I’ve worked from home for six years, since long before the pandemic sent millions of Americans scrambling for their home office. Over that time, I’ve learned that having dedicated office space is essential. My office is my oasis — the place I can go to shut the door on my family and be productive without interruption.
When the pandemic hit, my oasis suddenly became common space. Instead of “Mom’s office,” my room was suddenly “the office,” fair game for anyone who needed to complete school work or do battle with the printer. Having my husband and daughter in my space not only added to my annoyance at ever-present family time, but it was eroding my ability to focus on work.
So, I decided to see how other families are coping. With kids learning from home and adults working remotely, the home office has never seen more use. These women have figured out how to divide working areas to make sure that everyone can have some personal space and a little productivity.
Creating the At-Home Cubicle
Amanda Green, of Orlando, Florida, has been working from home for three years. When she moved two years ago, she started sharing an office space with her husband. To make it work, the couple bought a bookshelf from Ikea, which serves a divider between their spaces.
“We decorated our sides differently and it feels like two separate rooms,” she said. “My side has a white desk with blue accents and simple design. He has a dark desk with gaming posters and super hero art work on the walls.”
Making Every Nook Count
Veronica Hatch, a Wisconsin teacher and mom of three, was struggling to find space where she could teach remotely and her boys could each do their school assignments. When the kitchen table was no longer cutting it, she decided to convert her home’s mudroom nook into a home office space. She bought a space-small desk from Amazon for $95, and an office chair from Walmart for $70. Once the items were delivered, the whole family was more productive.
“This nook is also open to our family room, so this way while I’m virtual teaching I can also keep an eye on my kids,” Hatch said. “The boys also take turns using this space for school work.”
Respect the Chargers
Cindy Jenkins normally lives in China, but she’s staying in Florida during the pandemic. She and her husband take turns working at a desk in the master bedroom or at the kitchen table, depending on who is on childcare duty. To make that work and minimize arguments, they make sure that each workstation has the essentials.
“The main thing that’s made it tolerable to share each space with my husband, depending on who’s watching the kids or doing school, is that we have laptop chargers that stay in those spots and don’t move,” Jenkins said
Create Designated Space, Even in the Same Room
Chaunie Brusie, a Michigan mom of 5, usually sees her office as her sanctuary. But now, her husband, a teacher, and her four school-aged kids are working from that office too. To maintain her space, Brusie cleared a cabinet and gave each family member baskets to store their supplies in. Then, when Brusie is ready to get to work, it can all be stashed out of sight, while remaining organized.
“Call me petty, but there’s something about reclaiming my space that helps me focus,” she says.
A Guest Room Conversion and ‘Do Not Disturb’
Saadia Faruqi, of Houston, Texas, is working from home along with her husband and two children. To make it work she converted the guest bedroom into an office for her and her husband.
Her kids were initially working in their rooms, but that left them too tempted to play computer games. Now, they do their work on folding tables in the family’s game room. Everyone uses headphones, and the family has fashioned a homemade “Do not disturb” sign that alerts other family members when a meeting is in process.
Still, Faruqi says having four family members working at home is challenging.
“Not annoying each other… is that even possible?” she asks.
Kelly Burch is a freelance writer covering finance, family, business and more. When she's not behind the computer she enjoys exploring the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire, where she lives. Connect with Kelly and read more of her work on Facebook or Twitter.