COVID-19: Working from home in a super-small space

COVID-19: Working from home in a super-small space

During quarantine, our condos have become more than just homes: now they’re also our gyms, coffee shops and classrooms. And for those of us who are working from home, they've become our offices and boardrooms, too.

But how many of us can fit a great home office setup into our small condos? Well, even if you’re in a tiny space, you might be surprised. Even if you don’t have a dedicated room with a door (and really, how many of us do?) there are lots of creative ways you can set up a work area where you feel productive, focused and inspired.

  1. Claim your space.

    Decide on one space that's your “work zone” – don’t go looking for a place to park your laptop every time you sit down to work. Whether you’re sharing a dining table with your partner, working at your kitchen counter (instant stand-up desk!) or you’ve repurposed your bedroom vanity, go with a quiet spot that has an outlet, a surface for your computer and a place to tuck in a chair. If it's an area that gets used for other things when you're not working, clear away anything that’s not work-related like placemats, magazines or cereal boxes so you can stay focused on the task at hand.

  2. Set boundaries.

    Find a way to visually separate your workspace from the rest of your home. Use a small rug to define the area, or try using a room divider, a bookshelf or a tall plant as a wall. (Or you could even use Les Nessman’s brilliant idea and make duct tape “walls” on the floor…). Not only will this help you separate work and home, it's a signal to partners, kids and housemates that you're in your work zone and shouldn't be disturbed.

  3. Keep it clean.

    In small spaces, clutter is the enemy. Keeping things neat will help you stay sane. Manage your cords with clever hacks, go with wireless mouse/keyboard/printer options to cut down on wires, and store files, supplies and other stuff out of sight in nice-looking baskets or boxes. Clean your workspace at the end of every workday so you don’t have to stare at the clutter all night, and can start fresh in the morning.

  4. Think vertically.

    Need more space to store your stuff? Install floating shelves, a pegboard – or even a cool-looking clipboard gallery wall, or pick up a bookshelf that has a built-in work surface.

  5. Block out the noise.

    When you've got other people around or your neighbours are being noisy, some great music can be just the ticket for finding focus. But if you aren't into listening to tunes all day, that’s okay. Just wearing headphones can help block out sound, and also let others know you're working and shouldn’t be disturbed. (Earplugs work too.)

  6. Install a folding wall-mounted desk.

    If your partner is using the kitchen table or there's just no room for a traditional desk in your place, a wall-mounted table (otherwise known as the Murphy bed of desks) folds up when you're not using it.

  7. Light ‘er up.

    Not only does choosing the right lighting make your work zone more appealing, it can actually help you work better. Try working near a window if you can – natural light has been proven to make us happier and more productive. (Just make sure the window isn’t right behind you, since it can cast a glare onto your monitor, which is hard on your eyes.) Bright task lighting is great for reading, a subdued light behind your monitor can reduce eye strain, and a warm pool of light from a desk or floor lamp makes any workspace feel cozy, especially if you’re working into the evening.

  8. Use “ergo hacks.”

    You don't have to have a fancy chair or a second monitor to create a workspace that's a little easier on your body:

    • Use your TV as a monitor: just connect your laptop with an HDMI cable.

    • If you're working on a laptop, get a separate keyboard and mouse (usually very reasonably priced), and set the laptop on a pile of books to get the top 2-3 inches of the screen in your line of sight.

    • Keep your keyboard as close to you as you can. It keeps you from reaching out and straining your arms and shoulders.

    • Sit all the way back in your chair and ensure your feet are resting flat on the floor. Put a cushion or a book under your feet if needed.

Whatever your space situation, there are ways to make it work. If you can avoid working on the couch, in bed or hunched over a coffee table, your body will thank you – and you’ll probably be more productive, too.

More small space living ideas are coming your way soon! If there's a topic you'd like us to cover, let us know at [email protected].

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