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If you're considering setting up an office in your RV, you're not alone. But how to go about it? What are the things you need to make sure your rig has? What kind of setup can you create in a motorhome, travel trailer or 5th wheel? We've set out to explore these and bring you ideas, solutions, and sheer design inspiration.
Here's a list of things you must have in your RV office:
- Solid internet connection
- A great computer
- An ergonomic workspace
- Storage area
Now, this might look like a simple enough list but oh boy, does it ever get more challenging in the limited space that is a recreational vehicle! Everything needs to be compact, lightweight and still functional and even appealing. Keep on reading for an in-depth analysis of each item (and more!) as well as examples of gorgeous RV offices shared by people across the web.
Why do you need an RV office?
If you think the RV lifestyle is for retirees only, think again. Thanks to the boom of work-from-home internet jobs, more and more people today are building an office space right into their RV. This provides the best of both worlds: they are able to work full-time and earn money while traveling around the world in their RV.
Whether you intend to live and work out of your RV year-round or only part-time, a carefully set up office is vital to your success.
What your RV office absolutely must have
1. A solid internet connection
It's all thanks to the internet that so many people today are able to even consider working out of an RV. But that means that finding a good internet connection for your mobile office is a vital step in creating a functioning road office.
Unfortunately, using WiFi at campgrounds isn't enough; these connections can be unsecured and unreliable. When your livelihood depends on the internet, spotty RV park internet simply won't cut it. For one thing, some RV parks that advertise WiFi will throttle your connection after using a certain amount of data. And even good WiFi can go down intermittently. This leaves RVers with only one primary option: the cellular internet.
Your Own Stable Hotspot
Okay, so we've ruled out campground WiFi. That means contacting cell phone companies such as Verizon or AT&T for internet is your best option. Purchasing a mobile hotspot, such as the Verizon Jetpack, will allow you to set up WiFi from your RV. But it doesn't end there, as there are more things to consider, such as your internet data needs and signal strength.
Usually, at least one of these carriers is offering a so-called "Unlimited Plan." Because most people need a lot of internet to work full-time, these plans are a great idea.
But if you think these plans will allow for a truly unlimited internet experience, think again. These Unlimited plans always entail a cutoff point, say 22 or 28 GB. After you have used up this amount of data, your speeds will be throttled. This can be a big problem for anyone whose work relies on using a lot of data at high speeds.
If you find yourself in this boat, purchasing multiple unlimited plans is probably in your best interest. And because different providers offer different levels of service depending on where you are, most full-timers recommend purchasing your multiple plans from different companies. This will give you a better chance of finding a good signal in the various locations you will find yourself working from.
Boosting Your Signal
Once you have your hotspot and data plans in place, the next item you will want to consider is a signal booster. There are all sorts of boosters out there, from small cell phone cradles to antennae you mount to the top of the RV. These devices do just as their name implies: they boost the strength of the signal you are receiving. And when your earnings depend on a strong signal, these devices can be worth their weight in gold.
2. A Great Computer
After finally creating a fast, reliable internet connection, don't let a bad computer snuff out the dream of an incredible mobile office setup. You could just use any old second-hand laptop you can find, but most full-timers recommend a higher-end computer. That's because, even with the best internet setup, a slow computer with limited storage will limit your capabilities.
Most full-time jobs will require at least a modicum of speed and storage to work properly. Look for a computer with plenty of RAM (shoot for 8 GBs for most moderate uses) and a powerful processor (an Intel i5 or newer ought to do it). Of course, anyone performing complicated functions like video editing will likely need a more powerful computer that can handle the added processing requirements.
As for the type of computer to seek, most RVers gravitate towards laptops. Both because of their lightness and versatility, laptops are the obvious choice for your mobile office. For one thing, laptops are great for stops en route to your camp. Say you want or need to work from another location outside of your RV — the laptop comes with you, whereas a bulky desktop unit will not.
