School Social Work Office Must-Haves: 5+ Tips

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School social work offices can be customized and look vastly different! Here are five of the most essential elements no matter your style.

Paperwork Area

We’ll start off with the least fun, but probably most essential area. School social workers have a ton of required paperwork and having a dedicated space to keep this paperwork is important.

If you have a hanging file cabinet, this probably works the best to store all sorts of paperwork. However, in my previous school, I did not have access to the hanging files so I used a locking cabinet to secure any confidential documents and an unlocked cabinet for storing curriculum or (blank) assessment paperwork.

two computer monitors
Dedicated computer space is important. Two monitors is necessary!

I really like the idea of putting up curtains over open bookshelves (check out the video below) too! This might be something I look into for next year.

Stuffed Animals & Comfort Items

Depending on grade level, stuffed animals are a great addition to any school social work office. I found these weighted stuffed animals and kids love them! I got this big squishmallow at Costco for a fun comfort item that will loop in my safari theme.

Elephant squishmallow.
Squishmallows are great for a theme!

I also got a bean bag chair from Wal-Mart for $5 and two sequin pillows from a home goods store for $5 each and they have been truly magical!

These are items that are not dangerous if students who are dysregulated want to throw something. They also add a sensory input with the weight and sequins.

Lighting for the School Social Work Office

It seems like everyone loves these light covers, however, I’m not a huge fan. I think it is important to set the lights to dimmer settings than the typical florescent lights but I prefer to use lamps.

Typically, I get super cheap desk lamp and a flexible three-bulb stand lamp. One of my colleagues used a Colorado State University rams lamp to serve a dual purpose of dimming the lights and tying his theme together.

Salt lamps, lava lamps or even essential oil diffusers with lighted bases are all great substitutions for the harsh florescent lights.

Books & Games

In elementary school, bibliotherapy is a great tool! Stories can be a great way to normalize feelings, or teach an appropriate replacement behavior.

For me, it is really important to use books with main characters of diverse backgrounds. I created this Amazon wish list with several books from diverse perspectives- check it out and let me know which are your favorites!

At the middle school level, we had set times during the week for kids to read silently. Often, kids chose to come to my office and read so it was helpful to have some random grade level books that had nothing to do with social emotional learning.

Games are great to teach several different social emotional skills. I plan on talking about games more in-depth in the future. Games are fairly essential in an elementary school social work office and always a bonus in middle and high school!

Posters & Wall Decorations

One of the new things I will be putting up this year is an “emotions cloth”. Even though it is technically a rug/ floor mat, I am planning on hanging it so that it doesn’t get as dirty or take up table/ floor space. It’s completely washable!

I also typically have a bulletin board or wall space dedicated to any student art. Anything fun or calming can make great wall decor. Often, your school will have specific guidelines around wall-hangings, so be sure to check with admin first!

General Tips for Setting up a School Social Work Office

My (current) office is fairly large, and so I was able to have “zones” within my office. I have a calming corner, an area with tables and chairs for my lunch groups, and an area where I can do paperwork that is next to the phone.

As you’ll see in the virtual school social work office tour below, there is a sort of owl theme. Themes are fun and can help start conversations with students about something that isn’t as intense. Use what is already in the room to kickstart your theme!

Happy decorating!


  1. Kimberly Lewis on June 22, 2024 at 2:00 am

    I’m returning to SW after some time away from the field. I’ve interviewed for a school social work position. What are the biggest tips you can share with me?

    • tesla on June 23, 2024 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Kimberly-
      Welcome back to school social work! Will you be at the elementary, middle or high school level? I would say my number 1 tip for any school social worker at the very beginning of the school year is to build relationships with the staff. Figuring out an organizational system that works for you is also super important right out of the gate. Thanks for the question and feel free to contact me with any other questions you might have!

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