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  • Work & Wander: Your Van as a Mobile Office

    July 31, 2023 8 min read

    A woman working from her van while admiring a sun rise

    If you've ever dreamed of a workspace with ever-changing views, then van life is your answer. But how does one transform a cozy living space into an effective work zone without cramping style or space? As the resilient Emma Watson said, "It's not the absence of fear, it's overcoming it. Sometimes you've got to blast through and have faith." So, grab your mug of coffee, put on your comfiest hoodie, and let’s delve into how you can create an efficient mobile workspace in your van that nurtures both productivity and your wanderlust.

    1. Choosing the Right Desk: Compact but Capable

    Example of a DYI folding desk in a van

    Life on four wheels calls for clever compromises. When setting up a workspace in your van, the first thing to consider is the desk. Given that space is a luxury in a van, you need to think smart and efficient. The desk you choose must be compact but capable enough to accommodate your work essentials.

    One popular choice among vanlifers is a fold-down desk. This versatile piece of furniture is a remarkable space-saver. Imagine a cozy, well-built table snugly mounted on your van's wall. When work calls, you simply unlock it and voilà - an instant workspace. When you're done, just fold it back up and reclaim your living space.

     The Lagun table system is another space-efficient and flexible option. Originally designed for boats, the Lagun table has a unique swivel feature that allows you to move and lock it in various positions as needed, providing a stable surface without eating up precious room. 

    Choosing the right desk involves striking a balance between comfort, functionality, and space optimization. After all, this will be the command center of your mobile office, a place where creativity flows and productivity soars. So make it a space you love, and it will make your van life work-life blend a whole lot smoother.

    Remember, the desk isn't just a platform for your laptop. It's your personal work zone where you craft your ideas and channel your energy into productive work. You'll need space for a notepad for jotting down quick ideas, a cozy spot for your coffee mug, and a small area for personal items like your favorite pen or a small, easy-to-care-for plant, such as a succulent, to add that touch of green and a bit of nature inside your mobile abode. Make it a space that inspires you, as well as a place that serves you.

    2. Prioritizing Comfort: Ergonomics Beyond the Office Chair

    One of the non-negotiables of a good mobile workspace is comfort. This starts with your chair. While your van's driver's seat may be your road throne, it might not be the best companion during your work hours. Prolonged periods of sitting require a chair that provides substantial back support. Thus, investing in a good chair is an essential step towards maintaining your well-being on the road.

    An ergonomic chair is a typical choice for those bound to their desks for extended periods, as it helps prevent the perils of bad posture and eases back pain. However, traditional office chairs, with their bulky design and limited mobility, might not be the best fit for the space limitations of van life. The goal is to find a balance between comfort and space-efficiency.

    Consider a high-quality cushion that provides a good blend of comfort and support. There are plenty of seat cushions designed specifically for back pain relief and posture improvement, made from materials like memory foam for added comfort. The Purple Seat Cushion, for instance, is a favorite among digital nomads due to its durability and comfort.

    Additionally, an attachable backrest could be an excellent investment. This accessory can significantly improve the ergonomics of your existing seats without taking up additional space. Lumbar support pillows are great for this purpose, helping maintain the natural curve of your spine even during long work hours.

    By taking care of your seating situation, you create an environment conducive to productivity and health. Prioritizing comfort doesn’t just enhance your work experience; it ensures your van life journey is a pleasant and pain-free adventure.

    3. Maintaining Order: The Magic of Vertical Space

    Smart vertical space usage in a van

    Living in a van can test your creativity in unexpected ways, especially when it comes to staying organized in a confined space. After all, a clean, organized workspace can make the difference between a productive day and one filled with frustration. In the van life, clutter is the enemy of productivity. So how do you combat it? The secret lies in capitalizing on your vertical space.

    Consider utilizing your walls for storage to keep important items within easy reach and off of your valuable floor space. Install floating shelves for storing books, office supplies, or a portable speaker for those moments when you need a bit of background music. Use magnetic strips to keep small metal items like scissors, paper clips, and keys from getting lost in the shuffle.

    Hanging storage solutions such as wall-mounted file holders can serve as a home for important paperwork or ongoing projects. Likewise, hanging fabric or plastic organizers with multiple pockets can be a lifesaver for keeping smaller items sorted.

    Don't forget the back of your van's doors! Over-the-door storage racks can be a great place to keep notebooks, folders, or other flat items. Similarly, pegboards offer customizable wall storage solutions that can be changed according to your needs.

    Last but not least, think about using hooks. They are simple to install and can be used to hang anything from headphones to tote bags. Hooks can help keep your workspace clear and your mind focused on the task at hand.

    Just as your hoodies and yoga pants have their own special spots in your van, your work essentials deserve their dedicated storage spaces. The trick is to get creative and find a place for everything. When everything has its own place, tidying up becomes effortless and your workspace stays functional and inspiring.

    4. Lighting Matters: Brighten Up Your Space

    Lighting can dramatically impact your work experience, affecting not just your visibility but also your mood and productivity. It's why a well-lit workspace should be high on your list of van office essentials.

