As society begins to open up again, many of us are expecting to work at home far more than we did before the pandemic.
This “new normal” is already a new working pattern for many office workers, who are no longer confined to the Monday-to-Friday,
9 to 5 office routine of the past and instead have a flexible combination of office and home working.
In our last blog we looked at the various software solutions that enable us to work better from home,( Life after COVID ).
In this blog we look at the hardware you should consider to ensure you are as comfortable and as productive as possible.
It all starts with the webcam. After all, there is no point attending a video call or virtual meeting if no one can see you. Most laptops today have cameras built into their screens. This is very convenient; however the quality of the picture can vary considerably between laptop brands. A camera of 720p resolution or above is good enough for most scenarios, but 1080p and 4K cameras are much more impressive. If you are using a desktop computer you will need to invest in your own webcam, so we would recommend a 1080p resolution or higher.
If you are using a device with a built-in camera, you need to think about privacy and the risk of the camera being hacked (i.e. being turned on without your knowledge). The simplest solution is a sticker to cover the webcam when not in use, but do your research first as some of these can block important sensors on the laptop or risk damaging the screen. Many hardware manufacturers now offer laptops with physical “kill switches” to disconnect or cover the camera when not in use, such as those from HP and Lenovo. Whereas other manufacturers, like Microsoft, have taken another approach which prevents the camera being turned on without your knowledge. Privacy is important, so if you are buying a new laptop, we would always recommend you choose one which has some form of hardware protection as mentioned above.
Microphone / headset
A good audio experience is just as important as the video. A good quality microphone or headset isn’t just for streamers, podcasters and YouTubers; it can make all the difference to the quality of your video calls and virtual meetings too. While most webcams also have microphones built in, the audio quality can be very poor and can easily suffer from background noise, so we would always recommend a separate microphone or headset.
A Good quality audio is especially important if you host virtual sales events, webinars etc. where you are presenting to tens or even hundreds of people at once. If you want your message to come through loud and clear, invest in a good quality audio equipment.
Desktop PC or laptop?
This section comes down to personal preference, your budget, and how you like to work. Laptops are good if you prefer to use the same device wherever you are (home and office), or want the flexibility of working from multiple locations around the house (office, kitchen table, garden etc.). However, with Cloud storage, SaaS and most desktop applications now able to be installed across multiple devices at once (each Office 365 license supports five devices for example), you are free to use multiple devices if you want. If your budget can stretch to it, and you like the idea of having multiple devices, you can have lots of fun investing in a quality desktop PC setup with multiple monitors and all the quality tech discussed above.
Chair and desk
It is easy to get carried away with all the exciting new tech for your home office, but don’t forget about your comfort. If you are spending 8+ hours a day in your office, sitting down, you need a chair and desk that are comfortable. Adopting a healthy posture at your desk can prevent muscle strains in your back, neck and other joints, so look for a chair that offers good back support and a healthy posture.
The desk you use also plays an important role in your comfort. If you are working long days in the same space, you should consider a height adjustable desk which will enable you to work standing up for periods of time.
Don’t forget your internet connection
Last but not least, you need to consider your internet connection. Most modern internet connections can handle video calls easily enough, but what about Cloud storage? If you regularly work with large files (such as video production or design): do you have enough bandwidth to access these files quickly from your Cloud storage without it slowing down your workday? Bear in mind that a lot of internet connections are asymmetric; i.e. they are significantly faster at downloading data than uploading it, then you may struggle to use Cloud storage if your internet connection has a low upload speed.
We have not recommended specific products in this article because there is simply too much to choose from. But this should give you a good guide to conduct your own research to find hardware that meets your own needs and budget. There is one item we did not mention in the list above, but it is perhaps the most important of all when it comes to being productive at home – the space you use for your home office. It is important to separate your home and work lives as much as possible. While a separate room is the best way to ensure a physical separation between your work and home life (and reduces the likelihood of unexpected guests walking into your video calls…), if you don’t have the luxury of a spare room then finding a quiet space within your home is a must. Whether it’s in the corner of the kitchen or bedroom, just make sure you can reclaim the space for personal use when you’re done for the day.
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