The 11 Most Functional, Chic Work Bags for Carrying and Commuting

published Aug 29, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
semi wide shot of person packing a packing cube into cream tote bag that's on a bed with burnt orange sheets with shoes, and other packing cubes next to it
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

It can take years to find the perfect work bag, and the process of trial and error that leads up to it tends to turn all of us into fashion victims. Whether you’ve made the mistake of getting a tote whose straps dig into your shoulder during the walk to the train or you’ve impulsively bought a backpack in a bold color that doesn’t match any of your outfits, there’s no need to feel down — we’ve all been there. The good news is that the market for work bags has grown so much, even in just the past few years. Whereas your options used to consist of impractical totes, boxy briefcases, or downright childish backpacks, there are now plenty of bags out there that strike the perfect balance between fashion and functionality. And so many of them happen to come from editor-loved brands!

We had a look through some of our favorite retailers’ sites and rounded up 10 great options that’ll keep you organized during your 9 to 5 — friction burns and backaches not included. Plus, they’re all cute enough to take to the office and to dinner or happy hour afterward. If you want an easy way to simplify your workday, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

1 / 11
was $328.00

Quince is the brand behind one of our favorite suitcases, so it only stands to reason that they’d make a killer work tote, too. This leather tote looks like any other timeless, oversized bag on the outside. On the inside, however, you’ll find a center zipper divider that’s large enough to fit a 13-inch laptop, as well as three pockets for other personal items. Its soft interior lining is also super easy to clean, while the exterior leather is plenty durable.

2 / 11
was $138.00

I’m a fan of Calpak myself, and I’ve seen the Kaya backpack on four fellow New Yorkers during my own commute, so it’s safe to say that this is a popular model. And it’s not hard to see why! The Kaya is currently available in 17 pretty colors, although it also stands out, thanks to the oversized stitching around the perimeter of its faux leather surface. Most importantly, the backpack can accommodate a 15-inch laptop and then some, and it also has a luggage trolley sleeve and multiple interior pockets.

3 / 11

You might be familiar with Madewell’s widely loved Transport tote, and that’s likely because it looks very similar to one worn by Meghan Markle. Celebrity status aside, this no-frills tote is perfect for daily use, during both your work week and off days. It has one interior side zip pocket for small personal items, such as your phone and wallet, but other than that, you can throw countless items inside its cavernous main compartment, and rest assured that the tote will hold them all.

4 / 11
Dagne Dover

Many of our editors love Dagne Dover, primarily for their travel essentials. But you can find far more than just makeup organizers among their stylish offerings. The Daily tote, for example, is perfect for corporate life. It has tons of little compartments and interior slip pockets, so you can have a dedicated spot for everything from your laptop to your lip balm. In addition to two short handles, the tote also has a convenient crossbody strap, and it’s made from sustainably sourced vegan materials.

5 / 11

This Anthropologie tote is a bit of a splurge, but when you consider that the woven Bottega bags it’s likely modeled after cost thousands, it’s really not so bad. Even if your office style isn’t particularly exciting, this piece will instantly make you look more put-together, plus it offers plenty of space for your planner, folders, computer, and more. Additionally, the Nisolo tote is a great day-to-night transition piece.

6 / 11
Béis Travel

If you’re not into stitching or woven details, you’ll like the simple Commuter backpack from Béis Travel. It comes in two neutral colors — black and beige — and features a large laptop pocket, hidden water bottle pocket, and front zipper pocket. There’s also an elastic key ring inside said zipper pocket, which is a small but significant detail that you’ll quickly come to wonder how you ever lived without.

7 / 11
Mark & Graham
was $199.00

Even if you find a work bag that checks all your boxes, it’s still fun to switch out your accessories with each new season. For the fall and winter months, this suede tote is the way to go. It’s available in a small or large size and in either navy, chestnut, or gray, all of which give off a warm and cozy autumn vibe. What’s more, you can personalize the tote by adding your monogram!

8 / 11
was $120.00

This Samsonite briefcase sports a slim design and chic gold accents. Like some of the other bags on our list, it has a luggage sleeve on the back and plenty of interior pockets, so you’ll never be digging through a jumbled mess to find your keys or pen.

9 / 11

Leather and suede are undeniably beautiful as far as bag materials go, but they’re not always the most practical. If you live in a rainier climate, you might opt for the RAINS backpack. Not only can it hold a ton of stuff, but the Scandinavian-inspired bag is also made of waterproof fabric and has a wide top flap that keeps the contents from getting wet. It’s simple but effective.

10 / 11

Everyone has different requirements when it comes to work bag features. For those who live in busier areas, a dependable closure is paramount. Baggu’s horizontal duck bag looks cute and casual at first glance, but unlike a lot of totes, it has two overlapping button closures securing its main compartment. And because it’s made of durable, washable canvas, this is the perfect bag to bring to the gym after work wraps up.

11 / 11
Béis Travel

Personally, I’ve known two different coworkers who own the Béis work tote, and they both swear by it. It’s just as stunning in real life as it is in photos — especially if you prefer a more structured look. And every functional detail you can think of is included in its design, including three shoulder straps, a padded laptop sleeve, luggage trolley, and multiple interior and exterior pockets.