I thought my kitchen table was a multiuse zone before I started working from home; now the small space is a home office, dining area, photo studio, and video conference call command center, often all at the same time. Because I can't sacrifice any part of the equation (gotta email! gotta eat!), I find myself buried under a pile of charger cables and dirty lunch plates by the end of the day if I'm not conscious about distinguishing what I'm doing and when. Investing in a few key inexpensive items totally overhauled my system.
The best work from home setup (that isn't in a designated office space) needs to be comfortable, functional, and most importantly, removable. Instead of shoving everything to the side when the workday is over and you need your dining table back, try using desk accessories that stow away easily, so you don't end up looking at expense reports while you're eating.
These five simple solutions for corralling your stuff, keeping your electronics charged, and staying ergonomically sound—seriously—will make it feel like you do have a home office after all…just one that can disappear once dinner is ready.
Compartmentalize with bins
Take a cue from hoteling workplace setups and keep all of your work paraphernalia in a bin or basket that you can tote to and from the kitchen table when you need it. I mean it, keep everything in there: chargers, pens, notebooks, planners, headphones, even your work laptop, wrapped in a sleeve. This way you can spread out all your WFH tools during prime time, then clear everything away easily when you're done for the day; use the empty bin (when all your work stuff is out) to house whatever was left on the kitchen table after breakfast.
$46.00, Open Spaces
Upgrade your chair situation
Not to knock your kitchen chairs (I'm sure they're great!!), but something tells me they weren't built for sitting in all day long. Ergonomics and back support matter less during mealtimes and more if you're going to be in the same seated position for hours—so settling for whatever you sit in to eat breakfast isn't going to cut it long term. At best, it's uncomfortable; at worst, you're causing real damage to your back.
Make your dining chair office-worthy by picking up a supportive back, seat, or combo cushion. These fan-favorite cushions from Purple (sold individually or as a set for a discount) are built to last and feature a machine washable cover. The Betterback seat support keeps its shape regardless of the chair you use it with, so even a kitchen table bench can become a comfortable work station. All are easy to stow away when five o'clock rolls around.
$169.00, Relax the Back
Delineate the space
Essentially a placemat, but for when you're working rather than eating, a desk pad creates an office zone on your tabletop the minute you set it down. Yes, it's old school in an “I must keep up with my correspondence" sort of way, but it's also functional: A desk pad protects your kitchen table from pen marks and scratches, provides a smooth surface for using a mouse, and is simple to clean.
One major difference between a kitchen table and an office set up? Access to electricity. If you need to keep multiple electronics and accessories charged throughout the day, stretching a ton of cords and cables from your workspace to the nearest outlets is just setting yourself up to trip. Keep things tidy (and fully powered) with a compact surge protector, with both standard and USB ports. You'll only need to use one outlet near the table to keep everything running smoothly; wrap excess cable in cord straps so the tabletop doesn't become a tangled mess.
Invest in some height
While you could make a standing desk out of a tall stack of cookbooks, the more elegant (and less precarious) solution is a simple tabletop converter. Collapsible models add height to your kitchen table when you need it, and store easily when you don't. Try a wooden scaffolding version if you're looking for something stylish and adjustable that breaks down completely when not in use; alternatively, the Cora converter extends to nearly 16 inches but is less than an inch and half wide when closed.
If you plan to stand for most of the day, a standing desk mat is a necessary finishing touch for your work from home set-up. This highly-rated model from ComfiLife comes in 11 colors and three sizes, so you can find one that fits seamlessly into your kitchen's style. Bonus: You can move it from your table to the floor in front of your sink when you're not working, to make washing dishes a little easier on your feet.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious