The work world is changing rapidly in the 21st century. The days of "going to work" may not be ending yet, but that might not be the norm for much longer. Technology has provided us with enormous flexibility, and the typical job, working in an office that you drive to every Monday through Friday is rapidly giving way to remote working arrangements, with employees working from a home office.
For the people accustomed to the traditional office space of the past, this can take some adjustment. They'll need to get used to not having to sit in traffic for hours a day, not dealing with office gossip, not struggling to get work done without interruption from coworkers and over-zealous bosses...
Alright, it's not all positive. Working remotely means that your work area is no longer provided by your employer—you'll need to provide your own home office. Fortunately, that doesn't have to be overwhelming. Just about any small space in your home can become your workspace, from a small desk in the corner of the living room or master bedroom, to a spare room converted to a small office.
Home office ideas
Getting set up to work from home can be as simple as getting a cheap, small desk from Ikea and setting it up in a quiet corner, or even just using your laptop on the dining room table. In fact, if you live in a small apartment, that might be your best option.
If you have the space and the budget, though, why not create an office area that's better suited to your work and your personality?
A small home office can be your haven for getting work done, whether that's your regular paid work or just household paperwork. Having an office design that matches your own taste can make it a source of inspiration. You don't need to be an expert in home office design, you just need a few simple room ideas.
Where to set up your work area
Starting with the obvious, an unused bedroom is perfect for converting to a home office. If you don't have an extra room, though, you can still in all probability find a good spot somewhere in your home. More square footage will obviously make the task easier, but even a tiny New York or San Francisco apartment is likely to have enough room for a small workspace that can become your office.
Good alternatives to the spare bedroom to consider:
- Attics or basements — If your home has them, either can be a good option. You probably don't need the whole space, but if you can set up a somewhat isolated spot, that's ideal.
- A garage — Not as good an option as an attic or basement, but if your garage isn't too hot or too cold it can be a great location for a small office. If the idea of a room makeover excites you, a section of your garage might just be the ultimate "blank slate."
- A hobby or craft room — If you already have a room dedicated to your hobby, you just might have the space for a small desk and office chair. Add a storage unit or two and your craft room is now functioning as your office, too.
- Laundry or utility room — This may not sound like the best spot, but with some creativity, you can make these rooms work well. You'll need to be sure there's adequate ventilation—laundry rooms get especially humid, and that's not great for your important papers or your computer and other electronics. If that issue can be dealt with, however, you might have a great spot.
- A "nook" or corner — Often the first spot people consider is an unused corner or nook in a larger room. This is a great choice since it usually requires less effort, less space, and less money than other options.
The biggest consideration here is isolation—are you going to be bothered by other activity in the area? Space might be tight, so that large mahogany office desk you've been eyeing is probably out—that's better for your budget, anyway.
What makes the perfect spot?
Wherever you decide to locate your home office, there are things you should be looking for.
- Light — The more natural light, the better. A bright, sunny room is good for your mood and good for work performance. If natural light isn't available, the closer your electric lights can approximate the sun, the better. Fluorescent lighting is the least desirable choice, so if that's all that's available, consider supplementing it with a lamp designed to approximate daylight.
- Electricity — You need a place to plug in your computer and printer, and whatever other electrical appliances you'll be using. In addition to making sure there are enough outlets, make sure that your office has enough power, too. You don't want your breaker to trip right in the middle of typing up an important document, so make sure you aren't overloading the circuit.
- Privacy — If you're the only one home during your normal work hours, this might not be an issue. Be sure, though. Will you be working late on occasion? The best place to locate your office should be one where you can work undisturbed.
- Quiet — Closely tied with privacy, but even if people will leave you alone you still don't want loud noises from city traffic disturbing you all day.
There's a good chance that you won't have the perfect spot, but with creativity and a few good design ideas, you should be able to adapt what you have to make it work.
With your location picked out, now's the time to "design" your work area. No need to panic if you have no office design skills—yours is the only opinion that matters here. But if you have the budget and want professional help, feel free to consult with an interior designer.
Think about what's essential first. Clearly, you'll need a desk, and that should probably be your first consideration. It needs to fit your space physically, of course. Beyond that, just about everything else is up to you.
Aside from size, here are a few things you might consider when shopping for your new office desk:
- Drawers and storage — Do you want/need them? Or do you prefer a more minimalist style? In a mini office where space is a premium, more storage space in your desk can be a lifesaver.
- Material — Hardwood is beautiful and traditional; it's also quite expensive. Metal and glass give a more modern appearance. Laminate desks can be found in a variety of styles to fit your office and home decor and are often quite a bit cheaper than other options.
- Color — Does your space have an existing color scheme that you'd like to match? Or will you be painting or otherwise changing the room to conform to the office you envision?
- Type of desk — So many choices here... Writing desks, computer desks, floating desks (a.k.a. wall-mounted desks), standing desks... Different types are better suited to different uses, but the size of your space will have a lot to do with which one works best for you.
You'll spend a lot of time here, so a comfortable office chair is important. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor—desk chairs aren't bar stools—and your knees should be at about the same height as your hips. If your chair has armrests, make sure that they are at a comfortable height; your shoulders should be relaxed when you're sitting normally. Adjustable armrests are a great option, but not essential.
Size might matter, but it's less critical than the size of the desk. Still, a home office nook would probably do better with a smaller chair, while a dedicated office room will allow a lot more flexibility.
If you choose a large desk with drawers and a built-in file cabinet, you might be all set. Otherwise, you need a place for your important papers and essential office supplies.
If space is at a premium, this is where you may need to exercise your creativity. Storage wall units are a great choice if you have room for them, but you can also use your storage units to give yourself a little privacy. Shelves can make great walls to help keep disturbances to a minimum.
A file cabinet is probably going to be essential and might serve double-duty as a printer table. Don't overlook the importance of a lock. Even at home, there are some documents that should always be under lock and key. A combined file cabinet/fire safe is a great investment and can be used for more than just work documents. A word of caution, though; those fire safes are heavy! Don't try to move one without help.
Have you designed your own home office? Are you currently planning one? Do you have ideas that I haven't covered? Please give us your thoughts in the comments. And don't forget our great office phone booths that are a great addition to any office!