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Summary:

Not all teleworkers are lucky enough to have a large house. This means that designated office space will be limited. In fact, many teleworkers I know work from a partitioned corner of their kitchen or living room. If you’re in a similar situation, planning your home […]

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Not all teleworkers are lucky enough to have a large house. This means that designated office space will be limited. In fact, many teleworkers I know work from a partitioned corner of their kitchen or living room. If you’re in a similar situation, planning your home office can be a challenge. What can you do to have an efficient workspace in a small area?

Spend time planning your space.
It’s best to make a visual plan so that each square foot is accounted for. Doing this saves more time and effort over moving furniture around on the spot.

Avoid large furniture. The smaller the space you have to work with, the leaner your furniture should be. I made the mistake of buying a large drafting table with a lightbox. It takes up half the room, but I only use a third of its surface. A more practical choice would’ve been a smaller desk and a separate lightbox that I can tuck away when I’m not using it. At least the table is foldable, so I can rest it against the wall when I need more floor space.

Which brings me to the next point — have folding or stacking furniture, if you can. This is especially important for pieces you don’t use often, such as extra chairs or tables. I’m not saying that you have to go out and buy new furniture. Just be selective about which existing pieces go into your office.

Go multifunctional. As much as possible, use multifunctional furniture. For example, a cabinet of the right height can also be used as a standing workstation. You can also have a small bench, ottoman, or side table with storage compartments. If you’re using a laptop, a cabinet with a foldout desk can be a good choice as your work desk if the height and size is comfortable enough for you.

One of the things I did was to modify an old computer chair so that it can serve as a stool when a visitor needs to look at the computer with me, and also function as an ottoman when I recline my own chair to relax.

Take advantage of vertical space.
For extra storage space, install overhead shelves in your office. This allows you to increase the functional surface area that you can work with. You can make these shelves easier to reach by having a small stepladder nearby.

Purge ruthlessly. I used to keep the boxes that came with new software and equipment. By storing these boxes, I was essentially storing air. When I eventually recycled the boxes, I found myself with almost a full cabinet of free space. In case you’ll need some boxes in the future, don’t store them as they are. Instead, fold them up so that you can pile several boxes neatly in a cabinet or under a bed.

Here’s another thing that eats up office space: old or broken computer peripherals and parts. If some of them are still working, donate or sell them. If not, throw them away or recycle them.

Look for inspiration.
Browse the web for examples of small rooms and see what makes them work. Here are some sites that can help:

Having a small home office shouldn’t be a big disadvantage if you know how to work around it. with some careful planning and creativity, the worth of your small office won’t be measured in square feet.

Do you have a small home office? How do you work around space constraints?

Image by jadey919 from sxc.hu

  1. Great post!
    It’s too important to know that you also need space for a printer, pencils, documents, not just the computer and we forget about this stuff sometimes.
    One little advice: get yourself a GOOD chair! Seriously…

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  2. This is some great advice. The other thing I’d recommend, similar to your tip about purging, is to keep the space clean and organized. I have a small space for my home office and the minute a couple days worth of mail piles up or a couple things are thrown on it, it looks like a mess. A mess is distracting and can cause you to not want to work from that space.

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  3. Hi Celine! I think these are really great tips. I have a home office myself (I’m a life coach and full-time blogger, so half of the times I’m working from my own home), so it’s important my office is conducive. It’s actually in my bedroom since my house isn’t all that big, but I turned my room into a cosy haven for work + leisure last year. I wrote about it in one my blog posts which has since been very popular among readers. Here are pictures and how to’s if anyone is interested: http://celestinechua.com/blog/2009/03/does-your-room-inspire-you/

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  4. I’ve got a corner of the living room sectioned off, and it works well, but sometimes I’m too tempted to go and work on the couch, which is far less productive.

    Also, rob is totally spot-on with the chair suggestion. Possibly the most important part of my setup. :)

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  5. Great information Celine. Whether you’re office is large or small there’s something to be gleaned from your tips. Your work space must be organized so you can access what you need when you need and avoid wasting time searching.

    Organizing what you have really helps reduce both the clutter and the search time.

    Thinking multipurpose when making your purchases is important too. If you only need a full color laser printer on occasion it’s probably better to pay to use one rather than owning one yourself.

    As I read your post it also occurred to me that many small business owners and independent sales professionals you pay to maintain an outside office may rethink that decision as they scour their overheads costs for potential savings.

    The way we work today most people do not need the extra expense and inconvenience required to maintain an outside office.

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  6. [...] you paying for an office space?  Recently, Celine Rogue wrote a good post about planning a home office in a small space.  She had some good suggestions. [...]

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  7. Nice article thanks. I have an office area in my basement and I need to re-organize the space. I have 12 ft x 12 ft to work with, but there’s a 2 ft x 3 ft area in the middle of the house (of the 12 x 12 area) taken up by an oil furnace and a clothes dryer on one wall. The clothes also get hung up every once and a while down here. I made 2-3ft x 4ft bookshelves filled to the max and another 2.5ft by 7ft shelf unit filled to the max as well. I also have a small 1.5 ft by 4 ft bookshelf I made for more school textbooks and it’s all filled up. Also another 3.5ft tall 6ft wide bookshelf to fit under the electrical panel side on the other side of the dryer overflowing with books and magazines. I have a computer desk and luckily a small desk from my early years I can use but sadly overflowing. First thing I need to do is organize then possibly add a hanging corner cabinet to remove a lot of the clutter. I have a 1ft by 2ft area right in the corner between a bookcase and computer desk being unused (wasted) I’ll need to move the bookshelf and shove the desk over or think of a corner desk as well.

    Thanks for letting me talk it out, now I have a plan and can act on it. I agree with the first poster, don’t be shy on shelling out a hundred or so for a nice office chair – well worth it, I spent $180 cdn on mine from the office depot, don’t skimp on a crappy spindly thing get one with a full back and some arm rests, you’ll thank me later. You don’t have to break the bank with a leather chair, shop around maybe someone’s giving one away in the classifieds.

    My home is less than 900 sq ft. with a useable basement, thank god, or we wouldn’t have anywhere to put anything. Someday I’ll get organized if I can take advantage of some vertical space I’ll be in business.

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  8. Thanks to your advice, I finally was able to organize my workplace

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