Want to improve your WFH space? Check these tips from the home experts

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If there’s an acronym of the year that could beat ECQ (and its various variations), it is WFH. A year ago, WFH was not even mentioned, as it was known then as telecommuting, remote work, or mobile employment. Now, WFH is part of the lexicon of the majority of the metro’s workers (and their employers), by architects and interior designers, and by furniture manufacturers and suppliers.

With the pandemic seemingly unending, a new way of life emerges. Even when a vaccine becomes available, it’s highly unlikely that work routines will fully revert back to the way they were. As pundits have said, there’s no turning back.

WFH and all its components, such as online meetings, the flexible schedule, and the non-existence of breaks, will be part of our lives. It’s a “disruption” of almost all professions—the academe, finance, marketing, media, arts, even architecture and interior design.

In this first installment of Manila Bulletin Lifestyle’s forum created with Youth editor Kerry Tinga, we share the work corner of five home experts—interior designers and an architect—who also reveal what for them is an ideal WFH environment. Learn from their collective experiences as their tips should help you make your WFH space not only functional, but presentable for a long time.  

Nix Alañon, owner and principal designer, FTA Design and Phoenix Home

I would design an ideal home workstation with ample work space on a desk and style it with inspiring objects or books around. I would also definitely place a fresh floral arrangement or greenery on one side as well. In an online meet, it would be great if you had a plant or table arrangement behind or beside you.

As a tip, an ideal WFH station needs to be well lit, lots of natural lighting. It should also be clutter free, with easy access to the things needed for work.

Cyndi Fernandez-Beltran, managing partner and design director, Moss Design House Inc.

Ideally, a WFH space should be set in a space where there is an abundance of natural light, with the working table set fronting a large picturesque window. Lighting is very important in online meetings. If unavailable, then invest on a ring light to make sure your face is properly lit and no shadows are created. Find a good camera angle that enhances your face as well as the interior background. Choose a good corner that does not have a lot of distracting interior elements. Spruce the space up with plants or florals and add colors through throwpillows to make your backdrops livelier. 

The table space is large enough to accommodate the end-user’s WFH essentials and still has room for decor or memorabilia that give personality to the table.

A statement working chair can either be vintage or ultra-modern, but definitely comfortable. Invest in a comfortable chair since you will be spending most of your time here.

I would also design the space to have an accent wall that can either be a floor-to-ceiling shelving that can keep a lot of things organized or a well curated gallery wall, just to liven the space and make it more inspiring.

Greenery injected into the space is always a must for me, so I’d position a tall fiddle leaf tree or a Yucca plant in a corner of the room. Bring the outdoors inside your home since we are confined for quite a while and it helps make our spaces feel more alive.

Most important, inject your personality either through decors, travel mementos, or scents to uplift your mood. Making your space personal allows you to work in a relaxing environment and have a space that is truly inspirational.

If you look at my WFH aesthetic, it reflects my personality and most of the things that are personally inspiring for me. This is functional for me as my WFH essentials are within reach, from the paint swatches to pens, fabric swatches, and my tea cup. I also have the ginkgo leaf plate for my jewelry as I remove all my accessories when I create my sketches. My scents and candles are important. They put me in a good mood. I have also injected a bit of quirk with my face vase and decorative elements of gold as I always gravitate to anything gold! Of course, I have the contactless alcohol dispenser, which is now an essential for all of us.

Mark Wilson, creative director, Wilson Escalona Design

“Ideal” in WFH means no background noise and very clear audio, even more than looking good on screen. Early in the lockdown, one of my team located her home office in a room next to a neighbor who raised roosters—I got exhausted just trying to speak above all the cock-a-doodle-doing! So selection of location comes first, even before setting up the home office. Then upgrade to fast-speed internet.  

Facial lighting for video-conferencing comes next. You might need to augment natural light with lamps, especially if your room has just one window, causing one side of the face to be lit, and the other to be in shadow. For video-conferencing at night, you would need lamps on both sides of your face, really just in front of that spot where your peripheral vision begins. You will quickly see from your face on screen how to position lamps to balance out the shadows on your face. 

Keep your laptop raised, say by books, to about chin height so that the view is not straight up your nostrils when you talk. 

One very artistic team member, working from home in Bicol, wrapped the sidetables behind her in earth-tone burlap, probably to disguise the table legs, and arranged simple household objects, like jars, by height and shape. It looked gorgeous. The presence of fresh flowers, big tropical leaves, or potted plants adds a nice touch.

Jigs Ranada Adefuin, principal designer and CEO, Adefuin Design Studio

This small office space should serve as your personal/ private space at home. It has to be comfortable, accessible, and pleasant so you can still properly work in the comforts of your home.

When we designed our condo a few years ago, we really intended to put small spaces for our office use, both for me and my partner, as you cannot really avoid doing some work at home, especially in the field of design.  Sometimes, a creative idea pops up, then you will have a space where you can sit and collate all that comes into your mind.  

What you can do is to find a spot where you could feel relaxed and comfortable to work. An area with nice natural lighting and with great air circulation would be best. Find also an area where your background would be very appealing. If you can’t find one, a simple table set up in a corner, with a plant in the background, would be a good start.

To make your WFH functional, you would need a good computer, a strong internet line, and a good camera with a lens. Keep your area neat and organized. Always be “online meeting-ready.”

As for the background, keep it clean and neat. You do not really need a fancy background as you still want the person meeting you online focusing on you. But subtly make your background represent who you are. Put a painting or a frame to add visual depth. Keep it balanced. Put plants or foliage on a nice vase on a pedestal.

Norman Agleron, partner, HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates

The ideal WFH setup for me would be a flexible space that’s comfortable. We live in a modest-sized apartment downtown, so we arranged for our dining room to double as our co-workspace. My wife and I are both designers so we like working on a large desk for multitasking between sketching and reviewing drawings, sorting images, online meetings, etc.

Being in the digital age does make the WFH model more effective, as we mostly use iPads to sketch or markup drawings. To enhance the space for work, we designed the back wall to have full-height sliding mirror panels that conceal the cabinets during “work mode,” and reveal the bar counter and wine display during “home mode.” We also designed the lighting to change to mood lighting after work hours since our workspace is blessed with plenty of natural light during the day.

As an advice, good natural lighting is an important element to consider. Otherwise, make sure to have ample ambient lighting where you sit. Have a clean, clutter-free backdrop with an interesting focal point, like flowers, artwork, books, or other interesting objects.

If you live in a high-rise, locate your WFH space close to a window, preferably with a nice view of the skyline. Not only will the natural light be conducive to productive work but seeing the views in-between tasks helps relax the mind. If you don’t have a nice view from your window, consider buying a contemplative piece of artwork and some indoor potted plants. More important, purchase a well-designed ergonomic chair so you could take care of your back at all costs!