Now that many longtime office workers find themselves carrying out their professional responsibilities from their own homes, the need to create functional and comfortable workspaces within less-than-palatial houses and apartments feels more urgent and relevant than ever before.
Individuals living in cozy environs may not have the luxury of full-fledged home office rooms, but with a bit of creative thinking, they can still carve out discrete spaces for themselves where they can get their tasks done with limited distractions or spatial difficulties.
If you’re seeking out some helpful suggestions for ways to style up your at-home workspace in a manner that encourages productivity, we’ve got you covered with 20 tried-and-true ideas.
1. Try to access a natural light source.
Many office workers agree that one of the worst attributes of a typical office building involves the sub-par fluorescent lighting. That’s why, when you’re deciding on a spot for your remote “office”, you should do yourself a favor and choose a location close to a window, a glass door or a skylight. Well-selected desk lamps can also prove helpful here, but nothing fully replaces actual sunlight.
2. Make a DIY standing desk.
“Standing” desks are a popular pick among employees who worry about the posture-related problems caused by sitting down for a full workday. Purchasing a standing desk can be a pricey endeavor, but if your workspace includes any shelving or a countertop that reaches chest-level, then you can easily make your own version by placing your laptop on said shelf and putting down a comfortable mat for your feet.
3. Get creative with room dividers.
If you share a petite apartment or a studio of any size, then an efficient work from home space must include a means of separating yourself from your partner or roomie. Fortunately, low-effort and low-cost dividers are a pretty easy find. Try sheer curtains, bamboo screens or strategically-placed bookshelves.
4. Consider furniture choices that can multitask.
In a small living space, furniture that serves several purposes counts among the best possible investments. When it comes to a home office, keep an eye out for bookshelves that can double as standing desks, desks with bookcase space underneath and so forth.
5. Put your desk behind your living room sofa.
Sometimes, a living room must evolve to suit the needs of those living in tiny houses. If your living room represents the lone location of available space in your home, then you can create an easy divide between “living” space and “working” space by placing your desk behind your sofa.
6. Go all-in on desk organization.
Organization bears particular significance when you’re dealing with a minimal amount of square footage. That’s why the owners of teensy home offices need to pay special attention to the tidiness and orderly nature of their space. Stock up on file folders and storage boxes, get some cute pencil holders, and formulate a color-coding system that works for you.
7. An unused closet makes a great home for a small desk.
A spare closet sounds like a fictional concept to many people living in small apartments or houses, but if you happen to have a linen cupboard or a coat closet that doesn’t get a ton of use (or which contains items that can be easily relocated elsewhere), then a cleared-out closet can easily become an office “nook” with enough space for a small desk. If you can keep the closet door open to maintain your exposure to natural light, then that’s even better!
8. If you have an open staircase, you can tuck your desk in the space underneath.
Open staircases are certainly an aesthetic luxury, but if you’re lucky enough to have one, then consider using the space underneath as a locale for your home office. It’s a clever reclamation of existing floor real estate that probably isn’t being utilized yet.
9. Choose desk accessories that are both functional and stylish.
When decorating a desk in your regular office building, you might not feel too inspired to project your personal style onto that space. However, if a work area is located with your home, then there’s extra incentive to select pencil holders, staplers, bookends and desk lamps with panache that blend into the rest of your home decor scheme.
10. Even a small unused corner can become a functional home office.
A desk-based work area doesn’t require tons of open floor space. Instead, a blank corner of your apartment can transform into a remote office with a well-situated, not-too-bulky desk.
11. Hutches help you save space while still having room to work.
Just as a Murphy bed feels like a godsend to studio apartment dwellers who like to entertain, a “work hutch” might be an ideal solution when working from a cramped house. These wall-mounted structures include a panel that can fold down when it’s work time and then can just as easily fold up when you’re not using your “desk” and need more space for activities.
12. Give some thought to your color scheme.
Do the stark white walls at your off-site office bum you out? In that case, give some careful thought to the color scheme used for your home workspace. Blues, grays and dark greens traditionally have calming properties, and yellows and oranges inspire energy. Break out the wall paint and have fun!
13. Choose seating that’s comfortable and ergonomically-sound.
A standing desk may be the pinnacle of ergonomically-sound office design, but there’s nothing wrong with preferring a seated position while you’re typing emails and filling out spreadsheets. For the sake of your posture (and your comfort), do some research and find a desk chair that’s consistent with your particular physical needs.
14. Spread upwards, not outwards.
Need more storage space than your home desk can provide? Rather than setting up filing cabinets and bulky containers alongside the desk, consider building upwards on a nearby wall. Mounted shelves and cubbies can keep your materials organized without excessive horizontal migration.
15. Work from your bed if you want to — just be smart about it.
If you’re an avid reader of career-advice and design blogs, then you’re likely familiar with the commonly-held belief that you MUST conduct your professional business outside of your bed, lest you infringe on the relaxing properties of your sleeping space. But as a freelancer who works from home constantly, I’m here to tell you that working from your bed is completely fine, if that’s what you prefer.
You’ll also be in good company; Winston Churchill, Tennessee Williams and Frida Kahlo all allegedly liked to hang out between the sheets while getting work done. Just make sure to take “walking breaks” throughout the day, and find yourself an appropriate in-bed “desk” setup to protect your back and neck.
16. Invest in a portable “lap desk” for your laptop.
While we’re on the topic of “in-bed desk setups," plenty of companies sell “lap desks” designed to keep your computer properly elevated while you’re in a reclining position. Does working from bed sound like a dream realized? A lap desk will only improve those conditions.
17. Keep your cords organized and contained.
Between your laptop charger (or desktop computer), your phone charger, your printer/scanner and your desk lamp, your home desk situation may feel overwhelmed by cords coursing this way and that. The good news? Plenty of apparatuses exist to help you sort these wires and keep them from tangling. Also, if they all look unnervingly similar, grab some Washi tape and start labeling.
18. If you’re working from a laptop, consider purchasing a monitor, a wireless mouse and a keyboard.
As any long-time remote worker will gladly tell you, laptops can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s wonderful to have the flexibility offered by a lightweight piece of technology, but small screen sizes, faulty touch pads and cramped keyboards sometimes lead to overall discomfort, which inhibits productivity.
If this sounds familiar, think about buying a wireless mouse and a wireless keyboard larger than the one on your laptop. Also, if you do a lot of work with charts and spreadsheets (or if you work in a visual field like graphic design), then a high-quality monitor is a sound investment.
19. Communicate your need for privacy to the other people in your home.
These days, a lot of newly-minted WFH employees must share their space with partners, children, roommates and pets. If you’ve got a full house and need some privacy to conduct business, be sure to clearly communicate that to your cohabiters.
20. Give yourself permission to take breaks.
The most insidious downside to working from home revolves around the tendency to stay in “work mode” long after your shift technically ends. That’s why it’s essential to take breaks throughout the day. Take the dog for a quick walk, make yourself a delicious lunch or try a 30-minute yoga routine. You’ve earned it!