If you’re like a lot of people in the WordPress community, you’re probably stuck working at home for the foreseeable future.
Going from working full-time in an office to working at home can be a shock, especially when you’re supposed to be just as productive working at home as you are from an office.
As someone who’s been working with WordPress full-time from home for the past ~4 years (albeit as a freelancer), I feel like I’m in a good position to provide some tips and suggestions for first-time work-from-homers.
In this post, I’ll share some of the strategies that have worked for me, with the end goal of helping you work more productively during this time of social distancing.
Six Tips for Working from Home
One note before I get started:
I do not have children. Since these work from home tips are based on my personal experiences, that means I cannot help you navigate the wrench-in-wheel (for working) of trying to be productive with small children around.
I recognize that this might require some adjustments, but alas I cannot provide any firsthand recommendations there.
Aside from that, here are my suggestions…
1. Build a Routine and Add Structure
When I first started working from home, I was excited because it meant that my days no longer had to have any structure.
I could work whenever I wanted – no one’s gonna tell me what to do!
Unfortunately, that’s a horrible way to get things done.
If you try to go with the structureless approach to working from home, you’re likely going to quickly run into Parkinson’s law – “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Now, if you’re still expected to be available for meetings (or be responsive enough on Slack that people don’t think you’re…slacking), this might be a little easier for you.
That is, if everyone on your team is working 9-5, you’re forced to work 9-5 even if your brain is telling you not to.
However, even if you have no set hours where you need to be available, I would encourage you to set your own working hours and avoid deviating from them.
While you don’t need to be 100% strict about it (taking some liberties is one of the perks of working from home), I do think that maintaining your own “work hours” is still an important thing.
2. Create a Separate Space If At All Possible
This one isn’t always feasible depending on your living situation…but the best tip that I’ve found for working from home is trying to create separate areas for “work” and “relaxation”.
This doesn’t just help you be more productive, but it also helps you relax and decompress when you’re finished working.
If you’re still staring at your workspace even after you’re finished, it’s hard to ever turn off. This is why I pay the extra money for a two-bedroom apartment (and then deduct it come tax time!)
Here’s my office workspace:
When I finish, I close the door and forget about it.
If you can’t dedicate an entire room to your office, you could also improvise with a dedicated desk/table in your living area that you cover when work is done.
Even if it’s just a small change, not having to stare at your workspace during your leisure time will make a difference.
3. Focus on the Ergonomics
If you want to be productive, you need to be comfortable.
No – not too comfortable. If you’re laying down in bed, I doubt you’ll get much work done.
But the same is true if your neck starts killing you. Or your back. Or your shoulder.
You might’ve had an ergonomically optimized setup at the office, but the same is not always true at your home.
In my opinion, the biggest ROI is investing in a laptop stand to bring your laptop to eye-level. I like the Nexstand, which is heavily “inspired” by the pricier Roost stand. The Nexstand is only ~$40, so it won’t break the bank.
If your home supports it, you can also try alternating between sitting and standing. For example, if your kitchen has a breakfast bar, those usually tend to be around the perfect height for standing. Get up and take the laptop over there for 30 minutes.
Or, you can always use the tried-and-true tactic of “stacking something on top of something else to make it higher”.
Personally, I opted for a $250 sit-to-stand converter desk, though that might be more than you want to spend for a temporary home workspace.
4. Block Out the Distractions
“Ok, it’s time to start work. I’m going to open up Google Docs and start writing. Well, before I do that I should probably check the news right? After all, there’s a lot going on around the world.
Oh, that’s interesting. But maybe other sites have different stories. I should check those too. And what are people saying on Reddit? I should hear from them as well”
Does that inner monologue sound familiar? You sit down to work…but before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and you’re stuck on some obscure subreddit that you’ve never seen before.
I like to think that I have fairly decent willpower, but I still find myself sucked down the rabbit hole far too often.
Over time, I’ve learned that the only way to win the battle is to not let yourself play.
To that end, I recommend exploring some of the many useful apps out there that let you block access to certain websites. My tool of choice is Freedom:
Or, if you’re not so into the “happy” messaging and prefer something a little more blunt, you can use the free Go Fucking Work Chrome extension which…”reminds” you in colorful language if you try to visit a site on your block list.
The thing I like about Freedom, though, is that it offers “Locked Mode”. With “Locked Mode”, you can’t even unblock the sites if you wanted to.
5. Do Some Exercise/Go For a Walk
Even if you nail all the other tips, you’re probably going to hit a productivity wall at some point.
When that happens, my go-to is to do some type of exercise, even if it’s just something simple like going on a walk (if you can safely walk outside, of course).
The nice thing about working from home is that you can accomplish this without being “that weird person at the office”.
One thing I doubly recommend is basic mobility/stretching work, as this serves the purpose of helping both your body and your mind. Your mind gets some of those lovely endorphins, and your body feels a lot better when you’re sitting in a desk chair (or standing at your breakfast bar!).
Two of my go-to YouTube videos are:
And if you have low back pain, this Foundation Training 12-minute workout is amazing (but surprisingly difficult).
6. Work Naked (and Other Contradictory Thoughts)
Ok, this one is kind of an anti-tip. But I’ve seen a lot of these posts that tell you to get dressed in your regular work clothes to make you feel like you’re in work mode.
Now, I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons that I like working from home is because I get to be productive…without 100% feeling like I’m in “work” mode.
If you were to spy on me “at work” (maybe through one of the highly-publicized vulnerabilities in Zoom), you would find that I pretty much never have a shirt on.
Apart from me oversharing about my personal habits, I guess this last tip is more of a reminder that you need to experiment.
What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. It took me tons of trial and error before I started to hack together a process that lets me be productive from home…and even then I still have some days where I feel like a lazy failure.
Maybe getting dressed in your “going out” clothes really does help you be more productive…but it also just might make you uncomfortable for no reason.
Play around with things and find what works for you!
Here’s to More Productively Working From Home
Whether you’re happy that you get to work from home or you’re missing the office, you might as well make the most of the time that you have.
With these tips, I hope that you can be just a little more productive, which gives you more time to do things that aren’t work.
Be productive, healthy, and wear your masks!
If you have any of your own tips for working from home, I’d love to hear them in the comments section. While I’ve gotten pretty good at it, I know that there’s always room to improve.