The way things are going, it’s a fair bet that many of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future. So for those who have so far never really embraced the working-from-home principle, now is the time to grab the bull by the horns.
Working from home is probably not the fantasy most people had in their heads. That fantasy included sitting by your window overlooking an enchanted forest, with the sweet smell of beautiful flowers wafting in, whilst you sip on a mocha and nibble on a chocolate digestive. No stress, no problem! The reality for many people has been: Constant interruptions by screaming kids, delivery men knocking on your door every two minutes and your Wi-Fi crashing several times per day during important Zoom calls. It can be stress, stress and stress. And then a little bit more stress.
One way to help those stress levels decrease is to get creative with office space. Try to find an area with a door that can be closed. Creating physical boundaries can help reinforce the message that you need to be working. Anyplace in the house with internet access can act as an office during an emergency, especially for when you have to ensure calls are uninterrupted. If you’re constantly moving around the house with your makeshift portable office, then you are probably going to increase your blood pressure! Get your working environment right, and your work will flow!
What do you need in your home office to make your life easier? “A poor workman blames his tools” goes that old saying. Well, if you have the right tools for the job, you are much more likely to produce quality work, and your mind will be in the right place too.
Laptop or PC?
Let’s start with the obvious: You’ll need either a PC or a laptop. Some of you may already have both, which is the perfect scenario. Some of you may have been provided with a company laptop, so you won’t need to delve too deeply into this area – unless you’re thinking of getting a new one of your own. However, if you’re looking for a laptop for working from home, then you need to think about what work it’s needed for. For daily work tasks, we recommend that you go for specifications no less than the following: Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3, 4GB Ram 128GB SSD Full HD (1080p) screen. Laptops with specifications like we’ve just mentioned will cost you in the region of £400, or sometimes even less. For a better experience then perhaps you should aim for: Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 8GB of Ram 256GB SSD Full HD (1080p) screen Under 1.5kg.
One of the most important things to remember is that laptops with solid-state drives (SSDs) are much faster than their otherwise-identical counterparts with hard disk drives (HDDs). Most laptops now come with SSDs, but some cheaper models still have HDDs.
Another thing to consider is the size of screen you’d be most comfortable working with. A 15” screen is best, but these laptops are obviously a little more bulky and harder to carry around. Consider whether a 13 or 14” screen will suit you better. You also need to think about how much space you have in your home office, and how big your desk is. Remember that you can always add an additional keyboard and mouse, which can be useful if that’s how you are used to working.
Many people stoop when working on a laptop, so consider varying your working position and height during the day, from sitting at a desk or kitchen table to standing at a kitchen work surface.
Desktop computers have a few advantages over laptops, but they also have one big downside. They are not portable. Well, you can move them, but you’re pretty restricted to moving them between rooms, not from your home to the office and vise-versa. That’s a big negative, but what are the positives? Well, they are typically cheaper, can easily be upgraded and therefore are likely to have a longer life. Pretty much all modern desktops can handle general office work as they tend to have more power than laptops.
Desktops come in two types: Towers (to which you then attach a monitor, keyboard and mouse) and All-In-Ones (which are computers built into the back of screens, such as Apple’s iMac and Windows PC equivalents). If you’re going for a desktop PC, then we recommend a ninth or 10th-generation Intel i5 or i7, AMD’s Ryzen 5 2500 or Intel’s i3 at the lowest end. And go for 8GB minimum RAM. For storage, an SSD with 256GB minimum should suffice. For any graphics card, then you can’t go wrong with a brand such as Nvidia or AMD if you work in a creative content industry, such as photo or video editing.
There is a massive range in laptops including traditional hinged laptops, 2-in-1s (where the keyboard folds all the way round the back) and convertibles, where the screen detaches from the keyboard to turn into a tablet. It’s futuristic, but it also does the job!
Broadly speaking, traditional laptops will be cheaper. You should look for a ninth or 10th-generation Intel i5 or i7 processor, at least 8GB of RAM (preferably 16GB if an option and within your budget) and 256GB of SSD storage.
In addition, you have to consider the screen, keyboard and trackpad. A 13-inch to 14-inch screen will be fine for most uses, so look out for a resolution of at least 1080p (1920 x 1200 or similar). The higher the resolution the crisper the screen will look. It all depends on how comfortable it is to work on. Perhaps compare with one that you already work on. If the screen is very small, it does make life more difficult to produce your work. It feels like a temporary measure and is quite intense. The bigger the screen the better, really.
Laptops with poor keyboards or a poor trackpad can be infuriating to use, so check reviews before you buy. If you’re really price restricted and do all your work in browser, think about a Chromebook which will offer a much better experience at the low end than an equally cheap Windows laptop.
