We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

How to set up a home office that works for you

Interior designer Mali Langa tells you what you'll need, and shares ideas for video conferencing backdrops

20 August 2020 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
Interior designer Mali Langa of Task Interior Styling.
Interior designer Mali Langa of Task Interior Styling.
Image: Supplied

If, like so many people, you were meant to work from home for a few weeks after lockdown started, but now have no idea when you’ll return to the office, now’s the time to turn that makeshift home office into something more permanent.

Interior designer Mali Langa from Task Interior Styling believes many people will continue to telecommute once the pandemic passes.

The lockdown, she said, has shown companies here are many pros to having their employees work from home, including cheaper overheads.

With this in mind, we asked Langa for tips on setting up a home office:

Why is it important to create a dedicated space to work from home?

Creating a dedicated space will make your life easier because you won’t have to pack up your desk at the end of every  work day.

A well-considered workspace will also allow you to be more organised and increase productivity. If you make it look good, that will increase your creativity.

If I spend money on my home office, what should I invest in?

An ergonomic chair is important for your comfort and health. You spend a lot of time at your desk every day. We have enough to worry about as is, so let’s not add back pain to the mix.

What other essentials should I include?

  • A big enough desk or table is essential. It can be very frustrating if things are piled on top of each other.
  • Storage for stationery and documents will help you be more organised, and stop you wasting valuable time looking for things.
  • An adjustable desk lamp is a great idea. Good lighting will relieve strain on your eyes when you are working long hours.
  • Make sure you have a vertical surface close by on which to stick Post-it notes. These visual reminders of important items on your to-do list will make life easier and ensure you don’t miss anything.
  • Add a clock. While working from home, many people tend to overwork. Having a clock in sight could help you remember to get up once in a while to move about or take a break.
  • Include a Bluetooth speaker or other sound system. One of the benefits of working from home is that you can play music that keeps you pumped and focused.
  • Beautify your home office by adding some “vava”.  I love having a plant to take care of on my desk. I also always keep a beautiful objet d'art or ornament on my desk, something with a pop of colour. A creative, artsy item like this is nice to look at when you are brainstorming or taking a call. It has the potential to increase your creativity.

What are your tips for video conferencing backgrounds?

It is very important to consider what is behind you. Clients and colleagues are looking into your home through the webcam, so make sure what they can see is professional and pleasing to the eye. Think: “What are they seeing and what does it say about me?”

Make sure the backdrop is not too busy. Keep it simple and clean, and make sure there is a splash of colour. This could be done with an interesting artwork or a vase of fresh flowers. A bookcase or display cabinet is ideal — you could even add hidden strip lighting for a “wow” factor.

Be sure family members aren’t passing by behind you. That is the equivalent of somebody  barging into the boardroom in the middle of a meeting.
interior designer Mali Langa

Be sure family members aren’t passing by behind you. That is the equivalent of somebody barging into the boardroom in the middle of a meeting, and it could make you look unprofessional.

Lighting from behind is also a no-no. The value of face-to-face communication via webcam is important because we speak with our expressions. If light is coming from behind you, you will essentially be a silhouette.

If you don’t have the means to set up a fabulous backdrop, do some research on the video conferencing programme you are using. Most offer an option to digitally replace your background with something like your company logo or any image you love. Just keep it professional.