You’ve probably heard the term “digital nomad.” More people are working from home than ever before, and full-time RV-ers are no exception. A Google search will return dozens of suggestions for mobile jobs, and you only need a computer to do most of them (hence the “digital”).
Now, if you’re in a house, setting up a workspace is kind of a no-brainer. You probably have some extra space along a wall or an unused corner, even if you have to rearrange things a little to make everything fit. You might even have a whole room that’s specifically a home office. At the very least, you can sit at the dining table. But when your home is on wheels, and every square inch matters, you have to get a little more creative.
If you’re shopping for a motorhome or building a custom camper, and you plan to make a living while on the road, take a look at some ideas for creating a comfortable workspace!
(Because we love making up new words)
Some RV jobs don’t require any equipment at all. Workamping means driving to a location for work. You usually get a free place to park in addition to earning a paycheck. Examples include:
- Being a host at an RV park, helping check-in visitors, answering questions, doing light maintenance, etc.
- Big warehouses like Amazon need a lot of extra hands for the holiday rush.
Some farms and wineries recruit RV-ers to help harvest.
- Traveling nurses, consultants, specialized mechanics can go where they’re needed as long as they’re needed.
For more information on working on the road, check out hard and soft skills you need to become a freelancing nomad, and 7 tested strategies for making money on the road!
MULTI-USE SPACE DESIGNS
1. Built-in Office Spaces
Most folks working from the road just plop their laptop or tablet down on the dinette table or the bed. Some manufacturers now include options specifically for these kinds of work setups. The Winnebago Travato has an extendable power source and table mount on the passenger side. The passenger seat swivels to become your “desk chair.”
Taking it one step further, German RV manufacturer Sunlight built this convertible table as a proof-of-concept. Thoughtful details include extra power outlets, additional lighting, and built-up sides to prevent pens and other small office supplies from falling to the floor.
2. The Stowaway Desk
A small folding table and chair can be stored until it’s time to get some work done. You can also place a folding table on top of your dinette to create a standing desk, then clear it away when it’s time to eat. And of course, working outside is fantastic.
Don’t forget the space up front! When you’re not driving, the cockpit can be a comfy office.
3. Hold Up – Try a Fold-Up!
Mount a folding desk to a wall for a convenient work surface that tucks out of the way when the work day is done. This can be as simple as a small drop-leaf, or as fancy as a murphy desk with built-in shelving. A great many RV floorplans already include a pop-up shelf at the end of a countertop run for some extra workroom, and those are the perfect size for a laptop.
By the way, did you know the support on some murphy desks doubles as a whiteboard or chalkboard?
4. Dedicated Desk Space
If your work involves hours of sitting, you need multiple monitors, or you have a ton of supplies, you might want a permanent spot so you don’t have to bother setting it up and taking it down every day.
By far, the most popular choice for installing a workspace in an RV is to replace the dinette, both those mounted inside a slide-out and stationery sets. Here’s an ahh-mazing DIY conversion below!
While most folks build their own desks, manufacturers are starting to cater to the work-from-the-road crowd by including workspaces in their designs. The Flying Cloud models from Airstream replace a couch section with a desk that can convert between sitting and standing.
Longer units such as fifth wheels, toy haulers, skoolies, and Class A campers naturally have a lot more space available for separate work areas. Here’s an incredible schoolie transformation – check out the His n’ Her desk spaces!
Some campers have a “bunkhouse,” which is a separate cubby containing a bunk bed. If you don’t have kids, or they’ve outgrown the space, it’s a perfect place to put an office. Check out this bunkhouse-to-office conversion from Julie and Marc at RVLove.com.
While we’re on the subject, if you aren’t going to use one of your twin beds, that’s a great spot for a desk.
5. Mobile Craft Spaces
Your RV workspace isn’t limited to computers by any means. There are a lot of makers that have turned their campers into mobile workshops. Some follow the craft show circuit, some are online businesses (okay, yes, that requires a computer; you know what I mean), and some offer their services to other RVers at campgrounds and festivals.
Other mobile “crafty” professions include leatherworking, weaving, Cricut design, beading, and so many more. If you can find it on an aisle at Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s, someone’s probably doing it out of a camper.
And while every RV owner must become a mechanic to some extent, you could make a very good living providing “fix-it” services for more difficult repairs.
For more ideas on RV conversions and DIY modifications, we invite you to check out RVInspiration.com. We’re not affiliated – we just love the site!
PRINCIPLES OF OFFICE DESIGN FOR RVS
Feeling inspired yet? If you’re going to be installing a workspace in your RV, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use lighter-weight materials. Marble and granite tops are gorgeous, but your brakes will hate you. Laminates, melamine, and plywood are your best bet. Check out the tops available at IKEA and various home improvement stores.
- Secure everything. Clamps and brackets will keep monitors from flying, and drawers or cubbies will hold peripherals such as your mouse, tablet, external drive, generic office supplies, etc.
- Power, power, power. Check your power setup to make sure you have enough juice and won’t blow fuses/throw breakers when you plug in everything.
- Plugging away. Speaking of, have plenty of 110v and USB outlets in your workspace. 12v, too, if you need them.
- A surge protector is critical! You should be using one anyway, but especially if you have delicate electronics plugged into shore power.
- UPS. No, not the delivery company, an uninterruptible power supply. If the power does go down, a UPS keeps your computer running so you can make sure all of your work is saved. Some models also act as an EMS surge protector (see above).
- Cable management. Not just to keep everything looking tidy, though that’s nice, but also to prevent cables from getting snagged by the slide-out mechanism or becoming a tripping hazard in the walkway. Search online for cable management solutions, and incorporate some of them into your build. It might be as simple as a couple of zip-ties.
One of the bigger challenges work-from-the-road folks talk about is maintaining a good work/life balance. It can be a problem even when you’re not on the road, but in an RV, you literally live in your office. Remind yourself that you’re on the road to see new sights and meet new people, and while you may need to work to support that lifestyle, don’t let it become the lifestyle.
Have a good day at work. And a great day after work!
Patrick has visited 11 countries and 35 of the 50 states. He has racked up thousands of miles in RVs of every class, including a hand-crafted Romani vardo. His retirement plan is a custom Class B and a generic cat, the primary goal being to pick up those last 15 states.