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Best work bags for women: practical and stylish totes, satchels and backpacks

Are you looking for the perfect work bag? We’ve scoured the high street and rounded up the best, from the backpacks that can hold everything to the totes with extra style points.

By Roanna Day | Last updated Dec 20, 2023

best work bags for women

There’s a lot to consider when shopping for the perfect work bag. First up, how much room do you need? Do you need a Mary Poppins style holdall that can fit the world and its wife in? Or something neat and compact that keeps you organised?

Then there’s material, style and colour to consider. Not to mention price tag and longevity.

A good work bag should be able to store everything you need for your commute and working day, without it becoming a confused jumble. Ideally it would also be in a design you love and would be happy to use for any after work events or weekend getaways.

We’ve gone through hundreds of online reviews, checked out the bestsellers and done our research across multiple retailers to bring together our edit of the best work bags for women. From roomy holdalls and spacious totes to practical backpacks and bags designed to keep a laptop safe, there’s something for every price tag and style. Plus you can see which ones other Mumsnetters really rate too.

So, whether you’re investing or just need a quick buy, here are the best work bags for women to buy in 2024.

1. Best overall work bag for women: The Cambridge Satchel Company Emily

blue leather tote bag

Price: RRP £295 | Buy now from The Cambridge Satchel Company

What we love

  • High-quality construction

  • Real leather

  • Made in the UK

  • Timeless design

  • Personalisation available

What to know

  • Investment price tag

  • Not many internal pockets

What Mumsnet users say

“I just googled the Emily bag and, oh my goodness, it's gorgeous. If I ever get an expensive work bag it will be The Cambridge Satchel Company Emily bag in bay Celtic grain.” Coveted by Mumsnet user gracelessladyhottramp

“Cambridge Satchel Company. I have three satchels in different sizes from there. Lovely and great quality.” Brand vetted by Mumsnet user EjectorCrab

Our verdict

The Emily bag by The Cambridge Satchel Company gets a lot of love from Mumsnetters and we can see why. This leather bag is an investment but with its classic, effortless design you’ll be using it for years and years to come.

The Cambridge Satchel Company makes all of their bags in England to the highest quality and they claim that their Emily style is the ultimate work bag. Long leather straps mean you can carry this bag over your shoulder while a slip pocket inside and a twist-lock closure keep your belongings safe.

We love the stylish range of colours this bag comes in and the personalisation on offer with every order. After all, who doesn't want their initials embossed onto their favourite bag?

2. Best budget work bag for women: Lekesky Grey Laptop Backpack

lekesky grey work backpack

Price: RRP £24 | Buy now from Amazon

What we love

  • Spacious design

  • Lots of pockets

  • Laptop sleeve

What to know

  • Structured design can limit flexibility

What Mumsnet users say

“My daughter has this [for] daily use and it still looks new despite being a year old.” Vetted by Mumsnet user goose1964

Our verdict

If you need to carry a lot to work every day then a backpack is a great option. Reviews praise this grey backpack by Lekesky for its quality and sturdiness. It’s also roomy enough to allow you to pack a generous amount of essentials.

Considering its affordable price tag you get a lot for your money with this multi-pocket bag. Its wide open design makes it easy to find what you need and a range of different internal and external pockets means you can stay organised.

The bag is finished off with a stylish print detail asymmetric pocket. Just the thing for livening up your work wardrobe.

3. Best bag for commuting to work: Fjällräven Kånken Sports Backpack

purple backpack women

Price: RRP £86 | Buy now from Amazon

What we love

  • Wide range of colours

  • High-quality construction

  • Cult appeal

What to know

  • More expensive that some other competitors

What Mumsnet users say

“I've had my first one for 26 years now, got it for my 15th birthday. Own loads of Fjällräven stuff, two coats, a mini Kånken and a saddle bag. It's decent and made to last.” Tried and tested by Mumsnet user LittleSwede

Our verdict

If this backpack looks familiar it’s because its simple Scandi design means it’s loved by commuters and travellers everywhere.

While Fjällrävens aren’t the cheapest of backpacks, they’re known for lasting a long time and ageing well. Reviewers also love them for how easy they are to wipe clean and how roomy their interior is.

The backpack comes with a generous outer pocket to keep your keys and purse close to hand. There’s also a huge range of colours to choose between, meaning you can find one that matches your style perfectly.

