A Laptop and a Dream: Your Home Office Should Meet Your Needs

A laptop sitting on top of a glass table on a patio. Garden, swing, and trees in the background.

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.

8 responses to “A Laptop and a Dream: Your Home Office Should Meet Your Needs”

  1. 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.)

  2. 100% agree about getting a decent chair. You can make do with any old chair for a very short time, but a good chair makes ALL the difference.

    I did use just a laptop (with an extra monitor at my desk) for a while as it could be used anywhere, travelling, coffee shop, client meetings etc. I found that using a laptop at home I wasn’t getting as much done when trying to work away from the desk.

    When my laptop needed replacing I got one of those mini-PCs for my desk and a small 10inch laptop for travelling. When that broke at about the same time we went into covid lockdown here in the UK, I decided not to replace it and just use my desktop mini-PC. I have to say that for me personally I am more productive now as desk time is work time, and time away from the desk is down-time. A much better balance IMHO having a separate workspace.

    Some time ago I was doing development work for local startups, and would often meet at their homes. I remember clients who were working from their kitchen counter, right up to one client who was in the process of converting his double garage into the “perfect” home office. This particular client (it’s a long time ago and I’m not mentioning any names so think I’m okay to say this) was spending thousands (GBP) on his office before the business had even earned a single penny! Priorities.

    Anyway here’s a pic of my desk in the corner of our spare bedroom, complete with mini-PC, speakers (I need music!) and the all important lamp with daylight bulb for the dark English winter. The monitor is at least a decade old and has outlasted maybe three or four chairs.

    K

  3. My dream has always been to work from home. With the tiny employments I’ve had, I’ve managed to do that a lot. With my last job, I worked the entire last 18 months or so from home, only showing up to the office for meetings and events. That was awesome, but the workload at that time was not good.

    The past year, I’ve been absolutely loving the “working from home” aspect. I’ve never been so productive, and I get more done in 5 hours than I would in an office where I’m forced to spend 8+ hours. I really do hope I will get to work from home in the future to. This pandemic has proved that it can be done.

    If I get so lucky and work from home 100% of the time, only showing up to the office for the occasional event, I’d require the larger iMac that’s coming. Perhaps with another screen, but I don’t know. The desktops built in feature to MacOS is awesome and with the trackpad, I can easily switch between apps etc.

    I already have a standing desk and a good chair. If I were to come by the office often enough, I’d probably also use a laptop, also preferably a newer version of the Apple Silicon MacBook Pro’s. If I’m lucky enough, I might get both, but that depends on how often I will visit the office.

  4. My Dream was also to live a digital nomad life. I started Blogging in late 2015 and now a successful blogger. All I need is a laptop and internet connection and I am ready to work in any place. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  5. If you’re working from home – being comfortable, yet disciplined is important. I agree about the Chair and the Cats … in my work at home – I have a Cat that believes her role is to share the chair. I love working from home – and during the Pandemic, there wasn’t really a big adjustment.

  6. I just got a new work laptop. On my PC I used to sit behind my actual desk but almost every chair hurts my tailbone (had a hard fall on it recently), with new laptop I sit on the couch with a lap table kinda thing from Ikea and my legs on my coffee table. I find it way more comfortable and I noticed productivity actually went up because I don’t have to keep shifting positions to be comfortable. So yeah, it’s lazy but I love it. And usually there’s a cat right next to me.

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