Let’s talk about the important task of setting up a home office in a small space to work from home.
Yes, working in bed like a cozy, snuggly burrito sounds tempting. But this is the path to losing your motivation, back health, and peace of mind.
Sorry, but the ‘cozy burrito’ path is a no go.
Those who work out of office need a clear cut distinction between ‘work’ and ‘home’.
And one of the steps in setting up these boundaries is to create your own makeshift office.
Here are the steps to setting up a home office in a small space to work from home:
- Choose the right place
- Decide on a desk — traditional, folding, or lap
- Create the right seating to avoid back pain
- Ensure privacy & quiet
- Set up storage & shelving
- Stick to concrete productivity techniques
This approach will allow you to build a home office in a small space that a) doesn’t clutter your place and b) that you’ll actually use. And maybe you’ll find some home office setup ideas for your already existing workspace.
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Choosing the right place for working from home — nooks & light
Since we’re working with a small space, finding the right place for setting up a home office can be challenging. Ideally, you’d have a dedicated room for your office. But if that’s not an option, here are some home office design layout ideas.
You can carve out a free patch for your desk in any room by decluttering and organizing your belongings. For storage ideas and space savers you can take a look at this post.
Some apartments have nooks that are meant for closets or bed frames. If you have one and it’s not being used, you can set up a small home office right in. Just look at how creative it looks in the picture below.
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The accent wall really helps section off the office space from the rest of the apartment. Also, you’ll probably need shelves for storage but the nook will keep them from looking too bulky for a small room.
Last but not least, if you can, set up your home office in a place filled with natural light. Exposure to daylight has been proven to reduce headaches and eye strain, improve overall mood and help keep you productive.
Deciding on a desk — traditional, folding, and floating
A desk is a desk, right? Well, not when you have limited space to work with.
You either make the right choice or get something that is bulky, uncomfortable and makes you want to go back into ‘cozy burrito’ mode with your laptop in tow. I’m being dramatic because I’ve been there.
So here are some desk options for small rooms:
No assembly folding desk
The title says it all. This is a folding industrial desk that was designed for “busy young people”.
The best feature of this desk is that it has the easiest assembly process you can imagine — only 1 step. You simply snap the desk onto the unfolded frame and you’re ready for work.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this desk is a looker. Just because you have to set up a home office doesn’t mean you need to compromise your interior design.
Floating desk with storage shelves
If you like the concept but would like a desk that also folds shut, this is the one for you.
This is one of the top choices when it comes to desks for small rooms. It doesn’t take up floor space and it has plenty of storage.
Even if you move on from working at home, you can use it as a bookshelf, writing or drawing desk.
Multipurpose bookshelf desk
This desk is a total winner for small spaces.
It doubles as a ladder bookshelf where you can store books, paperwork, and whatnot. Its ‘desk’ part can be folded upward to reveal a corkboard memo pad. So, once again, it’s a desk you’ll find a use for even when you’re done with working from home.
And it’s really narrow (25 inches) so you can fit it even in the tiniest nook.
Creating the right seating for your home office
As someone who has been working from home for 3 years and has managed to royally f-up their back, let me give you a word of advice. Even if you’re looking for home office ideas on a budget, get a good chair (or make it good). And sit in it the right way.
So there are two parts to this advice: seating and maintaining the right sitting position. You can have the best desk chair in the world and still struggle with daily neck and back pain. It’s all about sitting the proper way and it’s harder than it seems. You can read up on how to keep a healthy posture here.
Fortunately, in addition to ergonomic chairs, there are some gadgets out there that can further help you with avoiding back and neck pain.
Ergonomic adjustable mesh chair
All people are different which is why it is important to have a chair that can adjust to your body and needs.
This mesh chair has an adjustable headrest, lumbar support, armrests, height, tilt, and tilt tension. And let me tell you, the headrest and lumbar support are the silent heroes of desk chairs. Additionally, the adjustable armrests do wonders for avoiding tension in shoulders when working and helps keep pain at bay.
Lastly, a mesh chair looks less bulky than a classic executive leather chair. Which is why it is a solid choice for smaller spaces.
Retractable footrest desk chair
In all seriousness, this chair allows you not only to work in comfort but to relax in comfort as well. First, the chair can recline to 135°. Second, it has a retractable footrest. Combine the two and you can assume a ‘zero-gravity’ position that relieves tension in your back.
And if it gets hot in your place, the mesh material will keep circulating the air to keep you from literally sweating your bum off.
Ergonomic kneeling chair
Yoga ball is also recommended for keeping a proper posture during work.
People with back pain have reported this chair to be a true game-changer. Using it falls somewhere between sitting and standing. It keeps your posture in an optimal position while giving you the relief of sitting. But it will take some time to get used to.
Just make sure to make periodical breaks to walk around and relax your muscles. You can even use that time to exercise using one of these workout machines for small spaces.
