Setting Up an Office in a Small or Shared Space

As a freelancer, you are probably no stranger to working from home. For years, this circumstance was just fine and dandy. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many companies and schools were forced to send their employees and students home in the name of social distancing and public health. Now, freelance writers with roommates and families are likely sharing a space, and making it work requires serious adjustments. If you live in a small house or apartment, the issue becomes even more complicated.

The good news is that even if your space seems too close for comfort, there are ways that you can create a productive workspace without sacrificing the professionalism and work ethic that makes you the best at what you do.

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When You Don’t Have An Office

If you live in a small dwelling or a studio apartment, you probably don’t have the space for an office. Instead, you’ll need to improvise. Doing so may involve creating an office out of an unconventional space like in a lighted closet or the area under the staircase where most people typically don’t stand or walk. If you have to put your desk in a more populated place like an entryway, just be sure to clean up your workspace at the end of the day so you aren’t leaving a mess that will get in the way.

Since your workspace is also your home space, you may not have room to fit a desk to complete your work. If that is the case, you can sit at the kitchen table or other living areas. If you can’t work at a conventional desk, you will still need to sit properly, so you don’t hurt your back or neck. Find an ergonomic chair, place your computer screen at eye level, and get up every hour to stretch.

Those who are forced to work in the living room or another high-traffic area will want to make an effort to limit distractions. If you don’t need it for work, take your phone and the TV remote control and put them in another room or out of reach. If you continue to struggle, consider installing an app on your computer like SelfControl or Freedom that blocks distracting websites for a predetermined amount of time.

Setting Up an Office in a Small or Shared Space
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Working with Roommates and Children

While it is true that many freelancers work best when there is someone else around to keep accountable such as a coworking space, our roommates and children are not always the ideal participants while we work from home. If you have roommates that are also living from home, then you will first need to have a talk with one another about your schedules. This becomes especially important when you have meetings or deadlines where quiet time is of the essence. If a roommate has a particularly important call, it may be polite to leave the house and work somewhere else like at a coffee shop during that time. Your roommate will extend the same courtesy when you have your meeting.

If you have Zoom meetings or conference calls, you may want to create a designated space in the apartment where you can get that quiet time and focus that you need. Many people have been turning their bathrooms into small “conference rooms” since it can give you the option to close the door and provide you with good acoustics. You’ll always want an appropriate background for your Zoom calls, and the white wall of a bathroom will usually work. If you want to spice it up, hang a painting on the wall behind you.

Now more than ever, many freelancers are working alongside their kids at home as children continue to use e-learning during this time of social distancing. The best-case scenario is to set up a schedule with your employer that allows you to help your kids with schooling in the morning and then do your work in the afternoons. It is also a smart idea to provide your kids with quiet activities like coloring books and puzzles that they can do on the side while you work. Also, get the exercise you need and spend time with the kids by going out and taking walks on your breaks.

Consider Working Outside

Sometimes, no matter how we try to make room or shift our furniture, there simply isn’t adequate space to work. If this is the case, it may be time to consider creating a workspace outdoors. This is a growing trend for those with outdoor patios or deck space, and the idea has many benefits. In addition to getting space to work, it has been found that working outside can also increase productivity and reduce stress.

Why It’s Good to Occasionally Work Outside

The setup depends on the space allotted, but you will still need to work in an area where you can sit with a straight back with your eyes on the monitor directly in front of you. This could be the opportunity to purchase a nice outdoor dining set so you can sit comfortably. Make sure to cover chairs and tables when not in use so they last through the seasons.

You will need to make tweaks and adjustments to your outdoor space depending on where you live. If it gets chilly or warm in your neck of the woods, consider adding fans or outdoor heaters so you can work in comfort. Irritating insects like mosquitoes can cause issues in some parts of the country, so think about installing a screened-in porch or placing specific plants in the area that are known to deter mosquitoes like basil and lemongrass. Plants are always a good idea because they purify the air, and the greenery has been found to boost creativity and absorb background noise.

While working in a small space does present its share of challenges, you can make it work with proper planning. Try the tips above, make adjustments when necessary, and create the best workspace for your needs.






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