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How to transform a 9m² office into a multifunctional space

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How can you transform your office into a multifunctional space? Due to the lock-down, more and more of you are spending more and more time cooped up in your office. And because you can’t move the walls, you have to be creative to do everything you used to do in a much larger space. In this article, I will demonstrate how I managed to transform 9m² into a hyper-connected office, gym, podcast studio, and video studio. And all this on a limited budget!

If you only have 30 seconds

  • I hacked the 9m² of my office to do everything I used to do in more than 100m².
  • Finding the ideal configuration took me about 9 months.
  • a podcast recording studio can be activated in less than 5 minutes (including soundproofing)
  • a video recording studio with a 3 m long “green screen” can be set up in 45 minutes
  • a photo studio is ready for use in less than 15 minutes
  • a cupboard door has been transformed into a standing workstation on one side and a flipboard on the other side
  • a treadmill can be placed underneath the standing workstation in less than 60 seconds to keep in shape while remaining productive

Summary


Introduction

Since the beginning of the pandemic, everyone has had to get used to this new reality: living and working at home.
No more meetings between colleagues no more breaks at the coffee machine. From now on, your professional life is limited to virtual conferences and all between 4 walls. Let’s hope for your sake that they are spaced out; otherwise, it’s going to be rather cumbersome. For the claustrophobic or space-hungry city-dwellers, it remains the solution in the countryside when 100% home-working is possible. I know a few who have decided to try it, but not all professions allow this return to nature.

And yet you have to keep on living. So how do you go about being productive in a ridiculous space?
Here is the result of my 9 months of experimentation in the 9m² (8.75m² to be exact, or 94.1 square feet for North American readers) of my office.


The secret is in the ceiling

I might as well say it straight away: transforming my workspace has forced me to go back to DIY and find practical solutions to a lot of small problems.

The installation of a false wooden ceiling was a decisive factor in adapting my office to new uses. All I had to do was replace the screws with hooks so that I could hang accessories that previously had to be mounted on supports:

  • a backdrop for our videos (now replaced by a green canvas, which I bought for 20€.
  • acoustic foams through which I have inserted a wire to allow it to be hung from above.
  • drapes (recovered from my parents) to absorb the sound during podcasts, thus avoiding echo effects.

I also bought a second-hand 5.0 audio system and hung the speakers from the ceiling to save space on my desk.


The podcast studio

bras rétractable (modèle PSA1)

The Rode microphone is placed on a retractable arm (model PSA1) which is folded, after use, behind the monitor.

To set up the podcast studio, I need less than 5 minutes. The USB Rode microphone is permanently plugged in. It is placed on an outstanding quality arm which is hidden behind my main screen. All I have to do is unfold it to use it.

To form a sound-insulating bubble, I use heavy drapes that I hang from the ceiling using hooks. I create an “L” with the two curtains, unfold the microphone, and that’s it. I add a 2m² panel of sound-absorbing foam that I hang with 2 clothes pegs to complete the whole.

The proximity of the computer and the mouse is a significant advantage compared to the configuration I used before.


The video studio

green screen en place

At first, I used a stretched green canvas but the small dimensions caused too many problems when shooting video.

To shoot the videos in Pierre-Raffaele’s series, I first used a stretched green canvas that I hung from the ceiling or put on the floor. This solution was not ideal because it offered insufficient surface area for the subject to remain always in front of a green background (see photo opposite).

So, I tinkered with a solution with a plastic electric duct (1€) suspended from the ceiling using my famous hooks. I put a 3m long green canvas (20€ on Jeff’s website) on it (see the result below).

The result is of course, far from the standards of professional studios but in the end, once the video is edited, you can’t see the difference. The trick is to iron the canvas well the first time and use clothes pegs to stretch the canvas and avoid shadows.


The current solution allows for much better shooting. A 3-metre long canvas is hung from the ceiling using a plastic tube. Stretching the canvas gives a more than acceptable result.


Transformation of a cupboard door into a standing workstation

Ma station de travail debout

My standing workstation is hidden behind a cupboard door.

Sitting in my office all day long, I quickly felt the detrimental effects of not moving. That’s what pushed me to look for a solution to work standing at first, then walking (see below). The result exceeded my expectations.

I used a cupboard door to hide a tablet (where the keyboard and mouse reside) and a 27″ screen. The hardest part was finding the right accessory to fix the screen without taking up too much space. Once again, mission accomplished for less than 20€ thanks to Jeff’s website (we can say that he still has what it takes!).

One drawback, however: the shelf for the keyboard is at a fixed height, and I am the only one who can use it.

The front of the cupboard door has been hacked into a Flipboard using kitchen hooks from IKEA.


Bonus: the Flipboard proved to be very useful when my son needed to study during the lock-down.


Walking while working

To further improve my standing workstation, I added a treadmill, after reading about its health benefits. I did some research and decided on a very compact electric treadmill. The pleasure of working standing is increased tenfold.

If you want to work while walking, remember to take the height of the treadmill into account when positioning your work table. Of course, it is ideal to have a height-adjustable desk, but not everyone can afford it. I’m happy with my fixed shelf (see photo above).

Also bear in mind that not all computer work can be done while walking. The movements of your body make it more complicated to use the mouse. Therefore, you should focus on working with the keyboard, reading or watching videos.


A multi-purpose 43″ screen

In the end, the most expensive purchase will have been the screen replacing the one used for the standing workstation. You can never have enough workspace, especially when working on data projects or video editing. I opted for an entry-level 43″ screen. The significant disadvantage of these screens is that they come with legs that are not height-adjustable and take up an enormous amount of space in terms of depth. Here again, I had to be smart to make everything fit in 15 cm depth. I opted for a 5-point wall mount, which I studied at length. I wanted the screen to “slide” as much as possible to the right so that my son would have free space when he came to work on my left. I also wanted to be able to work backwards from my Fatboy, which meant that the arm had to be long enough. The wall mount that was used allows an extension of 50 cm, which is more than enough.


Conclusion

I like working at home more and more, whereas I used to hate it. I now use my office for everything, and I’ve tried to optimise every square centimetre.
What I appreciate most is being able to change position frequently so that I don’t get too tired. I alternate sitting, standing, walking, and when I take a break, I sit comfortably in my Fatboy. I often start my day at 6.30 am by walking at a brisk pace for an hour and answering my emails or doing what I usually do on my sofa in the morning. It’s so much better now.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. I will be happy to answer them.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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