Squeezing Your Best Home Office Out of a Maxed-out Floor Plan

by Blake Herzog

Working from home has suddenly became the norm for millions of people since social distancing requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 took hold. According to the Brookings Institute, up to half of American workers are now telecommuting, more than double the percentage that did, at least once in a while, two years ago.

Since this is new for so many people, some are having trouble finding the room for a decently sized office space in homes filled up by their family’s play, entertainment, schoolwork and hobby spaces. Many want to keep intrusion from the outside world away from kitchens and bedrooms. 

But plenty of human ingenuity has already been devoted to carving out a small space and making it functional for doing much if not all your work from home. Here are some solutions that can work in just about any overtaxed abode. 

DROP DESKS

The ultimate in space savers, these feature a flat work shelf on a hinge which can be pulled down, as a unit installed directly onto a wall or as part of an armoire or dresser placed against the wall. Your needs can determine the size of the shelf you buy. Of course, the wall-mounted varieties, also known as “floating desks,” need to be installed properly, but if that’s not a barrier they’re the ideal for squeezing yourself into a living room or bedroom, or even a closet where one can be easily concealed. If you’re up for a standing desk they can be installed at the right height, and you won’t even need a chair! 

CORNER DESKS

Particularly when they’re L-shaped, these can be more spacious than most floating desks and can be stuffed into corners, providing a little privacy in the most chaotic of households. L-shaped desks are especially convenient if you have a larger desktop computer that can be put right in the joint of the “L,” filling all that space without impeding anything else. Tall corner units built with shelving above create a huge amount of storage and display space, though the higher shelves can be difficult for reaching files or cleaning. 

NOOKS, HALLWAYS, STAIRCASES, LANDINGS, LOFTS

Nearly any unused floor space can be converted into a small office area — that weird nook in your bedroom, under a staircase, on a floor landing, even some hallways can be converted without impeding traffic. Getting creative with your awkward spaces can often be the best solution to fitting your workspace in. 

WHAT ABOUT THE COFFEE TABLE? 

Some newer coffee tables have lift tops that can easily be used for a laptop and a couple piles of paper, or the DIY-inclined can convert one into a desk by putting new legs on it or even add a lift-top feature to a standard coffee table. Even if you’re stuck with one there are hacks to make it more functional, like placing a shelf on top of it to put a laptop at a comfortable height. 

WORKING IT OUT

Integrating fitness into sedentary office work has never been this easy. You can sit on a yoga ball without standing out or worrying about minor mishaps going public. Your workspace can double as a storage area for weights, tension bands, yoga mats, punching bags or any other fitness accessories your family is using. Placing it in a corner behind a treadmill or indoor bike creates a little bit of a privacy wall and gives you plenty of healthy excuses to take a break. 

WALL-MOUNTED MONITORS

The panoramic views of today’s 27-inch, 32-inch or even larger desktop monitors are dramatic and extremely useful, and your tiny desk doesn’t need to be a barrier to those if you just treat it like your TV and put it on the wall. This will give you plenty of elbow room around your keyboard and mouse for notes and paperwork, or even dinner (though we do hope you’re not having to eat at your desk — that’s really the whole point of these space savers, keeping your stuff off the kitchen or dining room table). 

LAPTOP CARTS

If you’re in the opposite circumstances, with a laptop and not much need for designated floor space, these mobile carts let you work just about anywhere, and with the adjustable-height ones you can stand as well as sit. Already standard-issue in many health-care settings, the lighter-duty versions are a lower-cost alternative to many other space-saver options but may not have much room for anything else, sometimes not even a mouse. 

MAKING IT HOMEY AT HOME

You can make your small space more pleasant and calming, even if you’re literally working out of a closet. A splash of paint or wallpaper can give it more definition, and shelves, pegs and cabinets make it easier to have those things you need and want close by. Placing your desk close to a window saves on overhead costs by maximizing natural light, as well as making it more appealing to sit there for hours on end. 

Big corkboards or chalkboards can hold mementoes and notes both above and below the desk’s surface. If you have supplies and paperwork that don’t really fit in what little workspace you have, check out storage solutions you’d use for anything else — under the bed, inside the hollow ottoman, or the garage in a pinch. 

VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS

Once you find that perfect productive space for your new home office, it may still be hard to hide messy rooms or personal items you’d rather not broadcast to all of your colleagues during video conferencing. These backdrops eliminate that aesthetic issue. 

Now-ubiquitous Zoom has a plethora of backgrounds, from the formal to the cartoonish to the outlandish (as in the moon or Starship Enterprise). They’re also available for Skype, Facebook Messenger Rooms and several other apps.