man brushing his teeth

The 10 Commandments of Hygiene for Remote Work Productivity

Wait. What? There are hygiene habits that can help with productivity?

I know it seems silly but it’s true. I have worked remotely on-and-off for several decades now and have discovered that some of the benefits of working from home (like no need to shower or change out of your pajamas) can actually make you less productive. Here are my 10 Commandments of Hygiene, developed over time, that if followed, will help you stay alert, focused, and ready for work.

1. Thou Shalt Make Thine Bed Immediately Upon Rising

This one is simple. Making your bed as soon as you get up in the morning makes it much harder to allow yourself to climb back in. Works wonders!

2. Thou Shalt Take an Early Morning Shower

Working from home (especially if you live alone) makes it way too easy to let this one go. So why do it? Well, primarily to stimulate your brain. Most folks agree they get some of their best ideas in the shower. I know that’s definitely true for me.

In an article on the Thin Difference website, quoting a study done by Cognitive Scientist Scott Barry Kaufman:

woman taking a morning shower

“Showers are a safe place that provides ‘a dopamine high, relaxed state, and distracted mind,’ factors that are ideal for the creativity and idea formation. Dopamine, critical to creativity, is released when we’re relaxed, feeling great, listening to music, exercising, and yes, taking a shower.”

So do it. Do it EVERY DAY.

3. Thou Shalt Brush Thine Teeth

I know, I know. Hopefully everyone is still brushing their teeth even though they don’t have to go into the office. But when you’re working from home, there are 2 other times you might want to brush again.

  • Before EVERY Zoom call. Nothing is more disturbing than watching a Zoom replay and noticing you have some leftover lunch on your teeth. Whether you’re presenting or simply an attendee, people will notice. Don’t ask me how I know this. <grin>
  • To overcome the 3pm slump. Not everyone experiences the afternoon slump but a lot of folks do (including me). If you notice yourself drifting in attention or feeling sleepy, get up and go brush your teeth again – for a while. It’s surprising how much this can energize you plus give you a nice minty afterglow.

4. Thou Shalt Put On Thine Shoes

bunny slippoers

Ahhh… Going barefoot or padding around in your snuggly bunny slippers feels great but it doesn’t set your mind to a work approach. I have found putting on my most comfortable pair of street shoes simply makes me feel more like working.

Try it and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the results.

5. Thou Shalt Get Fully Dressed Daily

Once again, those jammie pants are soooo comfortable. And even if you’re participating in online on-camera communication, nobody can see you below the waste so…

Nope! You need to get fully dressed for the same reason you want to put on street shoes. Wearing street clothes simply sets your mind that this is a work day at a “real” job with the added plus that looking nice will boost your confidence. And many folks you communicate with via phone or online will notice the confidence, even if they can’t see you.

6. Thou Shalt Tidy Thine Desk Weekly

I am super-lazy about opening, sorting, and filing mail because most of what I receive are bills that are auto-paid. Shamefully, my desk ends up with piles and piles of “I’ll get to it later” (because I don’t want to do it) stuff. And as the piles grow, I am less and less inclined to allot time to deal with it.

Lately I have taken up the practice of tidying my desk every Friday afternoon, and just dealing with 1 week’s worth of desk clutter at a time. If I’m working over the weekend, which I often do, this makes Saturday morning oh-so-much-more-productive. If you don’t work weekends, you’ll get the same result on Monday morning. Even if you like a little clutter, which is certainly acceptable, a tidy desk tends to make you calmer and more focused.

This is my quest. Although I admit I fail on this one from time to time.

7. Thou Shalt Decorate Thine Office

I’ve had some pictures and posters stacked up in the corner to hang in my office “one day.” But I’m renovating other parts of my home and the office has just not been a priority… until recently. I just decided, because I spend a majority of each day in that room, it was in my best interest to move my desk to the other side of the room and finally hang the art.

Ahhhh…. Now when I walk into my office, I have a feeling of joy (instead of stepping over the household clutter to get to my cluttered desk). And joy, my friends, is just plain healthy.

8. Thou Shalt Take Breaks

I have a natural “break maker” named Rudy that needs to go for a walk several times a day. But even if you don’t, I highly recommend some fresh air when you need to get re-energized. Short on time? Walk faster.

If weather doesn’t permit a walk outside, then take a 15 minute break and do something active, like sweep the kitchen floor or pick up the toys in the playroom. Getting your blood pumping, even a little bit, will help your brain and body.

9. Thou Shalt Play Music When Concentrating

And no, I don’t mean a playlist of your favorite songs you feel compelled to sing (or dance) along with (see Commandment #10). I’m talking about that kind of music that makes you relaxed and focused.

For this, I highly recommend (Functional Music to Improve Focus in 15 Minutes) Their “science-first approach creates music that sounds different–and affects your brain differently–than any other music.” You can try it for free and see if it helps. I know it helps me! I remember noticing this fact as far back as grade school. I could always concentrate better when there was non-intrusive music playing.

10. Thou Shalt Not Distract Thyself

Multi-tasking… Just stop!

I admit it. I’m guilty of this but if you are multi-tasking you are not giving anything primary focus and this inevitably results in lower productivity. Everyone thinks it’s a way to increase productivity when exactly the opposite is usually true.

Time and time again, when I try to listen to a podcast or some online training while working on something else, I am either re-working the work or replaying the podcast or video. Even when participating in a relaxed chat session, like the WP Roadmaps weekly Friday chat, if I’m doing something else at the same time, I may miss something someone said (or typed in the chat) that was important or funny. Everyone in the group deserves your undivided attention and you deserve to be more productive.

Multi-tasking just does not work for being more productive… so stop it.


So there you have it. My 10 Commandments of Hygiene for Remote Work Productivity that I try to follow every day. Do I ALWAYS adhere to all 10 every day? Of course not. But I have them posted on the wall in plain view so when I’m feeling lazy, distracted, sleepy, or unmotivated, it helps me remember and I usually get up and go put on my shoes.

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