11 Tips For Maximizing A Small Office Space

Don't let your cramped cubicle get you down. Here are great tips to make the most out of your limited space.
August 25, 2011

The more time your spend at your desk, the more important it is that you have an efficient, compact work space. But in an era of work-at-homers and co-workers, small space can sometimes foil one's plans for cubicle clarity.

Mashable spoke with a cadre of design experts about how to get the most out of small work spaces. Read on for 12 tips that are certain to help you clear your desk, if not your head.

1. Make use of common areas

"In the book, Innovations in Office Design: The Critical Influence Approach to Effective Work Environments, I suggest the need to shift our thinking about the physical work environment. Rather than focusing on the limitations of our smaller private office, cubicle or shared space, we need to adopt the philosophy that a person’s office is the entire facility," says Diane Stegmeier, author and founder of Stegmeier Consulting Group.


2. Rely less on paper

"A small office will become more agile by reducing the reliance on paper. This in turn will decrease the number of filing cabinets and other storage equipment required," says Stegmeier.


3. Have stand-up meetings

"Try holding stand-up meetings—they’re much shorter! And, for one of Stegmeier Consulting Group’s clients focused on increasing innovation, they’ve found that 'rubbing elbows in close spaces' often results in more creative ideas than typically come out of lengthy, structured meetings," says Stegmeier.


4. Get rid of clutter

"Declutter and define your space. Clutter not only slows you down physically in a small office space, but mentally as well. Don’t be a 'shriner,' turning your cubicle into a place of worship or shrine for your collection of colorful rooster magnets and statuettes. Instead, define your space, convey a sense of purpose and stimulate the generation of new ideas through displayed thinking. Feature a small number of cognitive artifacts, thought starters or visual reminders associated with your work," says Stegmeier.


5. Use wall-to-wall flooring

"Use one flooring material wall-to-wall instead of having a rug on a carpet or hard floor. Small rugs can make any space feel chopped up so stick with wall-to-wall commercial carpeting or an engineered wood floor that will be easy to care for. Avoid hard floor tiles, which can create an echo and make phone conversations challenging.

My favorite flooring for offices: www.flor.com tiles. These durable carpet tiles come in a variety of colors, styles and thicknesses and do not need to be glued down. If coffee spills on a tile, it can be lifted up, cleaned off, and put right back in place. And if a tile get completely ruined by ink, you can take a spare out of the closet and replace the damaged tile on the spot." says Lauri Ward, author of Use What You Have Decorating.


6. Forget the big desk dream

"Use small scale pieces. Everything is getting smaller in offices, and big desks are like dinosaurs—gone. Get a small work station, perhaps one with a couple of file cabinets and a pencil drawer. You keep everything in your computer anyway, so why take up valuable space with a large desk?" says Ward.


7. Let the light shine in

"Use overhead downlighting such as a track with LED spots or recessed LED lighting (and not up-lights that illuminate the ceiling but create shadows everywhere else). Get a small metal LED desk lamp, too. Avoid floor lamps that take up much-needed space," says Ward.


8. Check out innovative design

"Young designers are developing innovative furniture solutions to create space-efficient offices. See, for example, the Rewrite desk by the Danish designers GamFratesi, and the phone box by Axia Design that can help to turn non-productive spaces like a corridor into a area for phone calls," says Juriaan van Meel, author of Planning Office Spaces: A Practical Guide for Managers and Designers, among other books.


9. Think vertically

"Take advantage of vertical space. Use shelving that attaches to the studs in your walls (Ikea's LACK at $20 isn't a bad place to start). Adhere sturdy pockets to your walls to hold active files you access frequently (Staples' 7 Pocket Files are $50 and can free up a great amount of desktop work surface). Stylish wall hooks are great for keeping your sweater or coat off the back of your chair (West Elm's Flatstock). And, a desk with shelving above it can work well in rental spaces where drilling into the wall isn't always an option (Elfa's Freestanding can go up to 11' high)," says Erin Doland of Unclutterer Blog.


10. Make your monitor mobile

"Put your monitor on an adjustable arm so you can easily move it out of your way when you want more desktop work surface. The Ergotron LCD Arm adheres to the edge of your desk, which makes it a great option for renters, too. Ergotron makes a number of options, so be sure to find one that best meets your needs," says Doland.


11. Label your cables

"Label both ends of all your cables. Either use cable tags or a black Sharpie on white cords and a silver Sharpie on black cords. The last thing you want to do is get stuck under your desk, crammed in the small space, having no idea if you're unplugging the right cable," says Doland.


Image credit: sun dazed, sean_oliver, imglighting, SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, Genista, John Salzberg, adria.richards, AmazonFlor.com, Axia design,The Container Store, amriphoto