When you choose a handbag for work, you first need to think about what you bring to the office each day. Begin looking at the largest items first. The size of the handbag will have to be at least the size of this.
But if size were the only thing that matters, you could also pack everything you need in a big suitcase. Clearly, that's not very well organised because there are no compartments to keep your things where they belong.
That's why the second thing you need to look at when picking a work handbag is how you want to keep your stuff sorted.
See the guide on what handbag to choose for work here.
Laptop compartment in the right size
Many women have to carry a laptop in their handbags at least a couple of times a week. This is especially common after people began working from home.
Make sure that you have one structured pocket that is large enough for the laptop you use. 14-inch, 15-inch or a 16-inch laptops are most common for work. If you don't have a separate pocket for this, you end up throwing your laptop around, which can eventually damage it.
Open pockets for notebook and pens
A standard thing many people have to bring into the office or a meeting is a notebook and pens. Notebooks come in many sizes, so you can be very flexible here.
Since a notebook is flat, it's often a good pairing partner with your laptop. If you have one pocket that's large enough for your laptop, you can usually put your notebook in with it.
Make sure you know how to find pens when you need them. You can clip most ballpoint pens to the top of an open pocket without zippers so it's very useful to have one of these in your bag.
Big enough for commuting shoes
Most women who live and work in bigger cities depend on commuting to work each day. And while you might love the look of a pair of heels once you get into the office, walking onto the tube wearing them is not an option.
If you need to bring shoes to work, you need one large pocket that's wide enough for the size of your shoes. This leaves out a lot of slimmer computer bags.
Room for a change of clothes
Some people like to change into different clothes when going out after work. Others love to get into a gym class during their lunch break. In any case, they need space for clothes and maybe also shoes.
Clothes are relatively flexible, and you can roll up a pair of tights along with underwear, sports bras and a top without taking too much space.
You also need a compartment that's large enough for toiletries if you like to train at work. If you use a small pouch for them, it's easy to use one big compartment for this along with rolled-up clothes and a pair of shoes.
If you need tips on how to keep your work bag tidy, click here.
Straps and pockets for chargers, keys, credit cards and business cards
There are many smaller items that go into a work handbag every day that don't necessarily take up a lot of space. But that doesn't mean you can ignore them when you're trying to find out how many compartments you need.
If you don't have at least one smaller pocket to collect these things, they will be loose in your bag and likely very difficult to find.
You can get away with putting all of them in one pocket, but some work handbags also come with dedicated spaces for these. It can for example be straps to fasten to your key ring or a wrapped-up charger.
It can also be useful to find a work handbag that has smaller pockets that are just the right size for your credit cards so they don't get mixed up with other things.
Zipped pocket for hand cream, makeup and hand sanitiser
You can put smaller things like mascara, concealer, hand cream or sanitisers in several compartments. If you put them inside a small pouch, they can easily go into one bigger compartment shared with other things like clothes etc.
But you can also find a flexible zipped side pocket in a bag where you can keep these things together. This way, they won't fall out, and you know where to look when you need to reach for your lip balm.
Strap or room for your water bottle
If you're trying to stay away from buying new plastic bottles of water every time you go to work, bringing your own bottle to refill can be very smart.
But if you're putting it into your work handbag together with other valuable things like laptops, you need to make sure they stand up straight. Read how to protect your computer from getting damaged in your handbag here.
You could put a water bottle in a compartment that's already filled with other things that would survive if they get wet, like shoes or clothes. But they definitely should not share the space with your laptop.
If you don't fill your bag all the way up, it's also extremely helpful to pick a handbag with a bottle holder where the bottle gets strapped into the wall of the bag, keeping it upright the entire time.
Ask for pictures of the inside of the bag
Many brands won't necessarily show you a picture of the inside of the bag. This can be for many reasons. It can be tricky to get the right lighting to get a good picture, especially if it's a dark bag.
But it can also be because there's only one large room with a tiny side pocket for your phone.
Make sure you go and see the bag in person or get sent a picture of the inside before you decide on what to bag buy.
Overview of handbag compartments:
- Structured compartment for laptop and notebooks
- Large pocket that rooms clothes and shoes
- Additional compartment for food and drinks unless these fit into pocket number 2
- Open pocket to fasten pens and put larger items
- Zipped pocket to keep small loose items
- Specialised pockets or straps for credit cards, keys, chargers or bottles