Convert Your Laptop Into a Desktop
Just because you have a laptop doesn't mean you have to be limited to using a small screen and keyboard, however. A laptop docking station will allow you to hook it up to a large monitor, mouse, and keyboard in your RV office. This means your workstation will be every bit as capable and usable as a full desktop setup.
3. An Ergonomic Work Space
There are seemingly endless supplies you can buy when preparing for full-time RVing. It can get quite expensive. But investing in a good office setup for full-time work should be of paramount importance. After all, you will potentially be spending 40 or more hours per week at this workstation, so ensuring a comfortable and ergonomic setup will save you from a serious headache in the future. Here are some aspects to consider for your office:
Does your work consist of sensitive information? Or perhaps you make a lot of phone calls? Well, in both of those cases, a quiet and private office will be highly important. Will a simple shower curtain behind the desk be enough or do you need to be in a closed room?
Some RV workers even find that they need a completely separate space from their RV to escape noisy family members and pets. Pulling a small trailer behind a motorhome or truck/camper is one solution to this problem. Toy haulers with a separate space for ATVs can also be converted into nice, private office spaces as well.
5. Enough Space
Because you are building an office in an environment that was not designed for one, it can be tempting to try to fit it in a cramped space. This can lead to fatigue and soreness, not to mention more serious problems down the line, however. By ensuring you have the proper space to sit and/or stand upright, you will be doing your future self a huge favor.
Plan out exactly what you need for your office, and then measure your space in the RV to ensure you have plenty of room to meet your needs.
Some people might be just fine with working in a dark dungeon of an office all day. But the more adventurous types, however, tend to need some sunlight while they work. So finding an office with natural sunlight or at least a good light source can be the difference between a depressing and pleasant work atmosphere.
7. A Good Chair
Finding a comfortable chair makes a world of difference in your office. Sitting in an uncomfortable or ergonomically incorrect chair can make your day miserable which, in turn, adversely affects your productivity. While a small stool is handy and easy to store, a more robust, purpose-built office chair is worth the investment. For an ergonomic fit, look for a chair with a high backrest, lumbar support, and armrests. If more than one person will be using your workstation, an adjustable chair or desk will help you all find the right ergonomic setup.
Next, you will want to make sure your chair and desk combination allows for good posture. This is one of the most important factors in creating an ergonomic workspace. The following steps are widely accepted as the most ergonomic position for working at a desk:
- Sit back in your chair and use the back support.
- Place your feet flat on the floor or a footrest.
- Your elbows should be at or greater than 90 degrees when using the mouse and keyboard.
- Your upper arm and elbow should be close to your body and relaxed as you work - no stretching to reach the mouse or keyboard!
- Your wrist should be straight when using the mouse.
- Your neck and head should be straight and in alignment.
8. The Right Desk
Sometimes, you can find the perfect desk for your RV office in a store, but more often you will have to get creative. In fact, many RV desks are homemade designs. By making the desk yourself, you can create a perfect fit for your specific office needs. Things you will need to consider include how much desk space you really need, whether it needs to be able to convert to a standing desk, and how tall it needs to be to match up with your chosen office chair.
9. Find Peace and Quiet (Or at least reduce the noise level)
One inescapable challenge is that RVs tend to be noisier than houses. The walls are thinner, the AC and heater and closer and louder, and your neighbors are often in very close proximity as well. All of these factors can hamper your working ability, so taking steps to insulate your office from sound can make your office work better for you.
Some More Things to Consider
RVs - whether motorhomes or trailers - offer their own challenges when it comes to setting up an office. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind throughout the process of designing your perfect RV office.
1. Opt for lightweight solutions that are good for RV
While you are making a list of your needs, keep weight in mind. Many small additions to your office (chair, insulation, fan, desk, etc) can add up to a much heavier trailer than you started with. By using lightweight materials, your RV will be easier to drive or pull. But too much weight in the wrong place could also put you in danger. For example, an improperly loaded trailer is prone to sway. So, pay attention to not only your overall weight but your placement as well.
