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Home-based working trend heads for SOHO

High-speed telecommunication and telecomputing power offers freedom to complete tasks away from the office, as more people run small businesses or start-ups from home

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 9:24am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 9:24am

SOHO is not just a cool place to hang out with friends after work in Central. It’s also an acronym for what the government expects more of us will be doing in the future –  they’re probably right – and that’s working from home.

A working paper titled HK2030 Study delves into the home-based working trend which began emerging in the 1990s, and where it is headed. High-speed telecommunication and telecomputing power give many workers the freedom to complete assigned tasks away from the office, via what the government calls SOHO (small office-home office) activities. It is also in line with the trend of more people running their own small businesses or start-ups from home.

So what might such a workplace look like?

It could be cool. When buying furniture for yourself, you can break away from the mass-produced, large-lot purchase generic kit foisted on offices by corporate finance departments.

So you could start with a statement desk, such as the Picasso Desk from the new Kelly Hoppen collection at Indigo Living, a contemporary take on a conventional, twin pedestal desk, with one leg crafted from stainless steel and another in matte black lacquer supporting a black glass top; or for a more rustic look, a desk from TREE in recycled solid teak, wrapped around an albasia wood core with slim iron legs. Either can be teamed with a Bailey Occasional Chair. The room can be completed with a Shinto bookcase from Tequila Kola.

A work space this stylish looks too good to be hidden behind closed doors – and, there is no need to.  Adrian McCarroll, managing director at architecture and interior design firm Original Vision, says it’s  possible to create a perfectly workable home office even if you don’t have a spare room.

This is also an opportunity to be creative and “crib” space from areas which might be underutilised.

“With the option of keeping most of your documents online, the traditional need for storage is no longer there,” McCarroll says. “This means that any pocket of space where you can locate a computer or even a laptop can be your office.”

The old concept of a study, closed away from the rest of the home, “is pretty well dead anyway - especially when space is at a premium”, McCarroll says.  “In our designs, we often create shelves or benches close to the action in open plan kitchen and living spaces.”

He notes the convergence of technology, media, information and communications which enables greater mobility with the support of easily transportable devices. “Such convergence is also seen at home where work and leisure can sit very easily together,” McCarroll says. “As the amount of equipment required for a home office progressively reduces, the options of where one can work expand to almost anywhere.  Any spot that has a surface can become your office.  That awkward pocket under the stairs works well, as do kitchen benches or being tucked into an underused circulation space.”

Wi-fi and Bluetooth have helped to cut down the clutter by reducing the need for unsightly cables. “Even a printer can be neatly concealed in a cupboard, so the only visible tether to the old ways is the power cable,” he says.

Many devices are easy to self-install. James Dwyer, managing director of IT services provider StratusRed, says it’s more important to have a professional overlay on home office equipment than it is for “plug and play” smart home devices.

He stresses that there is more to consider than simple broadband access. Improving home Wi-fi speed may be as simple as switching to a lesser-used channel, which a professional can do via the router – much like changing channels on a TV.

Stability of connection is one thing – security is another, and Dwyer says it’s one of the biggest areas people tend to overlook.

Although many devices can “talk” to each other these days, Dwyer recommends segregating all IoT (internet of things) devices in the home – such as web cameras, home automation and mobile phones – from the core business equipment of computers and tablets.

“Home networks are becoming more complex as more devices can be connected,” he explains. “The rise of IoT means that home networks are getting more congested, but are also prone to a wider range of attacks.” Your home office is particularly vulnerable if you don’t change the default password on IoT devices, or haven’t disabled the networking feature Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), which helps devices automatically connect to and from internet services potentially bypassing any firewall settings. Dwyer describes UPnP, which “comes out of the box with most routers”, as a potential security disaster.

“Enterprise”-like set-ups with advanced network features such as mesh Wi-fi – which a few years ago were only of real concern to businesses – are rapidly making their way into the home environment, he adds. “Specifically, if you are running or planning on running cameras, doorbells, thermostats or home automation systems these should ideally run on a separate network segment.”

Firmware updates are another layer of security protection which can be challenging for a lay person to maintain. What everyone can do to keep their home office work secure is to have up to date antivirus software, back-up files regularly (on an external hard drive and in the cloud) and install patches as soon as they become available.

Home security: experts warn of need for online and offline protection