Unpopular Opinion: Closets as Offices Are Not Efficient

A woman sitting at a desk

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There’s something to be said for efficiency. As a chronic multitasker and multi-passionate person in general, something that always gets me excited (read: something I get absolutely crazy about) is how I can make my life easier and more productive.

This means a garage-turned-laundry-room (yes, I have this!), a desk-turned-plant-shelf (because, why not?!) or, as one of the more recent trends suggests, a closet office.

But, to be honest, I’m not completely sold on that last one.

Now, don’t get me wrong—efficiency truly is everything—especially in light of the past two ‘pandemic years’ we’ve had, and the changes that have arisen from this total shift to working (and caretaking, eating, living, and breathing, etc.) at home. If you’re forced to do all of the things in the space you live in, you have to get, well, *creative.*

But as innovative and trendy as the closet office is, I have to admit… I’m still not a huge fan.

Sure, from the first look these closet offices appear to be tucked away, completely organized, and the one-size-fits-all solution for every person, couple, or family. But in all honesty, are they as efficient as they appear to be? (I’d argue against it.)

But, before we jump into the question of efficiency, let me break down closet offices, why they’ve become all the rage, and what you may not have realized from first glance.

What's a 'Closet Office'?

Well, as the name suggests, a closet office is a closet that’s converted into a fully functional (albeit small) workspace. The idea behind creating a ‘closet office’ is usually for one of two reasons: lack of space or a desire for change and/or innovation.

The appeal of this smaller office is that you can have everything you need to work from home without having to redo your entire living space. This is especially relevant for those who are used to leaving for the workday and/or have allocated a traditional ‘office’ room to a spare bedroom, playroom, game room, etc.

With a closet office, you can essentially ‘tuck’ your work away without losing the functionality of the space overall—an office when you need one and a nice-looking closed door when you don’t.

With a closet office, you can also customize it how you see fit. From ripping out shelves and building a wall-mounted unit to reconfiguring the hanging areas to accommodate bulletin boards and drawers, a closet office has all the bells and whistles as a traditional area—with only half of the size.

If you have a larger space, you can opt for the closet with double doors that slide or fold open (think large bedroom closet) or sneak your space into a typically unused corner (think broom or storage closet). And, depending on the style of the rest of your home, you can outfit your office with anything from plants and hanging décor to wallpaper and vertical shelving for all your knick-knacks.  

So… it sounds all great. Is there a downside? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

The Truth About Closets as Offices

Although I absolutely love the idea of taking advantage of extra space, the problem with closet offices is that they’re truly not much better than keeping yourself nose-down in a cubicle.

Because you’re building a space in a closet, more often than not, you’re going to be lacking any windows or connection to the outside world (think stuffy, poor airflow, and no visuals of the world beyond your walls).

While this may not seem like a big deal at first, you’re literally tucking yourself away in four-walled silence. And sure, it’s an escape in the beginning, but before long, you’ll end up feeling isolated and stir crazy.

Closet offices are not that functional, either. Take video calls, for example. If you're going to take a video call from your closet office, you'll need to think about how you can best create a backdrop or lighting that’s conducive to video calls. Zooming from your closet might sound like fun and games, until you realize that there are shadows are all over your face, the sound is stifled, and the entire background behind your closet is exposed. It’s not always as simple as turning on a virtual background, either. You’ll have to be a bit intentional about how you set up the office so that it makes sense beyond just a place to sit and store your items.

Another reason why closet offices are not that great is simply because they’re small and less functional. While the premise of having a good balance between work and play sounds ideal—and having a small, designated space within your larger space seems to honor that—because of the size, you’ll find (more often than not), your work items will end up outside of those tiny walls.

I mean, let’s face it: if you don’t have space to swivel your chair, you’re going to quickly run out of room for those files, electronic devices, and charging cords that are all essential to your day-to-day. And let’s not forget about outlets. How many closets come outfitted with electricity? (Not many.) So, now you’ll have to deal with extension cords in stuffy, improperly ventilated spaces—both a fire hazard and a hassle.

Office Alternatives for Small Spaces

I’m not a big fan of bashing the innovation—in fact, if a closet office works for you and your space, then by all means! But, I think that there are viable solutions that make a bit more sense (especially if your issue is space).

Purchase a foldable chair and table set. Now, before you shake your head, hear me out. While a folding chair and table set sounds silly, there’s something to be said for the versatility. You can move your workspace to any area of your home (even outside) and then easily pack it up and store it away when you’re done. Not only is this creating a barrier between work and play, but it’s helping you be more intentional (and thus focused) on one thing at a time.

You can invest in one of those wall-mounted, folding desks. This type of desk mounts onto the wall on one side and can simply be lifted and secured into a sitting position. From here, all you need is a chair or stool and you’re set! When you’re done, simply unhook and put the table back on the wall. The process is so simple and unobtrusive to your daily life.

Or, you can build floating shelves for standing/sitting desk variations. Floating shelves are great because they can double as statement décor. When you’re not using the shelf for an office space, it can hold plants or pictures, for example. When you are, you can simply attach your laptop and add your notebook (sitting or standing). 

Now, your office is a part of the space rather than something that is added or that takes away from it.