It’s 2022 and approaching the third(!) year of the pandemic. Your company is onboard with “telecommuting” and perhaps they’ve decided to lean into it for real, which means it’s time to take a hard look at that 8-year-old computer and rickety chair you bought at a local garage sale. Definitely replace the computer and that torture device you call an office chair, but if you’ve been granted any sort of budget or trying to determine what to ask approval for, here’s what we consider to be “must haves” for an effective, remote technology workstation.
- A solid, wired data connection. It’s 2022, and WIFI is good, but it’s still not nearly as reliable as a wired, gigabit Ethernet connection. I can hear you say, “But I never have problem streaming music and videos over my WIFI!” Yes, because those services are designed for the scattershot data delivery of WIFI, but if you are connecting to an office via the internet you have to eliminate as many variables as possible, and WIFI is still variable, no matter how much you spend or how close you sit to the router. If you are having connection troubles or frequent drops, WIFI is often a major factor. Figuring out how to get a wired connection to your workstation will be worth it.
- Broadband, high-speed internet. If you are still on DSL and you have access to faster options, you are doing yourself a disservice, even if the cost is higher. Everything is internet connected – you are limiting your capabilities and your usefulness to your company.
- A late-model computer, with a big screen. Treat yourself to at least a 24″ monitor if you spend more than a couple hours staring at a screen. And your computer should be at least a 9th generation Intel or AMD Ryzen generation CPU with a minimum of 8GB of RAM. If you can swing 16GB, you will be sitting pretty. Don’t even consider a computer without an SSD if you are shopping – the Windows 10 and 11 operating systems seem to be optimized for SSDs, and spinning drives (HDD) are now better suited for large data storage needs (file servers, video editing, photography, graphic design) and backups.
- A proper, ergonomic desk and chair. If you are sitting for 6+ hours a day, most importantly make sure you are taking regular breaks, but also make sure you are working at a desk and chair that is properly sized and aligned for typing and viewing. This means your keyboard and mouse should be placed so that your forearms and wrists are (at most) at a flat, 90-degree angle to your upper arms and body, your monitor directly in front of your body with the top of the screen no higher than a straight line to your eyes while sitting up straight. Feet should both be flat on the floor, with thighs flat and calves again at 90-degrees to your thighs. Get a footrest if you are short or your desk is a bit taller than usual, but don’t compromise on the angles. Trust me. I’ve been doing this for 30 years – you don’t want wrist, back or hip problems.
- A good headset and webcam. If you spend any time on the phone, whether it be a VOIP, soft or cell phone get something comfortable with a dedicated mic. Your callers will notice the difference. Your ears will thank you, and your housemates (if you are in a shared office) will appreciate it. If you prefer “speakerphone” mode and can do so without disturbing the peace, getting a webcam with a good mic will be a step-up, especially if you are using any sort of amplified speaker for audio. The $30 webcams we purchased in the early pandemic rarely had decent mics, and if videoconferences will be a regular part of your day-to-day, upgrading to a more expensive webcam will be noticeable to you and your fellow attendees.
- Proper, up-to-date software. Regardless of whether your workstation is just a means to remote into a workstation in an office, or your primary device, it should be protected by up-to-date malware protection, an active firewall, and if you store any important data (personal or work) some form of cloud backups. If data is processed on the computer in front of you, it should have the latest version of software being used, and that software should be kept up to date, or at least in line with your company’s expectations. It should be managed no differently than an office machine, regardless of who owns it.