Home office organization – expectations vs. reality (+ tips to level it up)

  • December 17, 2021
  • by Ola Rybacka
  • No comments

A proper home office organization is a huge support for maintaining a high productivity level. Remote work can be super distractive, especially for beginners or if forced. Most of us don’t plan to include a dedicated room for a home office, finding it unnecessary or just because of a tight budget or social conditions. Let’s face it – a separate space at home just for performing work-related duties sounds quite luxurious.

However, even a vertical space or an empty corner in the living room can act as a great workspace and create friendly working conditions. And you don’t have to be an interior designer to make a clutter-free, organized home office. Just a little bit of good intentions and free time, and you’ll be surprised by the results.

Let me introduce some best home office organization tips and ideas that don’t require extra space or spending gazillions on fancy essentials.

But let me warn you first – the reality is pretty different from expected.

How to organize a home office: expectations vs. the reality

If I recall my first thoughts of working remotely, I remember it was full of promises of having my private home office and…

Big plans

I had moved into a new flat then – a studio apartment, small yet just for myself and enough for my needs. I knew I couldn’t afford a separate room; however, it was enough empty wall space to put a desk somewhere.

So I bought one, with a few drawers. And a comfy chair. And a desk organizer. And lots of handy drawer organizers and plastic containers to have enough room for the office supplies.

And, in the meantime, I browsed lots of office organization ideas on Pinterest and made a to-do list template of steps that needed to be made to prepare a perfect desk space. I was primarily looking for the inspiration to put every corner of my living room to good use.

Oh, I had to look so smug after seeing the final effect! All prepared and ready for me to work hard. But then I faced…

The every-day reality

And guess what? After a week, I moved to a couch. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who started with high ambitions and ended as usual.

Good for me, I didn’t purchase extra filing cabinets because I wouldn’t have anything to put in them.

But then I realized myself I don’t need all that fancy house and desk organization ideas to maintain the proper remote work productivity level. My results didn’t suddenly change because I moved from desk to couch. I just incorporated a few tips to keep my body and my devices in good condition; I’ll mention them a little later.

Does having a separate workspace is really that important for efficient remote work?

Working in a domestic environment makes us more prone to various distractors. It’s like before the super important exam – we’d rather do anything than actually studying.

Work-from-couch has its consequences…

The couch seems to be the biggest distractor. Working in the office, people don’t have many occasions to leave their desks and switch them to a comfy armchair. But at home, the temptation to work from the couch is so strong. According to the home improvement marketing firm CraftJack’s study, 45% of American remote workers perform their duties from the couch, and 38% work regularly from their beds.

However cozily, it’s not recommended to work holding a computer on the laps – for both our bodies and devices. First, the position itself isn’t ergonomic – we often sit cross-legged, with slouched shoulders, hunched back, and stiff and extended neck. It leads straight to poor posture that causes lots of other difficulties for our poor bodies like tension headaches or even migraine.

Maintaining proper, ergonomic working conditions at a home office prevents these fatigue symptoms. Of course, as a person who has worked remotely for years, I don’t deny that there are days when the couch is super-tempting. But after a day or two of sitting in such an uncomfortable position, I remind myself why I bought a desk a few years ago ;). It’s nice to switch sometimes.

Remember that working with a computer on the laps may also harm the device you use. Without proper air circulation getting warmer easily, a cooling system may no longer be enough to cool it down.

But let’s not demonize the work-from-couch lifestyle!

Those who can’t afford bigger flats and can’t let themselves have an office at house will surely support me. Especially in COVID times, many families had to turn their apartments into both home offices and school classes (and had to deal with surviving in the home office with their kids). They probably valued their own comfort as less important than their children’s, letting them use their desks or kitchen table and moving to the couch themselves.

Even if we maintain a work-from-couch lifestyle, we can still perfectly perform our tasks without harming our bodies and devices.

👉 First, I highly recommend buying a cushion-like lap desk. You can get a basic one from the Ikea store. If you have more advanced needs, you can purchase multifunctional trays that go with LED gooseneck you can store on the back of the “desk.”

👉 Second, take breaks more often. As an experienced home office worker, I encourage you to do some stretching or quick yoga sessions between the tasks; they work wonders for a stiff body and stressed mind. Besides, whether working at the office or home, we all can use a well-deserved rest to perform our duties better.

As you can see, the key is to find a happy medium.

How to manage home office organization for small spaces?

Finding a place to prepare a home office shouldn’t be so difficult, even if we can’t afford extra space. As I mentioned before, even a piece of the flat surface will perfectly serve as a good workspace.

