A look at some customised personal work spaces and why many people still prefer working from home or a community space
Jiya Minocha, 36, works from a charming study at her Delhi home, a space filled with things that spark joy and creativity for the advertising professional. She began to appreciate working from home during the pandemic because of this “sweet spot”—the perfect space for focus, inspiration, comfort, which reflected her individuality. “I wanted the feel of the room to be ‘English cottage’, but with eclectic personal touches,” she says. A vintage desk is where she takes her calls, usually accompanied by her cats. The wall and bookshelf are filled with assorted doodads and art—dinosaur figurines, Harry Potter memorabilia, music sheets and architectural prints. Also displayed are her piano, guitar, cello, violin, and hand drum, as she practices music here. “When I am here, I am completely disconnected from the world. I find it easy to get absorbed in my work,” she says.
Working remotely has become the norm for many professionals since the pandemic began. But, as more companies mandate employees to return to the office full-time, it is not just flexibility or convenience that people may miss, but the comfort and joy of the perfect work spot that many have created or discovered over time. A pretty work nook in a bedroom with your pet for company; a home office where you can switch from your desk to having a cup of tea on the armchair by the window; a balcony swing to take calls from while looking out at the garden; or even a neighbourhood café. Various professionals speak to Mint about their perfect work spots and what draws them to these spaces.
While some company offices incorporate recreational areas, greenery, and quiet work spots for focused work, the warmth and individuality of a customized space is difficult to replicate in an office. Gurugram-based Aman Brara, 37, category head at a consumer durables business, worked from home in the pandemic and is now back at the office at least four days a week. But his home office remains his favourite space to work: a clean design with a wall full of books, abundant natural light, plants, a view of trees and open space, a music system, and a few seating options for flexibility—a work desk, an armchair, and a chaise lounge. “I love working from here. It helps, particularly for “thinking work” to be in the right environment—the calm, the view, the music, and a comfortable space.”
Part of the draw of these favoured work areas is that they reflect the occupant’s multifaceted personality and interests. Communications professional and amateur athlete Ketaki Sathe, 46, has created a functional room with personal touches—a rug, pretty lamp, warm colours, and scented candles—along with her training equipment. “I am a triathlete and have my indoor trainer with my spare bike hooked on to it in a corner. Some days I squeeze in a 30-minute ride and then get back to work,” says the Mumbai resident working with an IT and professional services company. She often uses a wobble board while working to exercise her feet, or resistance bands, while taking calls. Motivational reminders are displayed on a tack board including notes from her kids, and bibs from her races. She has a standing workstation too, which doubles up as a screen station while she is biking. “I like structure and need a designated space at home for work, which is separate. I love working from here. There’s a combination of things that give me an adrenaline rush, and warmth and colour that make me feel good.”
Unlike in office spaces, it is easier to control the ambience, temperature, and lighting in personal work spots. “In offices, we are packed like sardines with no personal space, and no space to think. Bright white tube lights make for a very depressing place,” says Minocha.
Interior designer Shagun Singh, who runs Gurugram-based design studio and renovation specialist agency Homework by AM Services 24×7, has seen an increased demand for home work spaces since the pandemic, not just for converting entire rooms, but primarily for work nooks with a desk within a room. Singh says that she has created at least 50 designated work spaces for clients in their homes since 2020. “When converting an entire room, almost all clients ask for a television to be a part of the space for when they want to take a break. We always create a corner in the room to sit and have a cup of coffee and try to make the area functional and pretty,” she says. With video calls, the desire to control the visual is reflected in requests Singh receives. “I am often asked to make the walls pretty for a nice backdrop during a video call. Some clients want flattering lighting for the camera.”
For others, working in a space separate from their house is often preferable. Debbie Paul, 50, a social development professional with an international development agency in Delhi, divides her week between the office, home, and the Korean Cultural Centre café. She enjoys the green view, the food, and the community she has found with the other café regulars. “I have been visiting this café for five years, and I sit in the same spot by the window. The staff know me and which food and drink I like. There’s the lively buzz of students and visitors and K-pop playing in the background.”
Part of the attraction of working at a communal space separate from home and office is the comfort of people around you without any office or family distractions. “There’s a sense of community among some of the regular café workers and we usually make a separate co-working space among ourselves where we exchange ideas or just get to know each other and share our troubles and happiness. It is like an unspoken support system,” says Paul.
Filmmaker Arvind Iyer also enjoys working at coffee shops. When not at his studio or shooting on location, Iyer works from either Third Wave Roasters or Talk Over Table in Bengaluru. “I am a part of the furniture at these places. I sit at my regular table between the inside and outside. I like to see people entering or leaving and hear some traffic sounds. When I need to focus, I zone out easily,” he says, preferring to keep his home just for rest. “I catch up with the regulars, now my friends, at these cafes. I enjoy working there and having this regularity to my routine.”
Space and environment considerably impact creativity and productivity. While returning to the office full time is preferable for many companies and some employees, flexible arrangements which allow people to retreat regularly to their work location of choice would be appreciated, whether that be the office, the friendly neighbourhood café, or in an armchair at home.
Reem Khokhar is a Delhi-based writer.