4. Best work bag with compartments: Sandqvist Roald Ground Organic Cotton Backpack

Sandqvist

Price: RRP £115 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

Key specs

Size: 36cm x 28cm x 17cm | Colours: Black or Blue/Dusty Blue

What we love

  • Super comfortable

  • Adjustable straps

  • Has a 15" laptop sleeve

What to know

  • Quite pricey

  • Not 100% waterproof

What Mumsnet users say

“I have a Sandqvist and love it! It’s the Roald model in black and holds my laptop, gym kit and toiletries easily. I like the pockets on the front for easy access to my work pass, lip balm etc. and I like the understated branding. Plus, the bag is comfy on the shoulders with lightly padded straps. It’s very well made...” Recommended by Mumsnet user Chezrone

Our verdict

The Sandqvist Roald Ground Organic Cotton Backpack is a favourite amongst Mumsnetters, thanks to the Scandinavian brand’s comfy, stylish design.

It has plenty of storage space with two fairly large outer zipper pockets to carry essentials such as car keys, wireless headphones or your portable phone charger, as well as a large internal space with a 15" laptop sleeve, which is a little larger than most backpacks. Even though this backpack is fairly large, it moulds perfectly to your back and sits well thanks to the padded, adjustable straps.

5. Best backpack for work: Fossil Women's Tess Laptop Backpack

fossil

Price: RRP £179 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: 29.2cm x 10.2cm x 39.4cm | Colours: Black, tan

What we love

  • Versatile

  • Great quality

  • Has plenty of pockets

What to know

  • Pricey

  • Not fully waterproof

What Mumsnet users say

“I have a leather one from Fossil and I LOVE it. It wasn't cheap but I use it every day and it fits all my stuff in when I'm in the office.” Recommended by Mumsnet user idontlikealdi)

Our verdict

Made from the softest eco-leather material and a nylon/polyester webbing, this classic backpack from iconic watch and premium leather brand, Fossil won’t disappoint. The versatile design is suitable for all occasions, and the ample size, complete with seven pockets (1 zip pocket, 1 back slide pocket, 1 padded laptop pocket, 1 front slide pocket with magnetic snap, 1 side zipper pocket, 2 front zipper pockets) plus a separate bottle holder means that it can double up as a stylish travel bag or baby changing bag, should you need it.

The four elastic loops on the inside of the backpack are also convenient for extra essentials such as pens, phone chargers and keys and we like that it has an extra sturdy top handle for easy carrying no matter how full the backpack is

6. Best work bag with zipper: Radley Finsbury Park Large Geo Dog Jacquard Tote Bag

Radley Finsbury Park Large Geo Dog Jacquard Tote Bag, Thunder

Price: RRP £149 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

Pros

  • Roomy design

  • Made from recycled bottles

  • Fun print

  • Plenty of pockets

  • Laptop sleeve

Cons

  • Investment price tag

What Mumsnet users say

“I like Radley and I have a few. They are well made and they last.” Brand recommended by Mumsnet user Immaculatemisconception

Our verdict

Radley are known for their quirky take on timeless style. This large tote bag features a fun dog print adding a little playful style to your work looks.

Mumsnet users love how well made Radley bags are, praising how long they last even with heavy use.

This tote has a handy inner zipped pocket to keep your keys, phone and essentials secure. It's wonderfully roomy and the best bit is that it is made from recycled bottles, making it the eco-conscious choice.

7. Best leather work bag for women: S-Zone Women’s Leather Shoulder Bag

brown leather bag

Price: RRP £60 | Buy now from Amazon

What we love

  • Real leather

  • Spacious design

  • Detachable shoulder strap

What to know

  • No laptop sleeve

Our verdict

If you’re looking for an affordable leather bag then this shoulder bag by S-Zone is a great choice. The spacious design has room for all your work essentials and, as it’s made from real leather, the bag will age well.

The design gets glowing reviews as users love how much the shoulder bag can hold and how sturdy it is.

We love how many colours there are to choose from. You can opt for a classic brown or black or go bold with blue or red.

8. Best leather work tote bag: Lubardy Leather Laptop Bag

black workbag

Price: RRP £43 | Buy now from Amazon

What we love

  • Padded laptop sleeve

  • Made from real leather

What to know

  • Structured design could limit what fits in

Our verdict

If you need to take your laptop out and about with you a lot then this Lubardy Leather Laptop Bag is a great option.

The bag features a padded laptop pocket to protect your computer, along with a structured design and studded feet to keep it safe when you put your bag down. There’s also plenty of other pockets inside to help keep your things organised.

The shoulder bag is made from a chic crocodile-effect leather and also comes with a detachable long strap so you can carry it however you want.

9. Best designer work bag for women: Aspinal of London Tote

nude leather bag

Price: RRP £390 | Buy now from Aspinal of London

What we love

  • High-quality construction

  • Timeless design

  • Made from real leather

  • Internal pockets to help you stay organised

What to know

  • Investment price tag

What Mumsnet users say

“Another vote for Aspinal London Tote. I have it in this colour. Game changer. Feel like Mary Poppins with the amount that fits in it. Definitely would easily do a laptop etc and is sturdy. Lots of colours available too.” (Reviewed by Mumsnet user BurningRed)

Our verdict

If you’re looking to treat yourself then the Aspinal London Tote is the way to go. Granted, it’s not cheap, but it is definitely a thing of beauty. Mumsnet users love this luxurious bag for its timeless style, spacious design and sturdy construction.

