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Doesn't matter if you're working from home or returning to office, it's time for major workspace makeover. Image Credit: Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we found ourselves working from home and staring at our laptops more often than ever. That made us realise our workspaces needed a major makeover. Therefore we started scrolling through endless 'inspo' posts on Pinterest and Instagram. But those picture-perfect desk setups never seemed to translate into reality.

If you're still working from home or have returned to the office, revamping and upgrading your workspace will maximise your efficiency and motivate you. Workspaces shouldn't have to be drab and dull, they can be vibrant colourful spaces with eclectic pieces, or they can be a clean, minimalist and airy, as long as it stimulates and inspires you. Whether your style is rustic vintage or you prefer a more modern aesthetic, we've got you covered.

1. Organisation is key

Before starting anything, it's important to get started on the organisation process. Remove items from your desk that are of no use to you anymore and get rid of items that are occupying too much space. Create more space by using an acrylic desk organiser in your drawers to separate items instead of shoving in your supplies. Putting up a shelf, a cork board, or pin board are affordable options that will increase your space and don't require intense labour.

Celina Vrnak, a professional home organiser from The Savvy Space, based in Dubai, told Gulf News that the first step before starting anything, advised to declutter and divide your space into zones. She said: "Once you've decluttered, create zones and sort your items accordingly so it's easy to stay on task. We recommend three zones: reading, writing and digital. The reading zone will contain books, reference materials and paperwork - magazine holders are a great way to keep these contained yet easily accessible. The writing zone will have items for creating notes and the digital zone is for computer work and tech items."

Shelina Jokhiya, an expert home organiser and owner of Decluttr Me a professional home organising and decluttering service in the UAE said using desk and drawer dividers will prevent your workspace from becoming chaotic mess. “Organise your space to have the items you use regularly to hand in drawers near you or on your desk. Containers in the drawers are great to use to divide items and to ensure that it doesn’t become a dumping ground for random items.”

Sarah Nassar, another home organiser (@so_neatbysarah) suggests having a filing system. She said: “In terms of products, a good filing system goes a long way, so ensure having a folder organizer and subfolders to categorize and label your documents accordingly. You can also use a stationary organizer to keep all your stationary in one place along with your notepads.”

2. Create a cosy and productive workspace

Your workspace should inspire you and be a place where you can relax to feel comfortable. Your workspace doesn't have to overflow with numerous documents and notes and shouldn't be devoid of light and colour. Azza Refaat founder of Azza Refaat Interior Design Studio, based in Dubai, told Gulf News: "There are a lot of ideas for creating a cosy space to work in. Even if it's located in an open space or a separate room. Try to decorate with colours that will enhance your productivity. Whether you prefer fun, intense, or calm and serene neutrals. A good rug can act as a backdrop that adds an instant texture, warmth and colour within your working area. Proper lighting is essential. Natural light or a desk lamp can act as a decorative and a task element.”

3. Add in the wow factor with vibrant accessories and bold accents

Incorporating colour and eclectic décor items can be intimidating for some, but it all depends on your style and taste.

"Wallpapers are one of the best ways to add colour and pattern to your space. They can be added to one wall creating a distinctive background for a room. Also adding some small decorative elements like fun magnets, notes in colourful holders, as well as pencils, can add a pop of colour inside your space creating a more joyful feel to your work area," said Refaat.

4. Minimise visual clutter

Minimising visual clutter means you have fewer distractions and a clearer mind. Drowning in an endless sea of sticky notes and folders can start to clamour your mind. Get rid of old documents and complete unfinished assignments and projects. Incomplete work lying around can consume your desk space.

"Most people don't need much at their desk these days as the world becomes more tech advanced. For example, notes and calculations can be done on your computer. We find that just a few writing utensils, a small scratchpad or sticky notes, a pair of scissors and a stapler is plenty for the average desk task. So start by narrowing it down to what you're using at your desk," said Vrnak.

Jokhiya says to do a mini decluttering and remove your items into three essential groups. She said: “Do a mini-declutter and spend 15-20 minutes decluttering your space and removing items into trash, recycle, donate or keep. The items that are being kept, see if they can be kept in drawers rather than on the top of your desk. Do the same exercise for the drawers each day and by the end f the week you should have a decluttered desk area.”

5. Try going digital

The most efficient way to reduce visual clutter is to go paperless. Going digital is an easy way to get rid of random scraps of paper and messy notes. Using applications such as Dropbox or Google Drive can help in reducing clutter. Storing your work online and digitising your files get rid of physical files taking up space. Vrnak also agrees that going digital is the best solution to decluttering.

