The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the way office jobs are, with record numbers of people placed on remote work. Most of the time employers demand the same level of productivity at home as at the office. However, it’s not that easy to do your job just the same, if not better, when you’re at home. A fully-fledged home office is out of reach for most people, but we can certainly try. How to make your makeshift home office comfortable? Let’s find out.
The main tool for every office worker is a computer, whether they are at the office or at home. Your workstation must meet a whole range of requirements. The type of computer is not too important, what really matters is performance, so you can complete the same tasks with the same efficiency you would at the office.
Let’s look at a desktop configuration. The smallest comfortable screen size for work is 19″. When it comes to laptops, a 17″ screen is good enough. You might benefit from installing a second monitor, if your workload calls for it, especially if you’re on a laptop. Also, your conference call colleagues will appreciate a microphone upgrade, even if it’s a budget headset.
If we look into the general system requirements for modern operating systems (Windows 10 in particular), programs and applications, the central processor, which is the heart of your computer, should have at least two cores (that’s Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 and up). Next, memory: just 2-3 years ago an average workstation could get by with 4 Gb of RAM, but today 8 Gb is the minimum if you want to get adequate performance from your machine.
Another crucial element of your configuration is storage. Without a fast enough hard drive even the most powerful processor on the latest motherboard with an unnecessarily large amount of RAM will end up being an absolute drag in terms of everyday performance. The best option here is to install a solid-state drive as primary storage. SSDs may be more expensive than traditional HDDs, but the performance boost is well worth the price. Besides, a relatively cheap 256 Gb SSD will be plenty enough for a workstation. It’s important to mention that all of the above refers to a workstation setup that should be a separate machine that is logged into all the business accounts for the purpose of convenience.
Another thing worth looking into is the quality of your Internet connection. It’s important to remember that the speed your ISP advertises, be it 100 Mbps or even 1000 Mbps, is not exactly equal to what you may actually get. Try and aim for at least 10-15 megabytes per second on download and 3-5 Mb/s on upload.
Now, to peripherals. Ergonomics come first, utility — second, and appearance third. An eye candy mouse or keyboard can be nice, but once you get carpal tunnel syndrome — a medical condition common among musicians and programmers — from using form-over-function peripherals, it’s just no longer fun. Comfort above all! Your keyboard and mouse should feel right under your hands.
Printer, scanner, copier — if this kind of equipment is really needed for remote work assignments, it’s only wise to find an all-in-one device with a wireless interface so that you can access it from multiple computers over your home network. However, now that paper documents are becoming a thing of the past, multi-function printers may also become more or less obsolete, unless we’re talking about very specific tasks, such as accounting.
When it comes to software, some options may not be available to your home computer for corporate licencing reasons, but there is a substitute for almost every program out there. Since it is remote work we’re talking about, you’ll also benefit from getting familiar with Dropbox and Google Drive, along with the entire Google Docs package for collaborations with your colleagues.
Despite the fact that we are talking about a comfy home office, working from your couch all day is a surefire way to get excruciating back and neck pain, and no, a kitchen table won’t do. Think about investing into a proper office chair and desk — that will always be worth the money.
Another thing to consider is the place for video calls. It doesn’t have to be at your actual desk, but it’s advisable to find a place that is well-lit and has a businesslike background. Don’t underestimate the power of good lighting: your budget webcam can output decent video if you light the scene right.
For creative professionals and those who have to brainstorm and plan a lot, a special place dedicated just for that kind of activity can also be a good investment. It can be a bulletin board, or a whiteboard with colorful markers, or just an A3 writing pad — either way, it should fulfill its purpose, so it’s up to you to choose the tool to help you generate great ideas.
If you can check all of the aforementioned points, the last tip we want to share with you is this: strictly follow a schedule. Make sure your household members know when not to bother you, unless it’s an emergency.