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I’ve blogged a lot about my tech set-up but one of the things I don’t talk about is how I’m able to use it for Working from Home.
Your situation may be different but here are my recommendations on how to improve your home-working. If you want to take any of them on, I’ll make a couple of suggestions so that you have some options.
When I work from home, I have a set-up that works really well for me. It is very hard to work from home if you are sat on the sofa or in bed so having this allows me to work comfortably when I’m not in the office.
Use a couple of books underneath your laptop to raise it up. For ergonomics they recommend that the top of the screen is at your eye level. To see how this helps, sit upright and look straight ahead. feel how comfortable your neck is. Now tilt your head down to look at your knees – can you feel the strain on your neck?
Value – Under £15
This is available on Amazon for under £15. It has multiple height options and will hold your laptop higher than the cheaper options. You can get stands for under £10 but they only raise your laptop a few inches and this really wont help your neck much. The free ‘book’ option is better than buying something that wont help your neck
I have something similar to the below suggestion. I did get it from the Amazon Warehouse for under £20 so there are bargains to be had. This will look good on a desk but may be a bit hard to put away if you don’t have a permanent work area.
Dual Monitor Setup
If you have a small (less than 32″) LCD tv then you could connect to that, if your laptop has an HDMI socket. You could use your telly but I find working using the TV as a monitor is quite hard as you have to sit far enough away to see the whole telly but close enough to be able to see what you are doing.
If you have a Freecycle (or similar) group near you then you might find people giving away their old monitors when they have upgraded.
Value – Under £30
Jump on eBay – this link will take you to all monitors under £30 – just check the grade and that it has the connectors that your laptop uses. It used to be they all used VGA but there has been a move to HDMI recently.
A hard one to advise on. There will be people telling you to buy this monitor or that monitor. Apple sell monitors that are thousands of pounds. My recommendation is for people who can have a permanent work station set up – a 24″ Monitor that has a few input options and a tiltable screen. Its under £100 and isn’t the ‘best’ monitor out there but will be perfect for working from home.
USB Port Replicator/Dock
Just plug stuff directly into your laptop. Zero cost to you.
Value – Under £25
I use this exact item at work. We don’t have proper port replicators but I can plug my mouse, keyboard, phone charger into this in the morning then I just need to unplug 1 cable when I take my laptop to meetings.
If you have USB C on your laptop then I can also recommend this – I have a similar version waiting for when my work laptop is replaced with one that has a USB C socket.
Its not the most expensive but you can plug loads into this one device and then just connect your laptop with one cable and get display, keyboard, mouse, and use storage cards! You can spend more money and get one with other video options and network capabilities.
Another ‘how much do you want to spend’ option. You can buy what I have, currently for £110, which I think is a bargain.
This uses USB 3 which most laptops have (if they aren’t on USB C yet). If you have USB C then you can get a more recent version for £150.
I wouldn’t want to spend much more than this but there are also Thunderbolt 3 options for Macs that don’t have USB C but these are almost £100 more than the Lenovo suggested above.
You can just use the microphone/speakers on your laptop. It really is bad and will cause an echo for the person you are speaking to. Much better is to plug in an old mobile phone headset. Not the best quality but most people have an old headset lying about – just plug into your laptop and you’ll have massively improved sound for both you and the person you are speaking to.
Value – Under £20
Any headset will do. For a value option I’d not suggest a BlueTooth headset although there are a few just above this price point. A wired headset will keep you ‘anchored’ to the computer so if you are someone who likes to walk about when on a call, maybe look for something a little more expensive.
This is a USB headset and uses a USB port on your laptop. If you want you can buy a headset that uses the headphone/microphone socket. Be careful to not buy a headset with a phone-type connector as you’ll not be able to connect to your laptop.
I use a Jabra headset that is both USB and bluetooth. It isn’t cheap but has great sound quality, noise cancelling, muting, and charges via USB.
If you are working from home, don’t worry about speakers. If you need music then just use your laptop speakers or the headset you are using from above.
Mouse & Keyboard
DON’T use the laptop keyboard/track-pad. If you have your laptop raised, like you should, then you definitely should be using an external keyboard and mouse. If you have one lying about, use that. Or check Freecycle again to see if anyone is giving some away.
Value – Under £25
This set from Microsoft is under £20 and will be perfectly ok for Working From Home.
About twice the price of the value option is Microsoft’s wireless version. I find having a wireless setup is good for having less wires, but you do need to keep spare batteries around – especially for the keyboard. I have also used Apple’s wireless keyboard and track pad but these are super expensive and I don’t think most people will enjoy them compared to the Microsoft version.
Desk and Chair
Use your dining table to work from and use a dining chair to sit on. Sit on a cushion AND put a cushion behind your back. It will help with your posture. Dining table and chairs are not designed for long term (6-8 hour) non-stop use so you need to ‘upgrade’ them.
Even better, ask friends/family/Freecycle if anyone has a desk they are getting rid of. If you have the space to set it up permanently, then it will be much better than a dining table/kitchen worktop.
Value – Under £100
You could also check out eBay for some bargains. Desks for Under £50 Buy It Now and Height-Adjustable Office Chairs under £50 Buy It Now .
Obviously you might not have the space for a desk OR a chair and you might not have a dining table. If this is the case then I can suggest something like this as it can be used while sat in an armchair/sofa, or even in bed. Importantly it keeps the laptop raised and the flat base helps the airflow to cool it down.
Buy a better desk and chair. I’m looking to replace my chair with a chair like I have in my actual office. This is lovely, adjustable and suitable for working long periods of time. However it is £1000 and I can’t justify spending that on a chair. The same with desks – everyone would love a massive desk but do you have the space for one? The key to a good desk/chair combo is to have a dedicated setup that is used for working instead of sitting at a dining table or at the kitchen worktops.
I have mentioned this a few times – the NHS website has a good description of things you can do to improve your working desk set-up. Don’t forget that this is something you should be doing at work as well as at home.
The Reverend’s Final Thought
There are plenty of options if you are looking to improve your home-working set-up. If you work from home regularly then having a dedicated space really does make a difference but that is a luxury not everyone has. Even some small changes, like a raised laptop and a USB mouse and keyboard, can massively improve the ergonomics and so be both better for you AND make you more productive.
As I said in my other post…
As important as your working setup is when you work from home. It is also equally important to make sure you mental health is ok – make sure you take regular breaks, do talk to real people as much as you can (using the phone or video call) and recognise that working from home isn’t as simple as turning on your laptop. Things will be different and there will be a period of adjustment.
The total of my ‘value’ recommendations is £215 including a new desk and chair. You could get pieces bit by bit until you have everything you need. Having a ‘proper’ set-up will change how you approach working from home and help you achieve a good work/life balance without sacrificing your health.