She said: "Where possible, go digital. For documents, you can use your phone to take photos of items, then store them on your computer (sorted into folders, of course). If you have a lot of physical data drives, these can be transferred to a cloud storage account for safekeeping. This is a good practice even if you're not concerned about desk clutter, as it ensures your important documents are kept safe should something happen to your home. If you have a collection of business cards lying about, try using an app like ScanBizCards to quickly and easily add them as contacts on your phone.

“Evernote is a great cloud-based note-taking app that can sync your notes across your devices making them easily accessible.”

6. Adopt a minimalist aesthetic

If you're struggling to get rid of items or you're trying to cleanse your workspace, minimalism may be your answer. The core philosophy of minimalism is simplicity and it frees you from distractions. "Get rid of anything that is of no benefit to you. Also, technology made a huge change in our lives by decreasing the use of paper, so try to file and save all your documents on your computer or invest in a tablet," said Refaat.

Nassar says adopting a minimalist mind set gives you a clean slate. She said: “Using minimal items on your desk will give it a clean and neat look, If you can place your documents and papers in drawers that will be the first step to an organized desk or cubicle. Secondly use minimal decorative objects, don't overcrowd your desk with lots of items such as pictures or magnets etc. Instead, use minimal objects such as 1 or 2 photo frames, a calendar and a candle or a plant along with one stationary organizer.

7. Incorporate art into your workspace

Decorate your room and desk with artwork that speaks to you. This can either be a DIY project or a wall gallery. Style a wall gallery on a neutral wall with removable wall strips. A wall gallery can be a charming curated display of photos, posters and prints.

"Art is one of the easiest and most interesting elements that can create a personalised as well as an aesthetic touch within your space. One of the simplest ways is by creating a wall gallery or a collage by thinking of an idea or a theme of your favourite art or places you visited or wish to visit. Try to choose a dominant hue to create unity as well as fun and interest. You don't have to buy expensive or original ones. However, you can combine posters, prints or family photos interestingly combining them reflecting your taste and style," said Refaat.

8. Upgrade your office cubicle and desk from drab to fab

Bored with the way your office desk looks? You can still find a way to update your cubicle by balancing professionalism and creativity. Find your inner crafty person and fill your pegboard with art or some Knick knacks to remind you of home.

"An easy way to add colour and fun on your desk is by adding some fun accessories like paper clips, pens and pencils as well as organisers with colourful and cheerful hues. They will enhance productivity and motivation within your workspace. You can add some small baskets that hold all smaller objects as well. Moreover, you can add a pop of colour by placing a colourful cushion on your chair with a nice pattern and texture. Also adding natural elements like plants and flowers are a great way to add not only colour but also add a soothing and replenishing effect," said Refaat.

Vrnak also states that your office desk should exude professionalism, but it can also reflect your personality. "Keep personal items limited - your workspace is often viewed as a reflection of your professionalism; keeping it minimal and tidy shows others you have a strong work ethic. A photo or two, a decorative paperweight or bookend and a plant are typically enough to make the space feel like your own. If you work in a cubicle, consider adding a cork or pegboard to pin up reference items you use regularly and open up more desk space."

9. Get inspired by Nature

Fill in space in the office with plants is an inexpensive way to infuse colour and calm to your corporate or home office. Add in plants that are relatively low maintenance, meaning they can survive with little sunlight and water. For example, peace lily, spider plant and Monstera are great options. The colour green has a relaxing and soothing effect and can also reduce stress and fatigue. Indoor plants also have air-purifying properties. According to a study done by US-based NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scientists in 1989, it was discovered that plants can remove chemicals such as benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air.

10. Hide the wires

With all the tech devices that crowd our desks, we end up with a jungle of wires. We either spend hours trying to detangle them or finding the right cable. "You need a system for cord management to reduce visual clutter. Ikea has a great box for this, or you can make your own by cutting a hole in either side of a nice shoebox. A charging station is a critical element of any functioning workspace these days. If you don't have a designated charging station unit, you can easily create one by using cord holders to keep them corralled in a corner," said Vrnak.

11. Label everything

The path towards creating a more organised and functional desk requires you to label everything, and a label maker is going to be your best friend. Label your cables according to the device. Vrnak said: "Last but not least - label, label, label! Creating designated homes for items increases productivity by reducing the brainpower required to find items or figure out where to put them."

Your desk and workspace should be a safe space where you can unwind and let your creativity flow.

Note: First published in July 2022