You can use a riser – which is recommended – alternatively, a pile of books to bring laptops up to eye-level. Ergonomics are important – and remember, you could be working at home for a long period of time, maybe months or even longer, so the more comfortable everything is, the better.
If you’re looking at a desktop computer to work at home, you’ll also need a monitor. These come in a huge range of sizes, resolutions and prices. Realistically speaking, a 24” monitor should be fine, and it’d be wise to go for full HD. It’s also advisable to go for a monitor which has height adjustment. Position the top of the monitor at eye-level to prevent eye-strain.
Keyboard and mouse
As you can probably guess, keyboards range in price from the budget to ‘designer handbag’ expensive! If you use a keyboard every day, or write in some form for a living, then it makes sense to invest in the best keyboard you can afford. They come in USB or wireless versions, which now typically connect via the Bluetooth available in the vast majority of modern laptops and desktops. A possible downside is that wireless keyboards normally require batteries, so don’t forget to buy some rechargeable batteries to fit them. Keyboards should last for months before needing to have batteries replaced.
Some people prefer mechanical keyboards, which may seem quite dated (or you could say ‘retro’) but they do look like they’re from the 1990s Back-to-the-Future! Mechanical keyboards require more physical action on the keys to activate, while others such as scissor-switch keyboards are shallower and more like those you’ll find on a laptop. The best advice is to stick to whichever type you’re most comfortable with. Don’t forget that if you need a keyboard, then you’ll also need a mouse too. There are lots of ergonomically designed mice to help reduce wrist pain, and they are made for right and left handers!
It’s no good having all the right equipment for productive home working if the equipment you’ve assembled isn’t comfortable to work on. How many people do you see sitting hunched over their laptop when they are on their laptop at home? The result of spending time like this is a bad posture and plenty of aches, pains and strains. This includes eye strain. There is a simple way to make the way you work more ergonomic. Use a ‘riser’. This is a device that your laptop can sit on, and they are usually adjustable so you can make sure your computer screen is at eye level to prevent eye strain. Risers are not expensive and can make you feel much more comfortable when working from home.
Today, wireless printers are the most popular type of home printer.
Wireless printers allow you to get twice as much work done without having to physically sit at your desk all day. If there are other people in your home who need to print homework or projects, they, too, can be connected to the printer and send their documents to be printed as needed. People using workspaces with limited room find it much more efficient to use wireless printers. They are extremely beneficial to anyone multitasking or working on the go. Add to this, the features of cloud printing and the ability to easily send documents straight to the machine, and it really is a no-brainer. With the way technology is changing, traditional printers are seriously a thing of the past.
However, there are some printers which are a great addition to any home and will improve your working methods in a number of ways.
Wi-Fi printers have benefits for every home, regardless of their size, demand or pace. If you haven’t been considering some of the best Wi-Fi printers on the market as your next home-office purchase, here are some reasons why you should be!
- They’re tidier. No messy wires hanging around. Wireless machines, unlike other printers, do not need plugging into your computer before you print. This obviously means there will be less trailing wires or other hazards, so an all-round tidier feel to your home or home-office. You can place your printer in a quiet ‘back-room’ out of the way, so it’s not cluttering up your kitchen or wherever you’re working from whilst based at home. Many people are stuck with working in their kitchens, which means they can be constantly moving their work things around depending on the time of day.
- You can print from anywhere, wherever you happen to be. This convenience also provides a boost in productivity, as your printing can be done whilst you’re busy doing something else, and it’ll be there waiting for you on your return.
- Along with this, the lack of wires and installation will ensure a quick and easy set-up, meaning that your workflow is barely interrupted by a device upgrade, and you will be up and ready to go in a few minutes.
Print from any device
One of the advantages of having a Wi-Fi printer at home, is that you can send a print job from any device, rather than being limited to computers or laptops. This will save time if you have a document handy on your phone or tablet, as you won’t need to send it to a computer first, before you can print it out. Perfect if you need to rush into a meeting but have forgot to print-out something important.
Sending a print-out from any device that can access the internet, to a Wi-Fi laser printer, will greatly speed up processes and see productivity rise. You can even send items to print, directly from your mobile while you’re out and about – and it will be printed and ready for you when you get home!
An HP wireless printer can be tucked out of the way into any corner of the office, as it no longer needs to be on display. This can free up space for other devices, or a relaxing area for staff.
Wi-Fi range extender
Wi-Fi strength and speed fluctuates, depending on how far away you are from your router. The further away you are, the less stable the signal. One way to help, is to move your router to the middle of the house, but that’s easier said than done.
If moving your router is not really an option, then you could get a Wi-Fi range extender which can cost you in the region of £30 and upwards. There’s also powerline networking – which can cost twice as much. If you really need a consistently strong signal for home working, then you’ll probably a Wi-Fi range extender or similar.
