Since 2011, I’ve worked either primarily (50% or more) or entirely (100%) from home. Since 2017 I’ve been working from home 100%, and honestly, the thought of ever going back to work in an office scares the crap out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss the in person human to human interaction, but living in Atlanta, I dread the loss of 10-15 hours of my life a week spent in a car sitting in traffic. I’m much more productive working from home, and having done so for the better part of the last decade, I feel pretty confident to dispense some tips on how to do so.
The most important ingredient to successfully working at home is to have a workspace that is free from distractions. If you have a home office, you’re off to a great start. If you don’t have a dedicated home office, try to find a room in your house where you can setup a temporary one. Key ingredients are a door to close off, because you will need silence and to keep distractions from house mates to a minimum.
If you are using a room like your bedroom as your office, you will probably find that after awhile, the monotony of spending 8 hours or so sleeping in a room and another 8 hours working in the same room can become too much. In the early 2000s when I worked from home periodically, I had my work desk in my bedroom and it got to be too much. It’s fine for a short term solution, but the mental toll it can take on you might be too much.
The other key to surviving in your workspace is to make sure you get out of it periodically. Take time to get out of your workspace for lunch. Try to get outside the house even if it’s only for 15 minutes or so a few times during the day. When you are physically at work, you will get up during the course of the day for mental breaks. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean that you still don’t need those breaks.
Proper tools for the job
Having the right tools at your disposal is equally as important as the space you will inhabit during this time. Here’s a few recommendations.
If you don’t already have a desk, I’d suggest getting one that can easily adjust to being a standing desk. The one I’d recommend is the Autonomous Smart Desk 2. Available in a wide range of desk top materials and bottom leg colors, you can get a 53″ x 29″ top with fully automatic legs for $429 (a $30 discount is available if you sign up for their mailing list). Also available on Amazon.
If you are looking for a budget option, you can piece together a table top and legs from Ikea for under $200. Ikea has a broad selection of table tops in different finishes, and a wide selection of legs to match.
I’ve been sitting on my keister professionally for 30 years, and I’ve had employers provide great chairs and not so great chairs. I can say with 100% certainty that the most essential component of working from home (if you choose to sit over standing) is a good chair. I’ve found no other chair that my ass and back appreciate as much as the Herman Miller Aeron Chair. Everything else is settling.
Working from a laptop is great for the freedom to pick up and move from room to room, but if you are staying in the same place for extended periods, a larger external screen is a great productivity enhancer. Because monitors are not a one-size-fits-all proposition, here’s a few options.
Best 1080p Option
If you aren’t looking for anything fancy, the Dell P Series 21.5″ Screen LED-Lit Monitor Black (P2219H) is a great 1080p option. It’s a bit pricey (just under $200) for a 1080p display, but has a great refresh rate and viewing angles, and is an IPS display. It also offers the ability to rotate 180 degrees, so if you are a coder using it as an external display for your code, you’ll get more of it in view.
Budget 4K Option
If 1080p isn’t going to cut it for you, and you want something larger, 27″ is the sweet spot for 4K displays. Of all the 27″ LED displays available, I’ve found that LG makes the best offering dollar for dollar. The LG 27UL650-W 27 Inch 4K UHD LED is a great mid range offering. sRGB with 99% color gamut makes it a great choice for designers. The rotating stand makes it a great choice for coders who want to use it positioned vertically. AMD Freesync makes it a great choice for gamers with Radeon graphics.
Best Overall 4K Option
If you can afford the splurge, the LG 27″ Ultrafine 5K is still the best overall 27″ display available (at about $1300), especially if you are Mac user. You’ll get a 5120 x 2880 resolution display in an unassuming black chassis. The real benefits of this display come for those connecting laptops with USB-C. This display offers USB-C connections and Thunderbolt 3 (94w) charging. Additionally, you get a built-in webcam, which is nice when working from home these days. On the downside, you don’t get the ability to rotate the display 180 degrees, and there’s no VESA mount capability. This monitor is also a bit long in the tooth, and hasn’t been updated in years. Still, if you are a professional working from home, this is still the best 27″ 4K+ display available right now.
If your desktop doesn’t have a webcam, or if your laptop does but features one of the weak-as-hell 720p webcams Apple still insists on putting in their ‘Pro’ laptops, adding an external webcam can be a good option to make sure your co-workers are seeing you at your absolute best.
Logitech Pro Webcam C920
A 1080p webcam that includes stereo microphones and has wide ranging support on Windows, MacOS and Linux. Generally this retails for about $80, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you may find it hard to get your hands on one at it’s normal retail price.