How to Work From Home Effectively (2021)

Working from home used to be quite uncommon, it's often frowned upon by many 'traditional companies' as an unresourceful environment for productivity. But now our society's hand has been forced into a corner with the rise of the pandemic, new methods have an opportunity to be placed under the spotlight and put to the test.

Working from home during covid kitchen work station laptop for productivity

If you're in the circumstance where your workplace has offered up the opportunity to work from home and you're keen to give it a go, I hope to have the guide for you!

Working or studying at home effectively can be difficult to grasp at first, as with anything, practice makes perfect and perfection takes time.

Whether you're looking for working from home office setup tips or just need some home office ideas, I've been through the trouble, I've done the mileage and here's what I've found to be useful.

Now, it's time to stop thinking about working from home and start the journey of changing your environment.

You might ask, 'are there any work from home secrets?' - my answer would be yes, and one of them is understanding the concept of separating your environments depending on what you intend to do in them.

Bedrooms are for resting, offices are for working and kitchens are for cooking. It's this kind of simple bullet point association that is needed to embed a sense of purpose relative to the environment you're in.

Some people don't like the idea of merging their work life and home life under one roof, I even know a couple who have built their own home office in their garden to create a sense of detachment!

For them, it works. Simply because they've managed to keep the separation along with all of the convenience of being at home. In truth, they've pretty much just ruled out their commute.

Ultimately though, a pool of advantages sit ready for you to make the most of. Working from home...can work, and it's good that you try things out now, since it may end up being a key part of our working future - so have fun with it!

The Working From Home Environment

This is going to have to be your 'work/office area', it sounds boring, but it can have a new sense of vibrance while simultaneously keeping you productive.

If you're lucky enough to have a home office, you might have a few steps covered already. If you don't, we'll need to figure out what kind of environment is right for you - because it's pretty much different for everyone.

Typically, the bedroom isn't suitable, same for the kitchen. Too many temptations to chill or become distracted lay poised there.

The living room, 'some' bedrooms, offices, lounges and house extensions can be decent places for your work setup. The main aim here is that you separate your work area from your relax areas or any other 'type' of area.

Associate your chosen location for work only. The trick here is to divide your home into 'modules' of different and definitive purposes.

A fantastic, and I mean fantastic portrayal of this concept is explained by CPG Grey over on youtube - video linked here.

Diagram of working from home rooms sleep work relax and exercise during covid for productivity

The best work from home setup is one that only provides accessories or provisions that allow you to work, not ones that allow you to do anything else.

The other requirement is that you actually create environments that are not made for work, so increase an intentional exercise room with accessories for those kinds of actions, and so on.

Most jobs from home will mean you'll be sat at a desk whilst working online, therefore I'd highly recommend a workout room of some kind - better yet, you could associate your garden/outside with working out and exercise, that would count too!

The main rule from this section is that you must do a specific type of activity in the correct area, no sleeping, dumbbell curls or Netflix binging at the work desk, for example.

So long as we maintain this simple rule of division, there's a good chance for this technique to succeed.

Anyhow, that's step one for this technique - divide, the next step - conquer!

The Working From Home Desk Setup

This section is a personal favourite of mine, it's the office desk setup.

The idea here is to build the ultimate hub of productivity and creative flow. Discipline gets you started, but once the motivation actually kicks in you'll begin enjoying the grind of work and feel a proud sense of accomplishment.

But this is where a common mistake lies. Soon after the pandemic lead to the need for lockdowns, a clear division of those who loved working from home, and those who just 'couldn't work at a home' was established.

Interestingly enough, I noticed something when I investigated a little deeper into those who didn't find working from home resourceful. I recognised that they would say something along the lines of:

'My laptop overheats on my bed '

'My children were playing right in front of me all day'

'My laptop only just fits on my bedroom drawer'

'I just end up watching TV'

This tells me that those people haven't put in the initial work to create the working from home environment followed by the home office setup. They haven't given the WFH technique a solid try, which is what's required for its success!

Working from home desk computer setup productive clean neat

The desk setup will differ depending upon your work, only have what you need and discard what you don't.

Having a dual monitor or second computer is great too, but use them with purpose - as with everything else on the desk, if you do not need it, get rid!

If you want to have Netflix or music in the background, then that's fine, but it must be in the background - the work has to remain in the forefront or you risk merging the relax area into the work area and... thou shalt not do such a thing according to the principles we've already covered.

It's the same story for work supplies and nourishment! These are the bells and whistles to your main task of being productive.

Make sure you have everything you need in front of you and no real need (other than going to the toilet) to leave the desk for the entirety of the time allocated to work.

With all that achieved, you're about ready to get started. If you need anything else to complete the setup, then ask yourself whether it's necessary, then bring it all together.