As you probably know, webcams are built into most laptops and tablets, but if you have a desktop or external monitor you might need one now that the majority of home workers are involved in video calls. If you’re going to be using a desktop with a separate monitor you might have to buy one if you’re going to be involved in regular calls. The good news is that webcams are not very expensive and they range from about £20 and up.
With multiple devices in your home office, it is likely that you’ll need more sockets. USB hubs are devices that allow you to connect multiple USB-powered devices to a single laptop or computer device. You just attach them to your laptop then you instantly get multiple working USB ports. This is ideal for users who need to connect multiple devices to a single computer. Let’s face it, two or three ports isn’t enough for most people.
A reliable pair of headphones when you’re working from home is essential. If you have children or family members around and have to make a Zoom call then a good set of headphones can help isolate you from all these disruptive forces in order to focus on the task at hand.
Headphones used for working should offer top-notch sound quality and comfort (since you could be wearing them for hours on end). They should also include excellent communications features for making voice calls, including any sort of video chats. Having good noise reduction is really important, as being able to hear your own voice in the headphones as you talk (so you don’t end up shouting, which is very common) is going to make a huge difference.
With headphones – or headsets – having a long battery life is also a big help. Finally, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, which lets you switch easily between two devices, is another important feature in the home-office environment.
If you’re working on confidential and sensitive documents, then a shredder may well be a necessity.
Data is a valuable commodity in today’s world – which is one of the reasons that cyber criminals exist. Identity thieves and data theft is quite common, which is why there is a need for businesses and organisations to keep their sensitive data safe. Add to this that there are many laws which can penalise companies for lax data security, and you can see why a simple paper shredder might play an important part in the day-to-day operations of businesses. Even more so when working from home.
Data and identity theft
Paper shredding is a really easy way to comply with the law. Most people are aware of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which obligates businesses and organisations to keep all confidential information safe and secure. Documents and records held by legal firms, doctors and all types of healthcare organisations, schools, social services and many more, are regarded as sensitive. Therefore, the disposal of any documents is very important. Without getting in to too deeply, a paper shredder could be a really useful piece of equipment when you are working from home.
Are you sitting comfortably?
If you’re working from home, spending long hours sitting behind a desk, then having a proper ergonomic chair is really important for your health and comfort. When you’re comfortable, you’re much more likely to deliver your best performance. And if you’re not comfortable, then you could be well on the way to posture issues. Check out our range of specially designed chairs here.
Why are home office ergonomics so important?
Ergonomics is all about how your body interacts with all the office tools and space while you’re working. Ergonomics can help you improve efficiency and productivity plus, it helps prevent unnecessary stress and possible injuries.
With workplace locations changing all the time, people are working more hours, sitting more and working from non-traditional offices. If you’re working from home and slouching on the settee whilst working, then it’s essential that you pay heed to ergonomics, especially if you’re working in an uncomfortable position or performing repetitive moments for lengthy periods of time. Setting up a workstation that helps and supports your posture is really important if you want to prevent those niggly aches and pains – and more serious problems.
Poor ergonomics (such as inadequate chair height or not having your computer screen at the correct height) are going to cause you problems. And this will lead to you not being able to work to your potential. When you’re organising the layout of your home office the things you use the most need to be nearest to you. Yes, that sounds like good-old common sense – but you’d be surprised how many people fail to think about this. Not only is it better for your health – less stretching – but it also saves you quite a lot of time. Good ergonomics equals good posture, fewer motions, less injuries, and more efficient working.
Proper distance from the monitor
The desk in your home office should be a good size so that it will have space for all the stuff you’re continually using. And you also need to ensure that your eyes are the correct distance from your monitor. 20 inches is usually about right, and the top of the monitor should be just above your eye level. Your eyes should be looking down slightly, so you won’t cause neck and eye strain, if looking for long periods of time.
If the monitor is too far away, people tend to come closer to see better, no matter the age. There is one interesting rule: If you can touch the screen with the tips of your fingers, then you are in the right position.
One area of a home office which is often overlooked is the lighting. Every office should have adequate lighting – but not too much, as it can cause glare on monitor screens and is a leading cause of headaches for employees. When working out the setting for your home office, take the light into account. It shouldn’t be shining directly on you or the monitor. The key is to use both natural light AND artificial light. Using this combination will reduce the risk of eye strain and headaches. If you’re seated next to a window which the sun shines through, then installing blinds will help.
OK, we’ve gone through the most important items you’ll need for your home office. But depending on the type of work you do, there may be more specialist products you need to work productively.
Check out Ebuyer’s full range of tech and equipment for your home office here.