I began my journey into remote work while teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in South Korea. I was 23 years old at the time. By day, I spent my time wrangling elementary and middle-school kids. At night, I was writing tutorials, building themes and plugins, and taking any work that landed on my [figurative] desk.
My home office was my entire home, a spartan, one-bedroom/living/kitchen apartment. My workstation was a bed with several pillows piled up for back support.
My first client contract was signed, developed, and completed on that bed. I made a mere $300 for creating a per-post thumbnail system for a popular blog (yes, I way undervalued my work). This was long before WordPress launched its featured image system.
I was living the dream. Young and hungry, I took whatever odd jobs I could in preparation for eventually running my own WordPress-related business. Some nights, I would put in eight hours or more. On the weekends, I rarely actually slept in that bed. It had become my office chair. My lap was my desk.
In the back of my mind, I suppose I always thought I would get a proper office. It would have all the bells and whistles like separate monitors for different tasks instead of tabs on a single screen. I would have the best mic and speaker setup — including the kitchen sink.
After nearly a decade and a half, I realized I never needed all of that stuff. My laptop and I got along just fine. Of course, like many people, I tend to get stuck in my ways, looking for any excuse to not change.
When I see articles like “It’s been a year. Here’s what your home office should look like,” written by Kathryn Vasel for CNN Business, I tend to cringe before diving into it. There are some good takes in the article, such as getting natural light, taking breaks, and adjusting your posture.
My idea of “what your home office should look like” is that it should be what makes you feel comfortable with the tools that allow you to do the job. For some folks, that is a laptop and a standing desk. For others, it includes specialized audio and video equipment.
If you can afford it, I would at least recommend getting a good office chair. If you sit at a desk much of the day, skimp on the desk and other tools first.
On the subject of affordability, it is also good to be mindful that a home office is a luxury, a privilege that few have. Like that small-town Alabama boy with his $400 Walmart computer in Korea, sometimes people just have to get by with what they have on hand.
Now, 14 years later, I do have a home office. Like the first, it is spartan. It has the tools I need, and that is what I love about it. I do not spend all day in it. I prefer to move around from spot to spot.
On days like today, those with mid-70s temps (Fahrenheit for all the non-Americans) and a slight breeze in the air, I like to sit on the back patio. I enjoy the birds singing. It is a good time of the year to watch the little ones learn to forage their own food. I keep an eye on the squirrels, making sure their mischievousness is limited to sneaking a few nuts from the bird feeders.
It is also another reason I have always preferred a laptop over a desktop. Its utility allows me to lug it from the couch or desk to a spot outside amid nature.
While much of the world’s workforce is still figuring this whole remote, work-from-home thing out, many in the WordPress community have this down to a science. Or, at least, they know what works for them. I would love to hear and see (share pics in the comments — embeds are enabled) what your home offices are like.
At my home, I have a 27″ 4K LG monitor hooked up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro. I don’t carry that outside (though I totally could), but this setup works for me. I have a 13″ laptop that I carry with me all the time. Even around the house, I find myself working at my laptop for the sake of convenience (like that you mentioned).
I’ve used just a laptop for the majority of my life too. I think many people get hung up on trying to set up the perfect home office from the get-go that it often feels like a chore. I know I’ve personally talked to a few people who were stressing over ‘designing the “perfect” home office.’
I agree with what you said. The perfect home office is what works for each individual. And if it takes a while to figure out what they need and build that up over time, everyone should take that time and not feel rushed.
One thing I absolutely emphasize is getting a good chair first. Most of us probably have desks or tables that we can start using right away before we go out and buy a dedicated work desk, but an ergonomic chair? I doubt we have one lying around.
Here are two pictures of my desk taken some months ago (I keep changing my keyboards and I’ve switched back to using a Magic Mouse 2, but other than those two, everything else is exactly as shown here.)