If you’ve just secured a promotion or you’ve been working hard and want to indulge in a little self-care treat, then this bag could be the one.

Aspinal have handcrafted this bag using the highest quality leather. There’s a wide range of colours and finishes to choose between and the bag is made to last a lifetime. The roomy design has multiple internal pockets, a zip section and a magnetic popper close.

We’re smitten with the grey and blue options but it’s the beautiful padlock detail that’s really caught our eye.

10. Best black work bag for women: Jocose Moose Women’s Laptop Handbag

black tote bag

Price: RRP £33 | Buy now from Amazon

What we love

  • Spacious design

  • Multiple internal pockets

What to know

  • Not as long lasting as real leather

Our verdict

This large laptop handbag is a simple, stylish design that will go easily with your work wardrobe.

The spacious bag can fit all your weekday essentials and the bag also comes with a separate small zip close bag to keep your things organised.

Reviews mention how useful all of the internal pockets are, and how hardwearing the bag is. The tote is available in a wide range of colours too - we think the striking black and white design is particularly chic.

What type of bag should I get for work?

Start by thinking about your average work day and what bag would work best for you. If you commute and have a lot of train changes or jumping on and off buses to do then a backpack could work well for you. Or maybe you do a lot of driving and instead fancy a classic shoulder bag?

Once you’ve considered what sort of bag makes the most sense practically you can decide on the colour and style. You could opt for a classic black leather bag which will go with most work wardrobes effortlessly or you could go for a colourful, on-trend backpack to inject a little fun into your look.

Ultimately, it should come down to what’s in budget and which one you think you’ll get the most use out of.

What to look for in a work bag

  • Material: Think about what the outer and inner of your bag is made from. If you’re looking for longevity then leather is usually your best option. If you want something that wipes clean easily then you could consider nylon.

  • Does it have a laptop pocket?: If you carry your laptop a lot then it’s worth choosing a work bag with a specific laptop pocket to keep your computer safe.

  • Size and storage: Think about how much your work bag needs to store and pick a bag size based on that. Also think about internal and external pockets - the more there are, the easier it is to stay organised.

  • Style: Do you have a fairly classic work wardrobe? Then opt for a bag that matches like a simple tote shape. Is your workwear more fun and casual? In which case a colourful or printed bag might work better.

What should you pack in a work bag?

Run through your day ahead and think about what you might need. Make sure you include the basics like a bottle of water, a snack, your purse and keys. Not forgetting any makeup you might want to touch up on the go.

You could also include a reusable takeout cup for your coffee, a book to entertain you on the commute and maybe a luxurious hand cream to use throughout the day. Oh, and of course, don’t forget to pop an umbrella in!

What is the best work bag for women?

The Emily by The Cambridge Satchel Company gets endless, glowing reviews from online reviewers and is coveted by a fair few Mumsnet users. It’s an investment bag, made to a high quality that will last you for years and years to come. We love its practical design, with a slip pocket and sturdy shape, but mostly we love how beautiful its textured grain leather is. This is a bag that will only get better with age.

How we chose our recommendations

We’ve thoroughly researched the work bags you can buy, including evaluating trusted reviews from a range of reliable sources. Here's how we carefully selected our picks.

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users

The first place we always go to for recommendations is our Mumsnet community. We read hundreds of posts written by Mumsnet users, weighing up their reviews on the brands and bags they love or have put through their paces over the years. We then combined this analysis with ratings and comments from other sources before compiling our edit of the best work bags for women.

Expert opinions

The perfect work bag is a personal choice so we made sure to provide a range of options in our edit. Our writer, Roanna Day, also used her experience and expertise as a fashion editor to ensure only the best were included.

Authentic customer reviews

We made sure to investigate insights from bestseller lists and other authentic reviews from a variety of retailer sites to decide which bags were truly the best buys. We’ve included a pros and cons list with each bag which lays out an honest evaluation of each one.

About the author

Roanna Day is a freelance digital editor and mum of two. She recently upped sticks and made the move from London to the Welsh countryside. When she isn't writing or chasing after one of her kids you'll find her sipping a coffee, collecting eggs or tending to the veg patch. She has written buyer's guides for Mumsnet on everything from the best cleaning products to the best denim dresses.

Why you should trust us

We make sure we do our homework before we recommend any product. We’ve conducted thorough, extensive research, looking at lots of different work bags before deciding on the best to shop.

We know that the best reviews are the ones written honestly and independently so we made sure we included bags loved by Mumsnet users at the top of our list.