2. Storage space is precious
Consider how much stuff you need for your work. This includes documents, hardware, software, shredders, and any other resource you use during the course of your workday. All of these things need to be stored in your office, so finding storage space is the next challenge.
3. Your space is very limited
Unlike home offices, RV offices tend to be extremely tight on space. They are often built into areas where previously a small chair or bunk bed lived. That means that not only is your storage limited, but your room to move around will be restricted as well. Finding small desks, cabinets, and chairs will help alleviate some space concerns, as long as they remain ergonomic and comfortable for the amount of time you will be spending using them.
Limited space also means bringing only the essentials for your work. While a small decoration or picture might fit, you will likely have to ditch all other non-essential work items. This is only a small price to pay for the amazing experience of working on the road.
4. Must keep Organized!
As with every facet of RV living, you will likely have to get creative and be flexible with your storage solutions. Of course, you can use the built-in storage already in the RV, if everything will fit. If it won't, however, peruse your favorite home goods store for storage options. Remember; the lighter, the better. Small cabinets that can fit under the desk are always helpful, as are anything you can adhere to the wall next to your desk. Just try to avoid unnecessary clutter by being as space-efficient as possible. Further down are some examples of great RV offices that use their space well.
5. Stay Secure While Driving
Lastly, keep in mind that everything you've put in your office needs to stay in place as you drive. That means your desk and chair must fasten to the floor or wall, your files and documents must be kept in a closed cabinet, and your computer needs to be stowed securely as well. While there are some very creative ways to secure your office, you can always rely on simply screw-down methods combined with bungee cords. There are countless instructional blogs and videos online detailing the best methods to secure your office. Below are just a few.
Examples of Great RV Offices
We scoured the internet for some of the best examples of RV office spaces. Check out these great resources for inspiration or ideas as you design and build your own office, or simply daydream about living the full-time RV life. There are seemingly endless possibilities, as well as solutions to all of the problems that arise as you begin a build.
"RVLove (Marc & Julie Bennett)" have created a fantastic RV office in their motorhome. Where a bunkhouse used to reside, they built a full office, complete with windows (with a custom window covering!). For privacy and to separate it from the rest of the RV, they use a simple shower curtain, and all of this was done at less than $200!
Next, "I Love RV Life" shows us his RV office. Using the dinette built into the motorhome. With a nice 27" monitor and a suite of internet devices, I Love RV Life has been able to work on the go from everywhere he's ventured. He also makes sure to use a standard office chair to keep everything ergonomic.
YouTubers "The Deprey's" have installed an office where the sofa originally sat in their RV. They were able to secure a decent-sized desk to the floor and attach all of the electronics needed to work. This video provides a great example of how to keep everything secure as you drive around with your RV office.
"AStreaminLife" next shows us the office they installed in their Airstream Classic trailer. By removing the dinette, a full-size desk was able to fit into their RV. This video stresses the importance of a good, dedicated workspace as well as establishing a work routine.
The couple at The Dapper Drive has created a fantastically modern, chic office space for two. By using an IKEA desktop over a built-in drawer and adding storage, they have created a beautiful, secure working space. Oh, and there's even a fireplace for those chilly mornings at work:
Next, we have an innovative solution for a standing desk. Roman Ryans has created a simple office in his 5th wheel trailer where he works as a software engineer. Interestingly, it is all mounted on a pole attached to the wall of the RV - you really have to check this one out:
Another resource worth checking out is Mountain Modern Life's DIY flip-up desk video. This solution provides the travelers with extra space when the desk is not in use. Their simple hinged bracket design holds the desk in place securely and provides a nice small work area.
Finally, the full-timers over at Technomadia have created a nice custom office in their bus, thanks to the help of a blacksmith. For their dual desk, they hired a friend to turn scrap metal into monitor supports that keep their computers mounted securely. They also have a nice simple solution to securing their office chairs: