Many people have recently found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly working from home. While your dining room table can serve as an office space for a day or two, when you find yourself working from home for the long haul, it really benefits you to set up a home office.
However, if you live in a small home, or simply use every room in your place, you might not think that you have space for a dedicated home office. These office ideas for small homes should help guide you to building the dedicated workspace that you need to succeed as a teleworker.
1. Create A Budget
It’s important to create a budget for any office renovations or decor updates. Setting this budget upfront will help you make a game plan for gathering the items that you want or need for your small office.
Even if you’re mostly using items from around your home, there’s bound to be some costs incurred. You can get creative with materials that you already have around the house, but it’s smart to have some money reserved for odds and ends you may need.
Use a note in your phone to track any spending that you do while setting up your office space and hold yourself accountable to your preset budget.
2. Think Of Your Unique Needs
It’s important to think about how you want your office space to feel, before making any purchases, in order to develop a cohesive design.
While thinking about how to make your space your own, ask yourself a few simple questions: are you neat or sloppy? Do you work better with noise or in quiet? Do you prefer a nook to an open space?
List out your answers to those questions, along with any other personal needs, and use that to help determine the right space for you.
Consider how and where the rest of the home’s residents work, too. If you have a partner or roommate who’s also working from home, would you prefer to be near them or separated during the day? If you have children who are virtually learning, is it important that you be able to supervise them, too?
Look around your home for a space that fits these needs. You don’t need a ton of space – enough room for a desk and chair will usually do the trick.
If you just work on a laptop, you can get away with a desk that’s only 18 inches wide, if needed. It’s most important to have the location within your home that best meets your daily needs.
3. Think Of Your Office’s Needs
Once you choose a spot that works for your needs, it’s time to assess the space for your use.
First, look at any existing furniture. Will it work as an office or do you need to move or get rid of anything? If you need to move furniture, decide what will go in its place. Will you need to buy something or do you have it somewhere else in your home?
Think about where the power outlets are. If there isn’t a good outlet near your desk space, you’ll need to figure out a solution using extension cords and power strips. Assess whether the internet works well in your chosen spot. Poor internet connections might be boosted with extenders or other tech solutions.
Note how the temperature and lighting feel during the course of the day. If the sun shines in brightly, you could have an issue with glare or heat. Position your monitor accordingly or consider adding blinds or a shade over the window.
If you spend time on Zoom or other internet meeting software, you need to consider the backdrop or plan to use e-backdrops for calls. You by no means need to have a perfectly styled wall behind you, but do pick an angle that shows the least amount of disorganization or junk and where it’s least likely other people will walk through the video.
4. Pick Your Colors
The color of the area selected should be considered carefully.
If you’re interested, research color theory and select something that aligns with a mood that supports productivity, like blue. Otherwise, go for soothing, calming colors that will not distract you from your work. Staring at a bright red wall all day could be stressful!
If you don’t want to paint, that’s OK. You can still bring in colors with furniture, art or other decor elements. Even the background image on your computer helps to set the mood!
5. Account For Comfort
Comfort should weigh heavily in office design.
Do you spend most of your time sitting or would you prefer to stand? If you like having the choice, consider an adjustable desk that allows you to sit or stand. Even if you plan to stand and have a standing desk, it can be nice to have a stool to perch on occasionally. If you plan to sit, a footstool where you can elevate your feet throughout the day can be very comforting.
Also, think about how much desk surface area you need to do your work. If you just have a laptop, for example, you will need a lot less workspace than if you have multiple monitors or need to be able to regularly lay out papers. Consider a fold-down surface if you occasionally need a little more table room.
6. Don’t Skimp On Style
Your environment can empower productivity, so be sure to think about your own style.
Little elements of decor, like framed artwork or a few token pieces on your desk, can really make you smile throughout the day. Similar to decorating a cubicle at the office, adding a few personal touches to your workspace is a great way to help you get through long workdays.
However, don’t go overboard and make your workspace feel junky. With small spaces, when it comes to decor, less is more.
7. Use Vertical Space
In small spaces, utilizing vertical space is key. This could involve hanging wall decor or mounting shelving. Bookshelves, built-ins, or armoires are all great choices for shelving.
To keep shelves looking tidy, corral smaller items in bins or baskets. This will make the shelves look neater and make it easy to pull down items from high shelves. You can also use vertical wall space to mount a sconce-style lamp, which would free up valuable tabletop space if you have a very small desk.
8. Let There Be Light
Proper lighting is extremely important for getting work done. Select a spot in your home with great natural light, or look into lighting options that provide adequate illumination.
Remember that with the fall season comes the onset of shorter days. Think about adding a full-spectrum light to counter seasonal affective disorder, if that’s an issue. Regardless, you don’t want to encounter eye strain by staring at a bright screen in the dark, so be sure to plan for plenty of artificial light for those dark mornings and early sunsets.
9. Get Stealthy With Storage
Take an inventory of the things that you need to keep handy in your office and be sure that you have storage space for each of them. This could include papers, binders, books or other job supplies, as well as extra personal items like a blanket or your secret work snacks.
You might have to get creative with storage solutions that lend themselves well to small spaces, such as using a storage bench or adding a basket under your desk.
10. Add An Artistic Backdrop
Your office space backdrop is so often displayed in Zoom video calls. While it doesn’t have to look like a magazine photo, it should look tidy and professional.
If possible, take video calls so there is a wall behind you. Clean up any trash or junk from that wall or any visible surfaces.
Also, make sure that you have proper lighting for video calls. You want the light to come from in front of your face and not behind your head. You might need to close blinds and turn off lamps to make this work!
11. Your Chair Matters
If you’re going to be sitting all day, you need a comfortable seat! This is not the time for a wooden dining chair. Look for something comfortable with back support. You can always add a small pillow to the lower back area to give you extra support.
If you’re used to moving around a lot, look into getting a standing desk. You can get full standing desks, or you can get tabletop systems that will raise your computer to standing height. Remember to get up and move around.
12. Don’t Forget The Trash
Trash accumulating at your desk will be distracting. Plus, it’s kind of gross. It’s important to have a trash can with easy access to your desk. You don’t want to have to get up to go to another room every time you have trash, because that will lead to distractions.
However, just like in the office, don’t throw anything smelly away at your desk! Carry that back to your kitchen to avoid a stinky home office.
13. Stock Up On Supplies
Think of all of the supplies that you have available at work. This could include pens, notepads, a stapler and even the air can for blowing dust out of your keyboard. While you might not need all of those things, you probably do need some of them.
Go ahead and gather them and organize them in or around your new home office space. This way you won’t have to go digging if you need a supply in the middle of a call or have a brilliant thought.
14. Close The Door – Literally. Or Not
Unless you live alone, you’re likely to have roommates or family who disturb you during the day. If you have a door that you can close, be sure to let them know that a closed door means that you need privacy.
If your home office is in a more open area, come up with another signal. For example, have headphones that you can put on that mean you are in “do not disturb” mode.
Be sure to allot some time each day with the door open, so to speak, so that your family is more likely to respect your door closed private work time. After all, everyone spends time during the day chatting with their co-workers. Now your co-workers live with you!
15. Don’t Be Afraid To Leave The Office
So, you just set up a home office – seems like you should park it there for a while, right? Well, one of the big benefits of working from home is that you can move around!
While your new home office is fabulous, be sure to set aside some time each week to work from somewhere else. It could be as far away as a coffee shop or library or as close by as the couch. Mixing up your routine will help you from getting quite so bored while working from the same place you eat, sleep and live most of your daily life.