If you foresee a need to start working from home in the near future and don't have a setup like above, now's the chance to create a shopping list and get everything ready to go

Below is a bit of a 'starter kit' to check out and inspire a few ideas, not all that expensive! Amazon is great for pricing, quick deliveries and fantastic customer service, I've always trusted them!

That's the work portion pretty much done, this, of course, is the most important because it's the only one that directly results in the output you need.

However, the other zones mentioned above are crucial to sustainable success over time, but only if you use them proportionally and in harmony with one another.

We'll cover those in mo, but remember, the work environment is your keystone!

While on the Clock

Imagine this, you've got one badass office setup and the perfect environment for your work zone.

The time has come to get stuck in and pursue the ‘actual‘ work part. I wish this were a 'sit down and go' type thing.

For many though, it requires a number of techniques to get going.. and keep it going.

List it

The action of listing does a few things, it allows you to enter a creative headspace right at the start and peek into the future.

So list everything you want to get done just for your next upcoming work session, try not to include things that need to be done at times in the future, this might deviate your concentration.

In terms of ordering them, this can be how you want. But I'd recommend starting with easy tasks and tackling them first - these are ones that don't take long and you know how to do pretty much immediately, no real investigation needed.

By completing these, you'll be able to tick them off and feel that sense of purpose early on. These 'feelings' will propel you forward!

Two good apps we recommend for 'to do' lists and reminders are the Microsoft To-Do app (you'll find this preinstalled as an app on Windows 10)

And Notion, available on all IOS/Android, Windows or Mac.

You could also do away with the software and rely on the old fashioned pen and paper.

For some, this is the preferred method by far. It gives a unique sense of achievement as you cross through each task until everything is done.

If this is your kind of sauce, we've found a few books that can house all of your ambitious yet-to-do's!

In summary, start easy, and work up to the harder/longer tasks.

Tick off as you go, feel accomplished and earn your right to relax and chill later - you'll feel all the better for it!

Just Do It!

In lieu of sounding like Shia Labeouf or some kind of Nike advert, you've just got to do it.

You have a list filled, yet unticked - it's time to start ticking.

Starting is always the hardest thing, as with many things. But the very moment you start you've actually accomplished the biggest step.

There's a harmful lie about motivation, and it's that you need to wait for it to hit you before you can begin anything.

Motivation isn't something you have at the beginning and then use it to complete a task, motivation is produced from the action of starting.

It's secondary to commitment and discipline, be disciplined enough to begin no matter the way you feel and before long the way you feel will go from whatever it motivated.

So, pick a time and no matter how you feel.. do the thing! Working from home motivation is difficult, but once you realise the benefit of no commute, no interruptions from your colleagues and a toilet all to yourself...motivation will surely come!

Taking Breaks

Thus far, we've mainly talked about the work portion - because it's the most important, but it's not the only thing to care about unless you're some kind of robot.

If you are human, and that is what I'm assuming, you rely on a collection of other factors to keep your work going.

Kind of like the seasons, they all depend on each other for a single one of them to exist and function.

Above, we divided the home into four sections, you don't have to divide it exactly like this but it helps to get across what we mean by having different areas for different activities.

Setting Work aside a moment - Sleep, Relax and Exercise are all crucial too

Although crucial, we've given more emphasis on the work side of things while the others get an in-depth enough mention

Let's say you've been working a lot today, you perform an emotional inventory on yourself and feel a little bit burnt out - but accomplished!

You need to decide whether you're in a good routine at the moment or whether you're not being as productive as you could be, and are just pushing yourself through something.

The important point here is that you be decisive.

If you're doing well and feel that fascinating 'work' rhythm... keep on vibing, do more!

Alternatively, if you legitimately feel like you want to stop, decide now whether it's a temporary thing or whether that's it for the day

What we're saying is, your setting yourself up to enter either the Relax, Exercise or Sleep 'pod'

Whichever of these rooms you go into, make sure you do the correct activity per room.

If you are too tired, take a nap or sleep for however long you need (in the sleep pod!). If you're bouncing off the walls because of too much coffee - hit your 'home gym' pod!

After your break, in whichever form it takes, maybe begin with the exercise pod to get your mind working again and then get back to your studies/work in the correct room!

Stay Chatty

Now we're all stuck at home, pretty much against our will, we have a few brand new problems to deal with.

We are isolated more than the typical 9-5 day, meaning.. our social life requires us to put in more effort to keep it going.

It's fortunate that technology makes this effort easier, but even then it's still 'more' than before. Some people could really struggle with this part of working from home.

Although your home has temporarily become your place of work, for now.. it can't become your social hub - at least in person (until it changes!)

While you're using your exercise or relax areas, maybe try talking to others who are in a similar scenario to you, even think of those who are stuck at home but aren't at work, like those retired or not in school.

Talking to these people is perhaps even more important because they don't have the 'grind' to keep them occupied, they may feel even more isolated than yourself - give them a thought if you feel you can make a difference.

