At the end of 2018, I decided to invest in setting up a home office so that I could grow the skill of managing a team from home. I was in a role with managers reporting to me who worked from home; I wanted to identify what parts of my job were hard to do at home to help pave the way for them to be able to grow their careers while continuing to work from home. I started 2019 with my home office well situated and I committed to work from home an average of 2 days per week, trying to perform all of my job duties from home.
While I wanted to identify the pain points, I also wanted to set myself up for success. I was not trying to find pain points related to equipment, setup, or anything like that–I was trying to find which job duties required me to be in the office. To accomplish this, I invested time, energy, and money into my home office setup.
When I embarked upon this investment, I was starting from scratch. I had a corner of a room that I would be claiming, but I didn’t have a desk or any equipment. I needed to be able to dock my work laptop and have a comfortable, ergonomic setup. The clean slate was simultaneously liberating and overwhelming. I had several tough decisions to make. Here’s the list of equipment I ended up with–more than a year later, I’m still very happy with the setup–only my headphones situation has changed.
- Desk from Uplift Desk - $1,102
- Bamboo curved-edge desktop (48”x30”x1”) with 2 power grommits
- Height-adjustable standing desk frame
- Advanced 1-touch digital memory keypad
- Single monitor arm
- Small half-circle desk drawer
- Standing mat
- Adjustable footrest
- Advanced wire management kit
- Magnetic cable organizing channel
- Acoustic privacy panel
- USB Hub from Uplift Desk - $0
- 4-port powered USB hub - was a free gift with the desk order
- Monitor from LG - $549
- Camera/Microphone from Logitech - $76
- Keyboard from Microsoft - $41
- Trackball from Kensington - $93
- Headphones/Microphone from Apple - $175
- Availability indicator light from Luxafor - $37
- Cables - $50
- USB uplink
All told, I spent $2,123 on this equipment. I also spent $64 on paint from Sherwin Williams (Web Gray), which gave the room a relaxing ambiance and provided a great background to have behind me on camera. Including the paint, I invested $2,187 into my home office.
You might notice that I did not invest in a chair. I prefer to stand at my desk virtually all day, and the more comfortable my chair is, the more I sit. To promote the standing habit, I opted to invest more in a wonderful desk and then simply use a spare IKEA chair we had at the house. The Uplift Desk has been absolutely marvelous!
I’m short–that means that when I do sit, I need my desk to drop very low. Uplift Desk offers one of the widest adjustable ranges for sit/stand desks. Even with the casters on, the desk goes ever lower than I need; it also raises higher than I need. The desk moves through this whole range quickly and quietly too.
I use all 4 of the memory settings:
- Low standing (for long periods of coding or typing)
- Typical standing (allowing for both typing and writing in my notebook)
- High standing (for reading or watching without typing or writing)
The bamboo top has a soft feel and the ergonomic, curved edge is incredibly comfortable as well–that was well worth the extra cost. Add this detail to the standing mat and footrest, and I can stand at my desk for 6-8 hours per day while remaining comfortable and not getting fatigued.
Uplift Desk’s advanced wire management kit had more in it that I actually needed, but I used enough from the kit to justify the expense. Combined with the 2 power grommits (2 outlets each) and the magnetic cable organizing channel, my wiring is very tidy.
The monitor arm from Uplift Desk does a good job for the price. I didn’t research arms too heavily though.
Monitor, USB Hub, Camera/Microphone, and Luxafor Flag
I wanted a monitor that I could use to connect all perhipherals to my personal MacBook Pro and my work laptop, and just switch the inputs. Uplift Desk gave me a free USB hub with my order; combined with that, the LG UltraWide monitor had all of the input and output ports I needed. I mounted the USB hub to the back of my monitor and here’s how it all worked out:
- Keyboard, Trackball, Camera, and Luxafor Flag all plug into the USB hub
- USB hub plugs into the monitor
- MacBook Pro connects to the monitor using a Thunderbolt cable
- Audio, video, and all peripherals are handled through Thunderbolt
- Windows Laptop connects to the monitor using 2 cables
- DisplayPort cable to handle audio and video
- USB uplink to handle the peripherals
I can switch between my two laptops by simply changing the input on my monitor, choosing either Thunderbolt or DisplayPort. I’ve been really happy with this experience.
The Logitech camera rests atop my monitor and it provides picture and sound others say are very clear.
The Luxafor flag is mounted to the side of my monitor. I keep it red when I’m on a call and green when I’m not. This allows my family members to quickly see if I can be interrupted by cracking the office door and peeking in.
Keyboard and Trackball
I’ve been using the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 and the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball since each of those products launched. This combination has served me very well for a long time.
The only challenge I had acquiring this setup for my home office was that Microsoft was not selling the keyboard at that time; I had to find one through Amazon that was sold as a “Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 for business.” Microsoft has sense resumed consumer sales.
Finding headphones was the toughest part of finishing my setup. Headphone comfort is extremely subjective, and finding headphones that have both the desired comfort and technical specifications was a challenge.
The requirements I was aiming to meet were:
- Circumaural (around/over the ear) design
- Open-air design with velvet ear pads and without noise cancellation
- Bluetooth connectivity with multi-device pairing
I get headaches with headphones put pressure on my ears, noise cancellation makes me feel nauseated, and leather-like ear pads make me sweaty. This trio makes it difficult for me to find comfortable headphones.
Years back, I went on a journey to find a pair of wireless headphones that met my needs. I found the Sennheiser RS-18x headphones checked off all the boxes and I’ve been happily using them for a very long time. They’re comfortable, the open-air design lets me hear my own voice and my surroundings at the levels I prefer, the battery always outlasts my needs, and the wireless range on them is incredible (I can walk 100 feet away from my desk and keep listening).
But there are two problems with the Sennheiser headphones:
- They don’t have a microphone
- They require a transmitter base on my desk (they aren’t Bluetooth; they use a proprietary signal)
After a long hunt, I ended up getting the Apple AirPods. They met all of my technical specification needs, and they were comfortable enough to deal with.
Recently though, I decided to question my criterion of needing my headphones to also have a microphone. My Logitech web cam has a terrific microphone–I could just use that! With this in mind, I’ve switched my setup so that I use my Sennheiser headphones and my web cam’s microphone. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner–it’s much more comfortable and still meets all of my home office needs. When I do need to use my iPhone instead of my laptop for something, that’s when I use my AirPods.
Keeping Tidy and Productive
The small drawer, power grommits, wire management kit, and monitor arm all help me keep my desk tidy. This has been a critical detail for me to remain productive in my home office.
I always have my Leuchtturm1917 notebook and a large water bottle on my desk. During the first half of the day, I have my coffee cup too. I also keep a keyboard cleaner, a stapler, and a screen cloth available. Other than that, my desk stays clear almost all the time.
The power grommits give me outlets for my monitor (permanently plugged in with its large adapter), and 2 USB chargers for my AirPods and iPhone. Everything else is plugged into a surge protector in my wire tray under my desk.
All up, my home office setup has kept me happy and productive. This investment has helped me achieve my goal of fulfilling all of my job duties from home.