Teleworking: how to set up your office?

18 february 2021 - It is not yet the "end of work" announced, more than twenty years ago, by the American sociologist Jeremy Rifkin, but it is already the beginning of the end of work at the office and the beginning of work at home, in one's house or flat. But how do you set up and furnish a space dedicated to teleworking in a living environment designed for family life and leisure?

Teleworking: how to set up your office?

You used to go to work in the morning and go home in the evening like everyone else? You were also used to finding your office every morning, with its files tidy, its order, its comfort, its little dust here and there, its reassuring setting. You were also used to meeting your colleagues at the coffee machine and talking with them about the rain and the good weather, the gossip on the box, the football match of the day before on TV... Well! All this now belongs to that world of the past that we now call the "world before". That is to say, the world before Covid-19, the disease that arrived in Europe nearly a year ago, in March, and which is still ingrained and is still shaking everything up. Repeated confinement, closure of restaurants and cafés, social distancing, obligatory masks, denunciation of citizens... A Orwell-like universe that can be avoided by working at home, in complete peace and quiet, at least if one's profession lends itself to it. The time has come for teleworking, with its sweet promises of freedom, but also of serenity and efficiency: goodbye to time lost in transport and stress at the office; welcome to à la carte work, integrated among your other priorities and family obligations.

Working at home used to be the luxury of writers and artists: no timetables, no constraints, but a kind of inner demand that advanced at its own pace, according to daily desires and the whims of inspiration. It was Montaigne in his tower surrounded by his books; it was Julien Green dreaming and writing his twenty-five or thirty lines a day in his Parisian flat, whose light, noise and climate he constantly scrutinised; it was Simenon in his office where no one was allowed to enter, often writing in a state of trance; it was San Antonio blackening the pages at full speed, like a Stakhanovist, in a kind of creative fury... And then there were the artists, clapped in their studio, as well as the musicians composing and playing in their studio, at home.

The choice of the ideal place

By spreading fear everywhere, Covid-19 blew up the whole thing and opened up the golden age of teleworking for everyone! But how can you really be at work while staying at home? The most important thing now, if you work from home, is first of all to choose the ideal location for your office: it must be both distinct and well delimited, like a sort of enclave, but without turning into a closed and separate place. A bit like a dining area, but in a completely different way; a work area that encourages concentration and allows you to work in complete freedom (telephones, zoom sessions, e-mails...) while being nourished by the pleasant and dynamic atmosphere of the home. One could say that it is a bit like the spirit of the mezzanine or the veranda: a calm and warm space, functional too, a bit between two waters, with enough space to install your files.

So where is the best place to create your office? In the living room? In the kitchen, the living room par excellence? In a bedroom? In the entrance hall or in an unused recess that only aspires to a glorious metamorphosis? It doesn't matter, because the most important thing is to create, as the French essayist Dominique Loreau - a specialist in the art of living - an independent space, large or small, that releases good energy and stimulates creativity.

In other words, it is the design of the office that will play a key role. The furniture must be light and functional, the light soft and balanced, the decoration simple and harmonious. The computer is at the centre of everything, of course; it must be immediately accessible and handy, as must all the necessary files and reference reports. Even more than in a traditional office, the home office does not suffer from the slightest mess and must be in working order morning, noon and evening.

Real geniuses are neat," explains the famous French designer Philippe Starck, "they tidy up, they have well-organised files, and that's why they are free, because filing, ordering, grouping is liberating for the mind. The more your playing cards are filed in the right order, the more you can think about the game. When the cards are thrown on the table, you look for them, you turn them over, you are already exhausted, and, above all, you have lost the immediate global intuition which is the only functioning. The right interlocutor is the one who is going to bring you all the playing cards on a board, well presented, with the right light, with the right angle so that you are comfortable, not facing him but facing you". Something to meditate on for the admirers Jean Piaget, the famous Geneva pedagogue, whose incredible piles of paperwork climbed from his desk to the ceiling: for a long time the photo illustrated the greeting cards of the State Councillors of the Republic and Canton... But a wise man also said that if the disorder of the desk reflected, according to some, the disorder of the brain of its owner, what should be deduced from the intellectual state of the person who has a desk that is clean of all disorder and completely empty?

It remains to be hoped that the isolation of telework paradoxically allows for a closer and denser relationship with others?

by François Valle