My virtual workspace has always been an office within my house. Now that everyone is virtual, I’m sure that is not the case for most people. Yet having a virtual workspace to call your own is very important for effectiveness, productivity, and mental health.
Working virtual is not new. I had my first virtual workspace in 1996 working for Dow Chemical. The job was located in Midland, Michigan, but we had relocated to Albany, New York. It was an experiment both for me and for my supervisor. We had to get creative to make things work. The most important thing I needed was a good office professional to help me, and I was lucky to have one. Yet, the one thing I needed to find a way to overcome was the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. People forget about you if you are not seen.
In 1996, video meetings were not yet supported by technology. So, for most meetings I found myself being the only one on the phone while everyone else was in a meeting room, sharing donuts and coffee as a team. In order to ‘put’ myself in the room, my office professional printed out my headshot and attach it to the seatback of a chair placed in front of the office phone. This way, I obtained a physical presence. Nowadays, this is achieved through the video conference call. My point is, we had to get creative to achieve things that were normally achieved in person.
If you now find yourself in a situation where virtual workspace is a challenge, let’s get creative. Here are some tips for creating and maintaining your virtual workspace.
If you are lucky enough to have a home office, by all means, utilize it to the fullest degree that you can. Many people now complain that although they feel isolated working from home, they also feel as if they never leave work. If this is the case for you, make sure you set a boundary around the hours that you work. Outside of those hours, walk out of the office and close the door. Leave work at work. Act as if you have not left your office and transported yourself home to the rest of your life. No one will set these boundaries for you. You have to do it.
Kitchen Table or Counter
If you, like multitudes of others, have found that the only option is the kitchen table, then claim your space. Determine which part of the table is yours and layout your work items at the beginning of your day, and pack them up at the end. This will create your alternative to ‘closing the door’. Again, you need to set boundaries around your work time.
If no one else is going to use the kitchen table or countertop, then claim that as your designated workspace for now. You can still leave your computer and other work items in place, but continue to set a time to shut down.
Convert a Bedroom
When I’ve traveled and taken my ‘office’ with me, I frequently use an unused bedroom of the house I’ve rented as my virtual workspace. If you are lucky enough to have an extra bedroom or another room of the house that can double as an office, you’re all set. All you need is a table surface, a chair, and some good lighting. I’ve even used the bed as my extra work surface, spreading my projects in piles neatly on top of the comforter. I would not, however, recommend using the bed as your seating position for a video conference. It just doesn’t give the right visual appearance for a professional meeting.
Find a spot under the stairs
This is one of my favorite creative ideas. Look for any nook or cranny you find to call your own. The underside of stairwells is typically unused space. They can be quite cozy and perfect for a small table surface, or even a table height built-in shelf. With a little ingenuity and perhaps some extension cords you’ve got electricity and lighting as well!
Find a closet
This idea wins the prize in my eyes. This picture is actually from a client of mine. She has four children, with three below the age of five. As you can imagine, she needs a space with a door but does not have the extra bedroom or office space in her home. Her handy husband took a closet below the stairs and made a tiny little office space for her. As you can see, she has lighting and electricity, and her desk space is in front of the chair. Now she can actually close the door and get some privacy for work now and then.
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