Working from home is a new reality for many and that means different things for different people. From the fully employed to the furloughed, and everyone in between, your job may have changed but your need for a place to get work done likely hasn’t. I’ve been through hundreds of homes and offered advice on how to improve just about every room, but the home office rarely gets my attention. They’ve always been the kind of room to be repurposed as a bedroom or simply de-cluttered and lightly accessorized. They’ve never been a ‘first page of marketing’ kind of space, and out of respect for people’s work lives, I usually save the big changes for rooms that are. With the arrival of a novel virus, I’ve been rethinking my approach to the home office and think you should too. 

I live in 500 square feet and have never had a dedicated home office in my life. I do have a dining room, however, and though I long for the day when I can have friends over for dinner again, I decided to convert it into a home office for the time being. Working from it has made a world of difference to my productivity when compared to working from my couch and using my coffee table as a desk. It also makes retreating to my couch at the end of the workday more rewarding since I haven’t spent the better part of my day in the same place. Depending on the distractions you have at home, setting up an office in an open floor plan might not work for you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carve out some space that does. The key to any workspace is to make it inviting and peaceful enough to actually want to work there for any period of time. If you don’t have a dedicated space but are looking for a place to work we recommend the following:

1. Convert your dining room into a home office 

Home Office 500 sq ft

Remove a few dining chairs, add a comfy desk chair on one side, and leave two on the opposite side. Accessorize your new ‘desk’ with pictures of loved ones and places, a plant, something scented, and don’t forget to add a table protector so you don’t have to look at yesterday’s notes indented on your table forevermore.

2. Make use of ‘dead space’ underneath a staircase or in front of a window

Home Office Toronto

Try placing a narrow console table in a formerly unused space and tuck a comfy chair behind it. It doesn’t have to be a big space to be comfortable, so long as your laptop is at an appropriate height for typing and you have room for your mug and a picture or two. 

3. Add floating shelves to a wall with one at desk height to a bedroom or den

Home Office WFH

Floating shelves are great when you don’t have a lot of space to work with and don’t want to invest in more furniture. They are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased anywhere from Ikea to Wayfair. Add brackets for extra support to your desk height shelf and make sure to place the shelves above your desk high enough so you have plenty of headroom when you pull in your chair to work.

4. Build out a window ledge or shelf of an existing bookcase

Home Office 2020

If you happen to have a bay window or window ledge without a bulky piece of furniture in front of it, consider cutting a piece of plywood and building it out a few feet to act as a desk, if only temporarily. The same can be done to an existing bookshelf by cutting a piece of plywood to fit the width of the shelf at desk height and extending it out a few feet. Be sure to add support if you rest your elbows on your desk or add any significant amount of weight to it.

And while your at it, consider styling your bookcase into a work of art with the help of our blog: On Display: Bookshelves Are For More Than Just Books. 

5. Add a desk to your bedroom by placing a dresser in a hallway or closet

Home Office DIY

If you have the room, leave the furniture where it is, but if you don’t, consider tucking your dresser into a closet or in the hall or nearest room with space. If a quiet workspace is a priority, the temporary inconvenience will be worth it. No desk? No problem. Use a small console table with a chair, add a floating shelf, or order an affordable option online from Ikea, Wayfair, or Structube. 

Home offices only function well if we enjoy using them, so always consider your needs before you plan your home office makeover or office improvisation. If you sit and type for hours every day, the dining room conversion is probably your best bet, but if you only need a place for short periods, you may want to go with the console table in an empty space.  Finding a chair that works for you is equally as important as the desk space. Too comfy and you’ll be cuddled up and distracted in no time, horribly uncomfortable and you’ll never use it. Steal a plush dining room chair or consider repurposing your favorite reading chair. If your home office is now a featured room in your home, sacrifices can be made elsewhere. If your desk looks good and is functional, you’ll likely spend a little more time there, so accessorize it as you would any other space you intend to use with thought given to what you look at when your eyes come off your computer screen. 

Just like social distancing, temporary changes can have immediate results, so put some love into your new workspace, and fall in love with it that much sooner. 

Author: Kiel Storms. To read more about him, click here. 

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