Reimagining the Office in the Work-From-Home Era

(Photo Credit: Stykka)

As the country went into lockdown in March of 2020, working from home was considered a short-term solution. Adjusting to the new working situation has proven to be challenging for many including some of us here at Noise 13, particularly for those of us living with roommates, partners or kids, or working in a compact space. While the possibility of returning to the office is looking really bright this year, many companies have embraced the new work from home norm, and plan to adopt a more flexible work structure to support both remote and in-office work.

Noise 13 has held similar discussions and foresee working from home being a larger part of our future too. For this to succeed, it is essential to set up our homes to be a conducive environment for both life and work. Designers and companies immediately responded to the unexpected circumstances by conceptualizing products that aimed at helping people adapt to their new home offices. The two main problems these designs tackle are small-space living constraints, and the complexity of creating a quiet space to focus while living with other people, from roommates in meetings to noisy kids and pets. Almost a year into this pandemic, we are seeing these concepts come alive.


(Photo Credit: Lozi)

Small Spaces Require Creative Geometry

When space is at a premium, every square inch counts. Compact, wall-mounted desks can create an effective workspace anywhere you can mount them, with a chair or stool fitting neatly under them when not in use. Minimalist designs like Menu’s Rail Desk or Lozi’s U Desk keep a room feeling uncluttered despite the additional furniture.

Shapeshifting furniture has a long history, from secretary desks to collapsible stools, and designers have stepped up their game to meet new work-from-home challenges. An office that you can hide away in plain sight not only saves on space, but creates a shift from work to relaxation for small-space dwellers. Emko’s Pill serves as both desk and storage, allowing workers to close up the visual clutter of work at the end of the day, while the Moving Table, which can switch between a sitting and standing desk, also functions as a whiteboard for brainstorming big projects.

For people with unpredictable work schedules, designers have gone even further to create low-budget designs that collapse or break down to be stored away easily. Serbian designer Tijana Kostić demonstrates how industrial clamps can be used to turn any flat material into a temporary desk, and Stykka’s cardboard desk is perfect for creating space to tackle a surprise project.


(Photo Credit: Established & Sons)

Work Alone, Together

Finding some elbow room in a small live-work space is one thing; finding room to think is quite another. A good pair of headphones can only go so far, and sometimes you just need a bit of privacy to get work done. Collapsible screens in sound-absorbing materials is a brilliant way to create a quieter space for work, that can then transform out of the way for family time or a roommate dinner. 

From large room partitions like the Bucharest Screen to tabletop screens like these from Buzzi, these designs break your line of sight and interrupt distracting sounds, helping you stay focused no matter what’s going on at home. Designers like Buzzi have incorporated these sound-absorbing textiles into everything, from art and curtains to lamps and walls! This modular room divider from Molo is a perfect way to add a quiet corner office to your home without adding to your rent.

Some designers are going further, and reimagining what homes can look like to create increased privacy, as more and more people choose multi-person living situations. These flexible designs enable people to have the alone time needed for projects and mental health while still encouraging togetherness. Take the Grid, by Established & Sons: the various layouts create different spaces for all manner of activities and needs while leaving the barrier permeable and open to socializing and collaboration. 


Do-it-Yourself Space Solutions

Some of the products on this list are undoubtedly pricey, but people can still create a functional and comfortable home office for themselves with what they already own and some creativity. Think about what you truly need to have a useful work space, and brainstorm ways to accomplish that within your own parameters. Maybe you need multiple compact spaces to alternate between during the day to change up the pace. Maybe you need to have full separation between your work and life spaces. Use curtains to create room partitions, set up a cushioned seat at the coffee table for a comfortable floor desk, or remove shelves from a preexisting bookshelf to create a wall-mounted workspace. 

If you do decide to invest in new pieces for your new home office, put utility and flexibility at the top of your list. Dynamic designs can allow you to switch more easily between privacy and togetherness no matter your living space, which is an increasingly vital skill in our screen-filled lives. There are bound to be increasingly budget-friendly and creative options for work-life balance as we move forward into the brave new work-from home world.


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