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Encinitas architect Jeff Parshalle has worked from home since long before COVID-19 hit. Parshalle recommends acoustical privacy and natural light, while also keeping the workspace attached to the major area of the home. Photo by Jeff Parshalle
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Stay productive while teleworking with simple improvements

REGION — When software company account manager Don Planchon first took on the challenge of working from home 20 years ago, he received this piece of advice:

“Get up in the morning, shower, put on your nice work clothes,” Planchon. “Then get in your car, start it, turn it off, come back in, sit down at your desk and start working.”

Now, Planchon says he can’t imagine working in a regular office again.

After about six months since COVID-19 caused corporate offices to close, new teleworkers are navigating how to create a comfortable yet productive space while working from home. Here to help with the transition are professionals with teleworking tips of their own.

Maintaining productivity

Planchon may be used to working from home, but working with kids around is a slightly different ball game. Planchon says that with his four children — elementary, middle and high schoolers — adjusting to distance learning, there’s a lot more noise outside his home office door.

“The biggest thing is having it quiet enough that they can focus and generate the work they need to complete,” says Georgene Carras Scholey, owner of interior designing company Carras Designs. “Soundproof is probably the key for a lot of people. Sound would be a really important aspect regarding having a space to work during the daylight hours when kids are coming in and out, everyone’s home and dogs are barking.”

With the need for acoustical privacy during work hours, Encinitas architect Jeff Parshalle now predicts a greater number of people looking for homes with designated office space.

In the meantime, people are resorting to makeshift offices, setting up shop anywhere from a dining room table to a walk-in closet.

Still, Planchon has found that small adjustments can go a long way for productivity.

For Planchon, appliances such as external monitors for video calls and whiteboards for tracking notes help maintain focus and organization, even if he decides to pull away and spend an hour with his family.

But those breaks tend to be overlooked at home, which may actually be holding productivity back.

Maintaining wellbeing

“If we’re too much in the same environment our productivity drops,” Planchon said. “Working from home requires a lot of discipline not only to get yourself into your chair in front of the computer and the phone but also, equally, to get up out of the chair and away from the phone.”

Planchon stores weights in his office for exercise breaks and employs Bluetooth Beats headphones to take calls while moving around the house.

He says the biggest improvement while working from home was opting for a sit-stand desk.

“Especially for those who get really into a project and get hyper-focused sometimes, we can be in a seated fixed position for an hour or two and we’re just laser-focused on finishing this ‘fill in the blank,’” Planchon said. “We can forget — I forgot — I need to stand up, I need to get up and move.”

For comfortable home spaces, natural light and ventilation remain key. To further lighten up the home, Parshalle aims to connect home offices to the house’s major area and even installs side-door access from the office to outside.

Though simple home improvements can be made, businesses are looking for new ways to adapt to a work-from-home economy, as it’s estimated that nearly 75% of CFOs plan to make a portion of their jobs permanently remote after COVID-19, according to Gartner Finance.

“This just happened all of a sudden,” Scholey said. “I’m just kind of learning each month more and more the direction it’s going, but I’m going to have to think about what I can do design-wise to create more of a home office.”