When we first started our small business years ago, our home wasn’t big enough for me to have a dedicated office space. I tried working at the kitchen table, but was often distracted by family life. I then spent a few weeks working from a desk in the spare room, but I kept turning on the TV. We finally converted an over-size closet into my office, complete with a built-in desk, lighting and a door to close when I left “work” for the day. And honestly, I think I was more productive in my closet than any office that I have ever had.
Later I found out that I had created what is often referred to as a pocket office—a workspace inside your home, in a spot other than a dedicated "home office" room. Some people use a nook under the stairs, others convert a utility room and many, like myself, make pocket offices from closets. Pocket offices are a great solution when you work from home or even just need to catch up on work in the evening, but don't have an entire room to dedicate to a home office.
Here are five reasons why a pocket office can be a great solution to increasing your productivity while saving space.
1. It’s hard to get distracted in a closet.
Since most people put pocket offices in a quiet corner of the house, there are typically fewer distractions. Your family may often barge into a dedicated office located near the main living space and, if you're working at the kitchen table, you may have the urge to unload the dishwasher. But if you are staring at the back of a closet or stairwell, it can be easier to focus on your work at hand. I found that my husband and kids were much less likely to come visit me in my closet office since there really wasn't a place for them to sit down and chat.
2. You can design the office for your work habits.
When you set up a traditional home office, most people immediately replicate the typical office look with a desk, office chair and maybe a bookcase or two. Since you have to be creative from the get-go when designing a pocket office, many often tailor it more towards their individual work style.
3. You are forced to be organized.
If you have a whole room dedicated as your home office, it is easy to let your desk get piled with papers and the corners filled with packages to take to the post office. But if you have only a small space, you are more apt to design storage into the office and use your systems consistently. If your pocket office desk is messy, you won't have the space to simply push the clutter to a corner and will mostly work hard to keep your pile organized.
4. It’s easier to only do work in a small space.
With a pocket office, there is often no room to do other tasks in the office besides the ones you specifically designed the space for. In my current large home office, I am often tempted to address party invitations on my desk when I am bored. And my kids will sometimes play a game on the floor beside me. But when I was in my closet, I pretty much only worked because there wasn't room for anything else.
5. Everything you need is right there.
One of the biggest time wasters for many professionals, especially those without a dedicated home office, is looking for misplaced items. But with the small size of a pocket office, everything you need will most likely be within your arms reach. Now that I have an entire room, my filing cabinet is on the other side of the desk requiring me to get up from my chair and often get distracted. But in my pocket office, I had all of the client invoices in a file under the desk and never had to leave my seat.
A version of this article was originally published on August 03, 2012.