structure the day so that it works for you—whatever that means. “The key is to tune into your most productive time of day and take advantage of those hours, even if they are untraditional,” offers Courtney McLeod, whose full-service design studio Right Meets Left Interior Design, is based out of her Harlem apartment in New York. “My most productive hours are early morning and late evening, while I wilt on the vine from about 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Working from home allows me to set hours that are perfect for me versus fitting into a traditional work schedule.”
…and Stick to It
You might technically be at your office all of the time, but don’t start working around the clock. Establish a structured workday: Get dressed, schedule meetings, take breaks, and then log off at the end of the day. “The biggest challenge is balance,” McLeod, who shares her office with one design assistant, admits, “turning off work while remaining physically in the space.”
That often requires physical as well as mental separation. For designer Megan Winters, “Not getting pulled into working 20-hour days is my biggest challenge…. Because everything I love so much is right here steps from my main ‘life,’ I’m constantly tempted to work all the time,” she says.“So when she renovated her home in Lake Forest, Illinois, she created a generous dedicated workspace in a separate, attached coach house, which she shares with one full-time employee.
That separation goes for your clients too, who, once they realize you work from home, sometimes assume you’re always on the clock. “I make a point of not returning calls I receive in the evening unless it’s an emergency,” Damour explains. “It’s necessary to manage expectations with clients in a different way when you work from home.
Deliberately Select Your Space
“Just because [your business is] in your house doesn’t mean it should be any less professional,” Damour urges. Think about the type of environment in which you feel most productive, and convert space in your home to satisfy your needs.
Architectural Digest is an American monthly magazine founded in 1920. Its principal subject is interior design, rather than architecture more generally. The magazine is published by Condé Nast, which also publishes international editions of Architectural Digest in China, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Mexico, and Latin America.