AdviceHow-to

Work from home: create a mini-office

Whether you own or rent a home you will often have to make compromises on what you can fit in and what you can afford to do. Extensions may give way to the need for a new kitchen and the desire to decorate your bedroom may be usurped by the fact that you have a damp problem to sort out in the lounge. No home is ever finished and it is very rare that we all get exactly what we want.

Compromise can often be better than waiting, though, and temporary or seemingly lesser solutions can often turn out to be better than your original plans. This is certainly something that applies to the home office, which is something that we all want nowadays, yet few can actually have.

laptop at home

Image source: Aleksi Tappura

Working patterns, increased home-working and our need for laptops, PCs and other tech means that we are often seeking out space to call a work room. But this means sacrificing a dining room, losing a guest bedroom or subtly hinting that your children may want to move out now. Other than that, you are also stuck working at the kitchen table or trying to balance a laptop on your knee on the sofa, neither of which are conducive to good work or good posture. What you really need to do is to find a space in your home that is under-used or simply inaccessible at the moment and use that.

In order to find space for a mini-office you simply need to think differently about your home and look at any potential space that is at least a couple of feet wide that could take a desk and a chair. Don’t worry if there are things in the way, shelving in the spot or a radiator in situ. Just find a spot and then have a think about how it could work. So, for example, a low bookshelf could have a piece of wood added to make a desktop, a radiator could have a hinged drop-down table top over it and an armchair could be pushed forward slightly to create a void behind it. Poor home design is your friend here, with odd-shaped corners, dead-ends and tight alcoves all being ideal for a tiny home office.

measuring ruler on table

Image source: Jeff Sheldon

Always look for spaces that can’t be used for much else, such as the end of corridors, the back of a cupboard door or that small space beneath the stairs. Remember, you will be sitting down, so the smallest nook can become a useful office space.

A desk need only be large enough to hold your laptop or monitor, so it can even be slightly smaller than the computer itself. Half a table attached to a wall can just as easily store a vase when you are not using it to work at, with a compact chair being easy to leave in place or wheel into another room.

Existing storage spaces are a great place to find your office space. If you have an under-used cupboard, pantry or even a wardrobe then you may have found your home office and you can even shut work away in the evening or at the weekend. A good carpenter can add a slide out section in shelves for you to use as a worktop, while clearing a shelf and adding doors to a shelving unit can also create a desk space that can be shut away.

Always remember to try to set up your office space properly so that the top of your monitor is level with the top of your eyes and your seat rest on the floor. If you can’t do this then do at least be sure to take regular breaks away from your desk.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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2 Comments

  1. Really helpful suggestions for mini office – I have a small room (used to be my daughter’s room – single bed, cabinet, tiny desk and not much more) which I use as an office now. However, would love your ideas for how use my space more efficiently. Various “helpful” handymen have put up shelves for all my files – as a tutor I have lots. It still doesn’t work for me though as I sometimes need the space to put friends when they come to stay! Is there a daybed I can fit in somewhere without it looking like Paddy’s Market?

  2. The recommendation about the top of your monitor being level with your eyes does not apply to laptops. Otherwise the keyboard would be too high and you would get pain in your wrists when typing for long periods.

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