🟢 Turn your kitchen into a temporary home office

I bet most of you can afford some extra kitchen space to devote to a home office, even if not 24/7. A kitchen table or a countertop serves perfectly as a desk if not used for preparing food or eating.

The problem can be the lack of space for office supplies storage. But let’s face it – who produces tons of papers, documents, and sticky notes when doing everything online? But if you really need to get your papers and pens organized, just use a shelf in the living room or find the emptiest drawer in the kitchen furniture to put them there. They’ll be easily accessible and won’t be loose all over your house.

🟢 Use the wall space

If you lack the space to afford another cabinets or bookcase, purchase the floating shelves. You can hang them above the couch, the bed, or anything else they will fit. They’re usually not that expensive, so that you can create extra room for the papers, craft supplies, or tech accessories. They’re available in many styles, so you can choose one that matches your flat’s color scheme (check the Ikea stores product range).

You can also hang a bulletin board or the one that goes well with a chalkboard pen if you miss the office’s pegboard wall.

What are the best home office organization ideas on a budget?

🟢 Recycle the items probably everyone has at home

Instead of buying fancy drawer organizers or storage containers, unleash your imagination! Find the spare mason jars, plastic containers, or matching bins to reuse them. Try to use your DIY skills – if you don’t have a clue how to do it, browse the internet to find new ideas. Pinterest and DIY blogs are full of tutorials of exactly what we need (my best tip was to create sticky notes from old business cards there).

You can find there more information on how to create handmade display items with reused materials and craft supplies. What’s more, decor artists often share how they deal with the home office clutter and organize life to focus more on every single task they need to perform.

🟢 Move your home office online

We live in times that help us go paperless, produce fewer documents, and have less plastic waste. Simply, we can get our house and home office life more organized by using online storage and automation tools.

Using online platforms for task management, file storage, to-do list, and other office-related services save us much floor and wall space. The same organizational ideas go for mobile devices. We can replace the small items and larger items with them:

  • a bulletin boardKanban-based task manager to organize a daily clutter (HeySpace, Trello),
  • shelves and cabinets for getting paper documents organized – file storage platforms (Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, iCloud),
  • office supplies like pens and pencilsa tablet with a stylus (for me, iPad and Apple Pencil work wonders),
  • paper calendarsa meeting schedule website or an online calendar (Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, Calendly, Taggg),
  • sticky notesto-do list tools to write and organize the ideas (Todoist, Any.do),

All the tools mentioned above have mobile versions that help organize the clutter and control jobs and daily tasks. They’re easily accessible and super handy when in a hurry; just type the file name in the search bar and find what you need.

And what’s the most important – they save us shelves, cabinets, and other storage space and the money we would spend on extra supplies.

🟢 Extra: Marie Kondo home office organization

A few years ago, we all heard of Marie Kondo, a famous Japanese cleaning consultant and bestselling author. Her revolutionary idea of reducing clutter by organizing the space category by category instead of room by room inspired many people worldwide.

The KonMari method can be easily used for home office space organization. The thing is, it won’t be just the usual workspace reorganization. And it probably will be hell for those who tend to squirrel the things away.

Because following Kondo’s path means getting rid of every item that doesn’t “spark joy.”

How does it work?

🌟 The “art” of “sparking joy” 🌟

Remove all the items from your desk or another flat surface you use as a workspace. Put them on a pile and go item-by-item, considering if it brings you happiness. If not, throw it away, try to sell or give it to the charity – up to you.

Once you finish, you’ll end with a much smaller pile of things to organize. Put them together by category and similar content and refill all the storage containers you’ve had before.

Marie Kondo’s idea for a clutter-free home office is perfect for removing old office supplies, old sticky notes and saving more desk (and home) space. It depends on us if we maintain a neat workspace, but I entirely understand that sometimes quick access to the items we need is more important than keeping them perfectly organized.

Sometimes the reality is different than expectations, but…

Let’s face it -it doesn’t matter how our home office looks like, as long as we perform our duties effectively. Sometimes we have a mood for work-from-couch, and we shouldn’t feel bad about it – just do our jobs.

But even there are many challenges of working from home; it still can be a satisfying workstyle that doesn’t affect our productivity and focus.

And let me share my little secret – I wrote this article sitting on the couch, under the blanket, just glancing from time to time at my desk. And I’m entirely comfortable with it! I still search for desk organization ideas, but just because I often write about it.

Don’t push yourself to be a model home office worker – just do your job, and the rest will follow ;).

Ola Rybacka

Content Specialist at TimeCamp, foodie and doxie lover, full-time otaku. よろしくお願いします!

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