First it was weird, then it was rare, now there is an emergency response. But as the end of the year looms, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues, working from home (WFH) has become a regular part of life for more people than ever.
Several months have already passed since Shopify’s CEO Tobias Lutke tweeted the company was officially “digital by default” and “office centricity is over.” Facebook, Twitter, Square, and countless other small and medium size businesses came to similar conclusions. The future of work is officially here.
So, where does that leave the workforce? Unfortunately for some, it has meant sitting hunched over a laptop in a corner of their home, but that’s not sustainable, or very much fun. It’s time to think bigger. Get your laptop off your knees and own your space. Make it work for you.
Owning your space doesn’t mean recreating a cubicle, bland office, or open plan workstation either. We reached out to tech employers, manufacturers, and dedicated gearheads to find out what technology can help you stretch beyond the boring desk and laptop setup. Everything else is changing, so why not shift your thinking about what the WFH experience can look like?
Whether you’re working at home or planning to stay for the long term, you’re going to need the right gear. It’ll keep you sane and make it possible to reap the benefits while reducing the friction.
Here are some changes you can make to own your WFH space—and the innovations that will help.
Why not let gamers guide you while sitting at home on your computer all day? The market has responded to them with a slew of options that boast substantial back and neck support and incredible comfort.
Now, you could choose a respectable, low profile, all-black chair. But why not go for something space aged like Anda Seat Assassin King, or an AKRacing Master Series Pro that looks like it was designed for a racecar driver — because it was?
While your gaming chair wraps itself around your body, you can let your screen wrap around you as well. Acer’s Predator X34 is marketed for the immersive experience it provides for gaming and viewing, but curved screens also have practical benefits.
A single large curved display is more ergonomic than multiple flat displays. They’ve also been shown to reduce eye fatigue, especially if you’re working in a poorly lit environment—a high probability if your home workspace was originally designed as a bedroom or basement.
Work It Out
As a result of the pandemic, WFH may be just one part of a general reduction in the amount of time we’re getting up and getting out. But that’s no excuse not to take care of yourself. Even the smallest space can be enhanced with a few health tools to help you stay productive.
The Cubii is a low-profile elliptical that lets you get a workout anytime throughout the day. It sits discreetly at your feet, monitoring activity such as distance, strides, and calories burned so you can set and track your fitness goals. It’s also quiet enough to consider using on a conference call, though we can’t vouch for what coworkers will say if you start to sweat.
You can also really step up your wellness game with the Drum, a mini massage gun created to relax away the inevitable effects of desk work. The Drum uses percussive therapy, a form of soft tissue manipulation that’s said to help muscles recover faster, reduce muscle pain and lactic acid build-up, improve range of motion and flexibility, and encourage blood flow. Interchangeable attachments let you get just what you need, whether for a quickie break or an end-of-the-day wind down session.
Glam It Up
Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to attend a video call or presentation where somebody bothered to add some pizzazz to an otherwise lackluster experience. Some add music for waiting and down time, or fade in speakers one-by-one for dramatic effect.
If you want to up your A/V game, one longtime tech reviewer told us using the ATEM Mini Pro will make you “king of the hill on Zoom calls.” It’s a multi-port HDMI switcher that lets you utilize multiple cameras and microphones.
It also supports overlays, green screen, and a studio mixer. This one’s for the real nerds. It can essentially turn your workspace into a mini Hollywood studio. If you’re broadcasting live for sales presentations, seminars, or department meetings — or if the broadcast itself is your product — imagine yourself on the big screen instead of in your small office and see the difference a little bit of production makes.
Big-screen thinking means considering lighting like you might never have before. It makes a difference, though, helping create more intimate and engaging conference calls or videos. Using just your cell phone, you can do wonders with the iRig Video Creator setup. This kit delivers better lighting, audio, and stability when using a smartphone for filming videos or joining video calls. The main features are a 6” USB-powered LED ring light that mounts to the top of the stand and offers adjustable color and brightness, and a tiny microphone that clips wherever it’s needed.
While you’re at it, graduate from PowerPoint already. Prezi came on the scene several years ago with dynamic presentation capabilities. Now, Prezi Video allows you to add graphics live next to your face while you film, similarly to visuals used on news broadcasts or late-night TV. The interface is simple, but you can still build your presentation and import to Prezi if you must.
No one ever said WFH meetings and collaboration can only happen in 2D. VR/AR software company Kinemagic responded to pandemic distancing by repurposing its Stratus software — originally intended for designing industrial facilities — so that it can be used by anyone to meet virtually. Brainstorm together. Whiteboard together. Leave notes. Do coffee breaks and happy hours. If you can’t physically bring people to the ideal space you’re creating at home, use virtual reality to build one you can share with anyone, anywhere.
Play It Safe
Back at the office, companies might have stepped up the cleaning and sanitizing game. But, out here in WFH world, you’re on your own. Whether it’s a pandemic or just a regular flu season, a clean space is a must for staying healthy and productive.
You could walk around misting your house with Lysol every day, or you could let the Aertos 120-UVC drone fly around destroying the microbes for you with ultraviolet light. This drone combines a proven industrial drone platform with verified UVC disinfection capabilities to reduce health risks for humans.
Your drone won’t be the only thing moving around the house. You likely will seek an occasional change of scenery in your kitchen, a porch, balcony, or backyard. You might even head out to a coffee shop.
These little adventures are good for the spirit, but also expose your equipment to the risks of drops, spills, rain, pollen, moisture, humidity, food particles, and more. That’s where the Adesso SlimTouch™ 222 Antimicrobial Waterproof Flex keyboard and mouse come in. Roll up the keyboard and take it wherever. It’s interior silicone shield means you don’t have to worry about water or particles from the environment gunking up your peripherals.
And did you catch that “antimicrobial” part? It’s practically a must-have into today’s world, especially for those who work while traveling. You can find antimicrobial equipment of all sorts, from input devices to laptops. They all work the same basic way, being made of material that does not allow certain microbes to adhere to or grow on its surface.
You also want to be prepared for potential disruption caused by a power outage. In most cases, utility companies repair commercial lines first, homes last. Make sure your most important devices are connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS, or battery backup. It can provide backup power when your voltage from your normal power source drops or disappears altogether.
An ideal WFH environment can be an incredibly cool space, but it’s also important to the bottom line. In this new world, employers need to embrace the idea that remote work requires investing in the ideal environment, just as they would in an office.
Self-employed people, this means you too. Having access to the same or even better tools than would be used in a traditional work environment helps ensure the type of productivity a traditional workplace encourages, if not better in some cases.
Negotiating for better WFH tools, or putting them into your entrepreneurial budget, will have to become the norm. Go ahead, prioritize the ergonomic furniture, the safety devices, the health enhancers, and the extras that make remote work more productive and enjoyable. There are no rules limiting how you can make your space work for you. A little imagination and short-term spending could pay big dividends in the long run.