A home office of one’s own is an important aspect of our environment

If it is at all possible to have a dedicated office space at home, try to set it up (or move it) into a room with a door that closes. A physical barrier, particularly one with a threshold, helps the brain to shift away from a focus on work and enables us to shift our mindset to non-work spaces. If you do have a separate room or space, keep it tidy, clean, and free of non-work clutter – it may be tempting to put the ironing board and your roller skates in this room ‘for storage’, but this will act as a distraction and re-blur the line between work and home that is the purpose of the room. Be disciplined about your space on a daily basis, too. Just as we wouldn’t end a day without attending to our admin tasks (emails, invoicing, banking, client lists and updates, etc.) it is a good home office hygiene practice to do some or all of the following: 


  • Clear away glasses, mugs, and plates
  • File away notes and attendant paperwork, and (if you are me) re-shelve the books that have accumulated on the desk during the workday.
  • Try to work the same hours each day with 2 snack breaks and at least one longer meal break built into your schedule every day. Set up alarms on your computer or phone if you are not good at time management, and research apps that can help you organise your time more effectively if you need some extra help in that department


Rituals of time management, including breaks, clear-up and clean-up, and start/stop times will ease your stress and help you focus. A physically clean space is better for your mental health as well as your physical wellbeing. And the last thing you want to think about during a deadline or a Zoom meeting is cockroaches on your desk which were attracted by crumbs. 


An end-of-day home office ritual may seem a bit strange at first, but this process becomes your ‘commute’ into personal time; to say nothing of the pleasure you will feel on entering your office the next day to see a clean, welcoming space. Tidy spaces are visually restful, and we need as much calm in our lives as we can cultivate right now – try it for a fortnight and see.




The pop-up home office

If you don’t have the space for a dedicated home office room then your routine will involve both a ‘commute to work’ and a ‘commute from work’ each day, but with some forethought this can be easier than it may sound right now. When your home space is small and/or shared, flexibility, clear boundaries, communication and discipline will come together in helping you create an effective pop-up home office. It doesn’t matter where you work, consistency is key. Some of us need to work in bed, or on the floor. Don’t worry about what anyone else might do, establish a space, position and place that is right for you.
While it may seem easier to just perch wherever you can to work each day, this lack of consistency will be stressful and distracting for you in the long-term – remember that lizard brain likes routine! And although it may sound as though I am asking you to do something onerous each day by taking a few minutes at the start and end of your work day to set up and put away your home office, this approach will simultaneously help to increase your output while reducing your stress. Honestly, a set-up/break-down routine does not need to involve much or take long, but the rewards will be far beyond your expectations.
Think about lighting, physical comfort, and access to your work space, and the ease with which you can set up and break down your pop-up office work space each day. At first this daily pop-up approach may seem a strange thing to do, but when your space is very small and/or shared it is not reasonable to expect someone else to give up space for your computer, camera, files, notes, etc. (Nor should you for them, by the way – pop-up home offices should be equal opportunity, respectful spaces.) A key aspect of a pop-up home office is also that of time consistency (like a permanent home office), and not limited to the place you work from each day. Set up at the same time each day – if you are an early riser then this may be closer to 7am, and if you are a night-owl then this may be 10 or even 11am instead. The time does not matter, as long as you begin and end your day at roughly the same time each day. Yes, Zoom makes this a little different sometimes, but I will discuss Zoom in a later section of this post. The main point here is consistency of hours worked, just as with a permanent home office – aim for 6-7 hours per day for a four to five day work week if you work for someone else and as many hours as you like that are healthy and reasonable if you work for yourself. Remember to build in your breaks at regular intervals; at a minimum you should have a morning and afternoon tea break with a meal break that is at about the half-way point in your working day, with bathroom breaks as needed, naturally.
A picture of a woman holding a white mug with black text reading "Like a Boss"

I personally like a big mug for a hot drink when working, but pick a cup or mug that suits your personality and makes you feel good while working.

Another aspect of your set-up and break-down each day is what your work space needs for you to work effectively. I always have water to drink on my desk, and when I have sessions with clients I also have a large mug of tea. As my psychotherapy sessions run for 90 minutes at a time – End of Life Consultant sessions including those for advance planning for funerals, memorial services, and health care plans may run much longer – I need to be prepared in advance. I am fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office space, so my filing cabinet is under my desk, however I do take notes during sessions of all kinds, and so I think a lot about stationery supplies and need to plan for these*.
*When I travel my headphones and stationery items come with me, so my travel pop-up is consistent with my home office – and yes, I put everything away at the end of the day, too. I mention this because travel will one day be possible again, and some of us may well be working with both home-based and travel pop-up offices. Planning ahead is a good thing to do right now, as long as we don’t put all of our time and energy into this aspect of our work lives.
I always have paper, pens, highlighters and headphones at my desk, but I know people who work with multiple laptops or phones, so is tech something you need to put out and store safely for your pop-up home office?
  • Do you have a special mug or plate for snacks, is there a playlist that helps you work?
  • Write down a list of musts, then write one of wants – you will find a consistent set of musts and wishes/wants that will form part of your pop-up home office every day.
Don’t be afraid to experiment a little from week to week initially, but do not allow yourself to be constantly distracted by new additions to your pop-up home office – this can rapidly become a time and attention suck that works to sabotage the process of a consistent pop-up home office and will negatively impact your work quality and outcomes.
Pop-up home office storage – putting your home office ‘to bed’ every day
Journalists and field researchers, like end of life workers, are often quite good at having a pop-up or mobile office in a backpack or small travel suitcase (recorders, stationery, microphones, tissues, snacks etc.), so we can model a pop-up home office solution on this if possible – and this is also an opportunity to be creative about the practicalities of storing away your pop-up at the end of the day. Ensure you put everything away in the same container/space, preferably in the same order. This, in turn, means that you are unpacking each morning in a smooth, consistent order that will help get your mind and attention into work mode with a minimum of effort. If you have a suitcase or a plastic tub with a lid that can slide under a table, shelf or staircase, this will be ideal, because when your pop-up home office has gone to bed for the night you will not be tempted to go ‘back to work’.


A pop-up office space is for YOU and about YOU and your needs; don’t worry or fixate about which part of the home someone else might work from.
For example the Australian author Tara Moss is open about writing from her bed because pillows help support her back more effectively than a traditional desk/chair arrangement, Irish novelist Marian Keyes reportedly likes to write from bed so she can stay in her pajamas all day, and Truman Capote reportedly liked to write from any flat surface, declaring himself “a completely horizontal writer“.
If your eyes are quite light sensitive it is important to have indirect light, and for those of us who like to work on the floor a space where you can sprawl out comfortably (and move around safely and easily) is going to be a priority. Think about how you work best – both physically and psychologically – and pick your pop-up home office spot with these priorities and needs in mind.
With a little planning and a creative approach to organisation, your pop-up home office can be tucked away with minimal fuss or visual clutter.
mobile wardrobe with clothing inside, a pair of orange boots to the left in front of a suitcase.
A special word about location for your pop-up office:
If at all possible, select a spot that is not in a high-traffic area – this is a genuine priority when you share living space so that distractions and interruptions are minimised, but even if you live alone you will want a work spot that is not too distracting. If you must work in the kitchen, for example, try to ensure you have a clear space around you with no cooking utensils or food around you. This is not about limiting food when we are working from home, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with grazing or eating while working – however, physically getting up from your desk on a regular basis is an important part of working from home. Ensuring you don’t have everything for snack breaks and lunch within easy reach mean that you will be prompted to get away from your work space several times a day, which is healthy. Your circulation will thank you later, as will your back.