As I say though, it's easy to stay in touch these days if you're tech-savvy. But if not, reach out to get help on how to get it all going, online help is abundant but remember your friends/family could help too.

The importance of a social connection is to remind you that this is temporary and other people are feeling the effects of this.

You can all get through it and you all will, certainly if you bear it together.

Mental health and wellbeing are the 'unspoken' impacts of a scenario like this, fortunately, they are being talked about a lot more and recognised by governments and workplaces alike.

If your mental health isn't in good order, none of the 'pods' described above can really function how they should. Do whatever you need to do to keep your thoughts positive and hopeful - again, this is temporary!

For some, going outside and meeting up isn't actually restricted - if this is you, take advantage and remind your body what nature feels like. Meet up with friends and family (safely of course and in line with your restriction advice)

Reward Yourself

This is an important concept, but it must be used correctly!

To keep you going long term, a reward mechanism can help. These rewards aren't just using the 'relax pod' after being successful in your 'work pod' though.

This could mean buying yourself something or planning something in the future to look forward to, either way, find something that gives you that feeling of attraction to it.

Amazon and other online stores are doing pretty well in these troubled times, as they would I suppose.

Take advantage! Look around and get some of the deals that could improve your home and all of the environments around you.

If there are many people in your household, work together to figure out a reward mechanism for you all, collectively, you could think of something great!

The Write-off Principle

This might resonate with the majority of readers, I've spoken about it in depth here.

Take one of the days where you intended to begin work with all the energy you have but for some reason, you can't commit to your work fully.

Many will say, keep trying or even have a short break and then come back to it, but this comes back to the idea of being decisive.

The intention of the write-off principle is to stop you from falling into a trap that can wear you down and burn you out for an extended period of time.

If you often live in the realm of procrastination, take a moment to think about how much time you spend 'thinking' about doing something compared to the time you actually spend 'doing' that something.

Because, you could currently be in a relaxing pod environment, yet your mind is thinking about work - as a result, you are never relaxed when you should be and when you try to start your work, it's impossible! This is due to one of your 'four pods' not working, and the issue propagates to another pod.

There will come times where you cant get the ball rolling, in that moment I invite you to be aware enough to consider the idea of treating the entire day as a 'write-off' and do whatever you want instead.

The idea here is that if you write off the day and allow your mind to be relaxed while being in a relaxing environment, you should be able to make full use of the correct mindset in the correct area or 'pod'.

When you come back to work, now you've had a good amount of relaxing time, you should successfully be able to enter the correct working mindset.

Alternatively, if you push yourself down the 'i'll start in 5 minutes route' while you play games or watch TV etc, your mind is thinking about work but it's more than likely you will become exhausted.

Become vigilant in recognising the days that are nonrecoverable and strike them off, you've not lost the work-time you're just moving it to a time in the future - but you're not thinking about that time, you need to exist in the moment of the 'not doing work' for now.

Sounds counter-intuitive, but to have true days 'on' you must have true days 'off'. These days off can't be spent thinking about the tasks that make up the bulk of your 'on' days. Be in the moment of each environment!

Even though in some of these sections we've branched away from work, they are all interconnected to the main function of getting things done.


Although we're putting a lot of effort into improving our own environment and associated habits, the ultimate 'extra credit' achievement is to share it with others.

Now, apart from this being a nice thing in general, there's a hidden benefit that could really thrive from sharing your success with everyone.

If you're able to communicate your own techniques with others, they can communicate their techniques with you.. within this big pot of ideas, everyone can take what they see as useful and implement it - but this isn't the benefit I refer to!

If you are a fan of the working from home principle, and for whatever reason/s you see some future benefits - whether that be the flexibility, time at home, no more commuting or money-saving.

By sharing your success with others and allowing them to be successful, you're providing your employer with a significant bit of data.

The data that even when out of the 'normal' work environment, you and your team can still produce output as good as, or maybe even greater than before.

What this might lead to is a more flexible arrangement with your employer, this is likely to be at the discretion of your line manager, but so long as you get the output done... you have a great chance to fight the point of working from home.

When the world does get back up and brushes itself off into a normal 'pattern' again, perhaps you only do 2 days 'in' a week and 3 days at home, but the output is the same as 5 days 'in' week.

So although the use of lockdowns have been convenient for many, there may be a few silver linings that can be shown and continued after lockdowns are no longer needed

There may be benefits to your employer too, it's a win-win!

And there we have it - like I say it doesn't need to be difficult!

It might actually be enjoyable after a period of time, I suppose the most interesting part will be when you get back to work and you're able to perform a 'was this better or was that better' exercise against your home office set-up.

Either way, the opportunities are there to get working from home in your good books. Of course, there are more opportunities too, not just related to work, but that's for another post!

Stay connected, productive and positive!

Thanks for reading


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