In case you haven’t already figured it out, the pandemic isn’t going anywhere, and as infections and deaths continue to rise in the US, you can probably count on having to work from home for at least another month, possibly longer. If you’ve been thinking about your home office situation as temporary, it may benefit you (and whoever you are living with at the moment) to instead think of it as a worthwhile investment to improve your well being and productivity.
Equipping your home office
We are working at home specifically for health reasons, so we should not be ignoring other facets of our well being especially when it’s relatively easy to maintain. Here are some products that I am confident will improve your home office setup, especially in the ergonomics department. Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to provide you Amazon links to these items, but I’m doing so now with the caveat that if you purchase anything from them that you spend at least a few minutes providing some feedback to them on treating their workers better.
Note: I don’t receive any compensation from any of the links I provide below.
- If you had a standing desk at work, or are looking to try one out, there are a lot of options out there, but if you’d rather not spend an arm and a leg, take a look at Autonomous.ai. I use the SmartDesk 2 Premium model all day long. Putting one together might take two people, but I love it, and it’s inexpensive enough that if you decide standing isn’t for you, it’s still a great sitting desk. Ikea sells a cheaper, hand-cranked version if you don’t mind applying elbow grease to move it up and down. If you’ve already got a desk that’s not going anywhere, but still want to give standing a try, have a look at something like a desktop version of the standing desk. Keep in mind that most traditional desks aren’t suited for modern day keyboard ergonomics to start, so these types of solutions, when in “sit mode,” raise your keyboard and mouse an additional inch, which may result in aggravating any existing discomfort or injuries.
- Thanks to mass adoption of computers in the work place and monitors continuing to become lighter, bigger and cheaper, monitor arms have become very popular and affordable. I’ve used a number of different models, but the Amazon Basics models are dependable, sturdy and priced modestly for their quality. Keep in mind that your monitors must have VESA-compatible mounting holes on the back for most monitor arms to work properly. Make sure you pay attention to the mounting requirements – most models require some sort of lip to clamp onto, or a hole through the desk itself, and make sure your actual desk construction can withstand the concentrated weight of the stand and monitor. Hollow or lightweight desks may bend or even crack from the force. You can get stands that use a heavy base instead of clamps or holes, but they don’t offer as much stability or flexibility in placement.
- If you are using a laptop and the built-in screen as your primary home office computer, you can (literally) elevate your whole computing experience by standing the laptop up on one of these devices. If you regularly move around, get a folding, portable one like this. Bringing your laptop screen closer to eye level is critical for proper ergonomics, but if you go this route, you should NOT be using the built-in keyboard and mouse, so make sure you account for that in your decision. See the next item for a solution to that problem.
- Most laptop keyboards and trackpads aren’t built for long-term use, at least for most normal-sized humans. The keys are typically smaller and spaced closer together, and trackpad will give you RSI if you rely on mousing at all throughout your day. Treat yourself to a full-sized keyboard and separate mouse. Logitech’s wireless entry-level combo is surprisingly affordable, and will leave you money to get a decent wrist-rest. I use a full-length model like this all day long, and you know how much time I spend at my keyboard.
- If you are using an older, smaller monitor, consider something newer and larger, especially if the bulk of your day is spent working on screen. The minimum I recommend is 20″ and it should have a resolution of at least 1920 X 1080. You don’t need to go 4K unless you have the eyes of a hawk or job functions that require that level of resolution, and buying something with a diagonal larger than 27″ may not work ergonomically with your home office setup, especially if space is at a premium. Not all monitors are created equal, and generally cheaper monitors may not be as crisp or as bright as you might want, so check the reviews carefully. Generally, my clients have been served well by Acers’ moderately priced monitors, like this 20″ model, but if your budget is more robust, the Dell Ultrasharp 24″ monitor is eye-poppingly gorgeous and highly recommended.
When discussing investments in your home office technology, I like to remind folks that equipping your home office should hold a similar level of consideration to that of choosing a mattress. You are going to be spending a lot of time on it, so why not spend accordingly?
Image by thedarknut from Pixabay