    First, leverage what Mother Nature offers for free: sunlight. Natural light is a mood booster and can help to reduce eye strain, especially during daytime work sessions. If feasible, position your workspace near a window to take advantage of this abundant light source. You might even get to enjoy a scenic view during your work breaks!

    However, van life isn’t always sunshine and clear skies. When the sun dips or the clouds roll in, having a reliable source of artificial light becomes crucial. Aim for lighting solutions that mimic natural light as closely as possible to reduce eye strain and maintain a sense of daylight continuity.

    Invest in adjustable LED lights that can be installed or placed in strategic locations, like over your desk. LED lights are not only energy-efficient but they also emit less heat - an important consideration when working in a small space like a van.

    Don’t forget about portable and rechargeable options such as a desk lamp or a headlamp for those times when you need concentrated light in a specific area. These options can be particularly useful for late-night work sessions or those moments when you don’t want to illuminate the entire van, like when a partner is trying to sleep.

    And finally, consider adding a touch of ambiance with string lights. While not a primary light source, they can add a warm, inviting glow to your space during evening hours, making your van feel cozy and homey after a long day of work.

    Remember, the goal is to create a well-lit space that makes it easy for you to focus on your work, whatever time of day or night you choose to work. With the right lighting set-up, your mobile office can be a bright, inviting space that supports your productivity and wellbeing.

    5. Tech Essentials: Staying Connected, Powered and Productive

    A man checking the wifi signal at a beach spot

    Working remotely while embracing the van life means you'll rely heavily on your tech gear. They're the vital links to your clients, colleagues, projects, and perhaps, a world of digital entertainment after a productive workday. You'll need a suite of reliable tech essentials to ensure smooth operations: a laptop, portable charger, WiFi router, and, depending on your travel locations, a signal booster.

    Your laptop is the brain of your mobile office, so choose one that balances power, portability, and battery life. Ensure it's robust enough to handle your daily work tasks, whether you're video editing, graphic designing, or managing spreadsheets. An extended warranty could provide additional peace of mind, considering the potential for bumps and knocks on the road.

    Next, consider your power needs. Your tech gear is no good if it can't keep up with your work pace due to low battery. Traditional van power systems can handle some device charging, but if you're using energy-intensive equipment like laptops for extended periods, you'll need additional solutions. A high-capacity portable power bank is a must for those days when you're away from your van or when you need that extra bit of power. Solar panels, either portable ones or those installed on your van’s roof, offer an eco-friendly way to recharge your devices without draining your van's battery.

    Internet connectivity is another critical aspect. A reliable, high-speed internet connection can make the difference between a productive workday and a frustrating battle with buffering and disconnects. A portable WiFi router can provide internet access wherever there's cellular service. For more remote areas or places with weak signals, consider investing in a signal booster to enhance your connection.

    Remember, staying connected and powered up on the road isn't just about having the right gadgets. It's also about managing your power use and planning ahead to ensure you have access to the resources you need, when you need them. By getting a handle on your tech essentials, you'll be well-equipped to tackle work challenges and stay productive, wherever the road may lead.

    6. Personalize Your Space: Fostering Inspiration and Creativity

    In the close-knit quarters of van life, your workspace is more than just a functional spot to answer emails or brainstorm ideas. It's a part of your home on wheels, a reflection of your personality, and a source of inspiration. Personalizing this space can motivate you, spark creativity, and make your workdays more enjoyable.

    Start by decorating your desk with meaningful items that evoke positive emotions. Display a few photos of loved ones, unforgettable adventures, or memorable moments that can bring a smile to your face during a busy day. Consider hanging small trinkets or souvenirs from your travels - perhaps a small stone from that hidden beach in Portugal or a dried flower from the California redwoods. These personal touches bring character to your workspace and serve as reminders of why you chose this unique lifestyle.

    Consider creating a vision board within sight of your work area. This could be a corkboard, a section of wall, or even a digital version on your laptop. Fill it with pictures, quotes, and symbols that represent your goals and dreams. This visual representation can be a powerful motivator, keeping you focused and inspired as you work towards achieving them.

    Lastly, infuse your space with color. Choose hues that resonate with you and support your work mood. Blues and greens might create a calm, focused atmosphere, while vibrant colors like red or orange could energize the space.

    Remember, personalizing your workspace isn't about creating a picture-perfect scene from a design magazine. It's about crafting a space that feels uniquely 'you', a space that welcomes you every morning, keeps you motivated throughout the day, and leaves you feeling satisfied as you wind down in the evening. By doing this, you transform your workspace into a place you love, making work a joyful part of your van life journey.

    Creating an efficient mobile workspace in your van is a balancing act between functionality and creativity. With the right setup, you can effectively maintain your work commitments while fulfilling your desire to explore.

    As Lisa Nichols beautifully put it, "Your best life, your best moment, is happening right now, right here." So, let's embrace the journey, relish the balance of work and adventure, and make every moment on the road count."

    Ready to drive productivity and transform your van into an efficient workspace? Subscribe to our newsletter for more useful tips, ideas, and advice tailored specifically for digital nomads. And don't forget to check out our online store for comfy work-from-home attire. Share your van life workspace transformations with us on our Facebook page, we can't wait to see your creative solutions!

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