Home Insurance

How to Create a Hybrid Living/Working Space On Any Budget

Looking to upgrade your space this year to make room for a home office? We explore how you can do so depending on your budget and needs.

Whether you love working from home or can't wait to get back in the office, it's undeniable that COVID has changed the way you see your home. In fact, 8 in 10 Singaporeans surveyed have come to prefer working from home at least part of the time. While we still have to wait and see how industries adapt to a work-from-home workforce in the future, most Singaporeans will have to work from home for at least the majority of 2021. While in the beginning of 2020, many had to make adjustments on the fly, a year later, we've come out wiser in knowing what our space needs to have a productive workday. With 2021 interior design trends veering towards comfort, multifunctionality and accommodating a home office, we looked at 3 different ways you can incorporate a work space into your home without compromising your budget.

For Small Budgets & Spaces: Carve Out a Multifunctional Space Within Your Flat

If you're looking to do a light reno on a small budget while living in a small flat, you can find a rarely used nook or corner and dedicate that space as your home office. If you are very tight on space, you can try small-space approved options like a wall-mounted desk or table. Ikea has an affordable, minimalist wall-mounted desk for just S$59 but if you can afford the splurge, you can get an Italy-made mounted table from Spaceman for S$688 and up. Using baskets or bins can be a cheaper storage solution that you can easily repurpose when your WFH schedule ends. If you have kids, it's worthwhile dedicating a separate study space for them as well, preferably in another part of the home outside their bedroom so they don't associate their room for relaxation and rest as a place of education and stress.

This table shows the average cost of office item furniture from budget-friendly furniture stores in Singapore

Since these workspaces are going to be part of your living space, they may benefit from being hidden after the workday is over, possibly by moving your work items like your laptop and keyboard into drawers and putting up the work desk to its vertical position. If you want to delineate your workspace from your living space, you can get creative with a splash of contrasting paint that visually separates your desk area from the rest of the room. If you can afford to do so, you can even consider putting up a false wall or glass separator to fully distinguish your work space from your relaxing space. Those interested in vintage/art deco styles can even look for a vintage room divider. Lastly, since you may not be looking to dedicate a separate room dedicated to work, you'll need to be able to avoid distractions and maintain a healthy lifestyle. For this, you can consider noise cancelling headphones, a stand to convert your desk into a standing desk and a comfortable, but aesthetically pleasing ergonomic chair.

For Mid-Sized Budgets & Spaces: Repurpose a Guest Room Into an Office Space

If you're going to be undertaking a larger renovation in 2021, then why not fully convert one of your bedrooms into a home office. This route may be most suitable for couples in larger 4-room or 2+ bedroom flats who have bedrooms to spare. Alternatively, another route to consider would be to create a guest room/office hybrid (think an upscale version of a university dorm room) if you have family who frequently stay over.

This table shows the average cost of renovating a room into a home office with built-ins

The cost to renovate one room depends on the extent of renovation work you want to get done. If you want to have a custom built-in desk and shelving, then you will need to pay for carpentry. We found that carpentry costs for a built-in desk and shelving unit costs an average of S$180 per foot run (pfr), but you'll need to also budget for the cost of materials and electrical rewiring (if you're adding new lights throughout). Nonetheless, this type of feature can be good if you are going for a modern or contemporary styled room as it promotes clean lines and hidden storage. Alternatively, you can save on costs and have a bit more space in a smaller guest room if you choose a freestanding desk and shelving. This option can also be great if you like to change your design around every couple of years since it's much easier to sell off a desk and shelves than it is to take down built-ins.

For Flexible Budgets: Upgrade To a Larger Space, Focusing on Renovating for WFH

Homeowners who will anticipate working from home for the next few years and who prefer to spend extra on comfort will most likely find the best value in upgrading to a larger flat and undergoing a renovation that focuses on a work-from-home environment. While selling and moving may be a large expenditure, it may be the best investment if your current quarters have become too cramped to live comfortably and no form of renovation can fix the problem. Moving from a 4-room flat to a 5-room flat will typically cost you S$100,000 more, but it's possible to cut costs if you consider cheaper neighborhoods.

This table shows the average listing prices of HDB's based on the number of rooms as taken from recent real estate listings on June 23, 2020

Moving up from a 3-room flat to a 4-room flat will add between 25-30 square metres of living space and an additional bedroom, while moving from a 4 to 5-room HDB flat will give you an additional 20 square metres. A fantastic benefit of moving to a new flat is that you will have the flexibility of designing the entire space with your new work/living concept in mind. Just don't forget that you will need to update your home insurance particulars to avoid being underinsured.

What to Consider When Renovating With a WFH Design in Mind

In the beginning of the work-from-home transition, it was common to find ourselves working from our bed, dining table and couch. However, this can be difficult on you psychologically, as you start to associate these spaces with work rather than relaxation. The more spaces in your home you attribute to your work life, the less you will be able to separate work from home life, which has a plethora of negative impacts including poor sleep, anxiety and stress.

Whether you are dedicating a small corner of your flat as your office space or are looking to upgrade to a larger flat where you'll design the office of your dreams, a clean, calm, atmospheric working area should take precedence in your design— especially if you will be working from home all throughout 2021 and onwards. If you're planning on renovating your home this year to accommodate working from home, you should always plan out your budget, keep an eye out for furniture store sales and carefully vet any contractor or interior designer to avoid overspending.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.