Home offices are great, but if life gets a little lonely working by yourself, you might want to consider turning your workspace into a coworking environment. Here’s how to do it in a tiny space for hardly any money.
It’s hard enough figuring out how to put together a home office just for yourself, but when you’re planning on making a small room or area work for multiple people you really have to plan for efficiency. I know because I just did it in my new place.
While spaces will certainly vary from person to person, we’re going to take a look at making a three-person coworking space that’s less than 9sqm. Depending on what you already have lying around, you can pull this off for under $US200. Before we get started, we need to assess the space and figure out what we can do with it.
Choosing Desks, Tables and Storage
You’ve got many types of desks to choose from, but long tables, small desks and L-shaped corner desks will generally work best in a small area. If it’s a desk that you can easily shove up against a wall, you’ve got the right idea. The disadvantage here is that you’ll have less privacy, but if you’re inviting people into your home for a coworking experience, you’re probably not hugely concerned with people spying on your computer screen. If you really want, you can always pick up a rearview mirror for your monitor.
Assessing Your Space
If the space you’re using is a plain square or rectangle, you’re going to have an easier time than most. That pretty much gives you three walls to work with, and wall space is going to be your best friend in a small home office situation. Realistically, however, you’re not going to have that luxury. Chances are your space is only going to give you two walls you can work with and they won’t always be flat. You’re going to need at least one wall for the desk space and some place for storage. Let’s take a look at the example floor plan we’re dealing with and and make some decisions:
To put things in perspective, the space is basically twice the size of the adjacent bathroom — and that’s not including the bathtub. We really only have two walls to work with and one of those walls is cut short because of a door. The smaller wall is about 80 inches whereas the larger wall is 92 inches. In either case, there’s really only enough room to comfortably fit two people. Because a long table would work just as well against either wall, I opted to use the smaller wall to leave extra room for storage. Keep in mind that if you’re lining an entire wall with a desk or table, you’re cutting into the space on the other wall. You have to account for the space the desk will take up plus the space of an actual person in an office chair. You’re going to lose three to four feet in that case, so unless you need to account for that when choosing what goes where.
Here we have our first problem: If one wall is devoted to storage, that only leaves one wall. More specifically, we only have room for two people to work. What about the third workspace? If you run into this sort of issue in your tiny little to-be coworking area, you need to be creative with the spaces you have available. Look around in the space and see where you can put a desk. You might be surprised what will work. For example:
That is the edge of the kitchen counter and it’s 30 inches wide. While that is a little small, since this will be a single-person workspace it’s a pretty decent size. IKEA is an obvious place to find lots of small desks for a space like this, such as the smallest version of the MICKE (which comes in a ton of different sizes).
Desks and Storage
The Other Stuff
Generally, cable management isn’t too hard if you put in the time to keep things neat and organised. Since you’re dealing with three workspaces, however, you’re going to have many more cables to wrangle and therefore a greater challenge. On top of that, since most workspaces will be guest-occupied you’re going to need to plan on additional cables coming with your coworkers. This may be as little as a charging cable, but you’ll at least need some easy-access outlets. In addition to looking at keeping cables nice and tidy, we’ll look at some ways to create some easy-access ports.[imgclear]
Shared Devices and Networking
Wi-Fi should do the trick for most, but sometimes people need to connect via Ethernet. Plan to have a means of connecting via Ethernet for the rare occasion it’s a necessity or someone just needs the added speed. In some cases you may be restricted to Wi-Fi without running an Ethernet cable across your home. If this is the case, you can easily turn an old router into a Wi-Fi bridge to provide Ethernet ports to your coworkers. Chances are, however, that if you need an Ethernet port, it’s going to be for a shared printer. You can always have one machine connect to printers and share them, but if you want them to be always accessible on the network a Wi-Fi bridge may be the answer. Alternatively, if you’re picking up a new printer or two for the home office, consider spending the extra money on one with Wi-Fi if you know connecting via Ethernet is going to prove difficult.
Using the Walls
Having a couple of snacks around is always nice for you and your coworkers. You don’t need a full-on snack bar, but a little something makes the work day more pleasant. I opted for M&Ms since I like them and I can get matching colours for the workspace. That might be a little excessive on my part, but everyone always appreciates a little free food.
Sometimes trash can be a problem, so don’t make it difficult for your coworkers to keep the place clean. Trash cans are cheap, so keep a couple in the space for easy access.
Putting the Coworking Space to Good Use
Setting Office Hours and Rules and Scheduling
The Office Handbook
If you’re not sure if you want to create your own coworking space or join someone else’s, check out the pros and cons of coworking. Have you set up a home coworking space? If you’ve got any great ideas or tips to share, let’s hear ’em in the comments.