And here are some gadgets to add ergonomics to your existing office chair & working conditions:
Lumbar support cushion
Use this memory foam cushion to add lumbar support to your desk chair. It can be particularly useful for older chairs that don’t support your back anymore like they used to.
You can detach it at any time and put it on, say, a car seat for long road trips.
Armrest mousepad attachment
It has an integrated mousepad which allows you to keep your arm in an ergonomic L-shape position when working.
Memory foam seat cushion
You can get both lumbar support and seat cushions in one package.
Made of memory foam, it helps alleviate pain in strategic areas of your back and legs.
Ensuring privacy and quiet in a home office
If you live with someone, be it your significant other, roommates, or kids, your home office needs some privacy.
First, it will help you focus more on the job in front of you and serve as a ‘do not disturb’ sign for people you live with.
Second, having a separate, private area for work is crucial for your mental state. Distinguishing ‘work time’ from ‘home time’ can be a real challenge. If you fail to do that, you can feel stressed, overworked, unable to stop thinking about work even when you’re supposed to rest. And we all need rest.
So creating a private home office can give your brain a signal that ‘here, we’re going to work and work happens only there’.
I wrote an entire post on how to get privacy in a small space that you should definitely have a look at. It includes a variety of makeshift walls, separators, and dividers that can help you in setting up a home office.
But here are some highlights.
Curved ceiling curtain track
These are bendable ceiling tracks. You can curve them around your home office, hang some curtains, and have a separate room all to yourself.
Room divider with shelves
You can also use the shelves for office storage – keep notebooks, calendars, and paperwork in close reach and off the desk.
Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones
Also, if you have trouble focusing on work because you’re home with kids, here’s an article that can give you some pointers.
Setting up storage and shelving
Being in an organized workspace directly influences your productivity. Think of clutter as distractions for your brain. Putting away those distractions allows your brain to focus on a task at hand – your work.
In a small space, keeping organized can be tough. There’s just less space that can be converted into storage. But with these pieces of home office furniture, you can keep your workspace neat and have everything you need in close reach.
Modular desktop organizer
This desktop organizer was featured in my dorm room storage and space savers article. So it’s a longtime favorite.
You can reconfigure the shelves in this one to suit your needs and fill it with everything that is currently residing on your desk.
A 5-drawer organizer on wheels
If you lots of stuff, use this unit to organize it. It has 5 drawers and can be kept stationary or you can attach wheels to it.
Its universal look also means you can repurpose it in the future for makeup, crafts, or kitchen storage.
Monitor stand with drawers
Also, having your monitor in a raised position can help ease neck pain in the long run.
No assembly folding bookshelf
If your work requires a lot of stuff, this bookshelf is perfect for storing it. You don’t even have to waste time assembling it – just unfold it and you’re ready to go.
You can even use it as a makeshift room divider, similar to the picture below.
Sticking to productivity techniques in a home office
Let me tell you, productivity and motivation at home can be looow.
It is easy to get distracted like start cleaning out of the blue or making a sandwich. But there are some productivity techniques, tips, and tricks out there to help you keep your eyes on the prize.
Break down your goals
Having your obligations swirling in your brain like a constant background noise can be overwhelming. And can lead to procrastination.
Break down your goals for the day into smaller, achievable tasks and put them on paper. Focus on each point, work on it, and then move on to the next when you’re done. This way, the satisfaction of completing a task will keep you motivated throughout the day.
Group similar tasks
Our brains struggle with jumping from one task to another. This may even be one of the reasons why some contestants on ‘Jeopardy!’ stick to one category of questions instead of jumping all around the board.
So to keep your productivity afloat, perform batch actions. Let’s say, you need to write a blog post. Instead of writing an intro then jumping to research, then stopping to find the right picture, do this – do the full research, create an outline, find/create all the graphics, then write it in full.
The Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro method was created in the late 1980s and is still in wide use all over the world.
To put it simply, it entails breaking down your work into 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between them. There’s more to the techniques but that’s the overall gist.
You can find out more about the Pomodoro method from its creator here.
Think of that one big task that has been bugging you for so long. You know you have to do it but it’s just too hard, will take too long, too daunting to even think about.
That task is your frog. And now you have to eat it.
This metaphor will make sense if you’re familiar with the work of Brian Tracy, the guru of self-development. What it boils down to is that if you have a task that has been gnawing at you, just do it. Spare yourself the stress that comes with putting it away for later, procrastinating, and making up excuses. Just do it.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, eat that frog and the worst will be behind you.
Hopefully, you’ve found some modern office design ideas for small spaces in here. And I’ll be sure to expand on the topic in the future.
Speaking of the future, pin this article to your ‘Home Office Ideas’ board for future reference, huh? You never know when you’ll need to take a look at some cool home office ideas.
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