As more and more companies are adopting Telecommuting, Distributed Workforces or are just offering the option to work from home, employees are finding themselves ill-equipped when it comes to having the right devices and technology at home. In this post, I’ll share my recommended list of devices you should have in place.
The Cheat List:
- A good laptop with docking station
- Multiple monitors
- Good keyboard and mouse
- Noise-canceling headset
- 1080P Webcam and Lighting
- VoIP phone or softphone.
But that’s just the list. I go into more detail below regarding the features and why and try to keep it in plain, readable english.
A Good Computer or Laptop
I know, I know. But if I didn’t mention it someone would ask about it. You should have a good computer that’s up to date with the latest operating system updates and application updates. Run all updates on your computer before you even think about connecting to corporate resources. If you find yourself without a computer you have many great budget options available today. Windows 10 Laptops can be had for under $500 that are more than adequate. The key here is to make sure it has at least 8GB of RAM and an SSD drive. I recommend the drive be at least 256GB of drive space. Chromebooks can be a good budget option but keep in mind, it’s not a laptop but more of a tablet with a keyboard and you’re going to be limited on the applications you can run on it.
At work, you’re already accustomed to having two or more monitors. When working from home on a laptop you are giving up the flexibility of a second monitor but you don’t have to. You can use a USB Full HD monitor like the ASUS MB169B+. This is a portable second monitor made for road warriors.
A Good Keyboard and Mouse
If you’re working from a laptop, those keyboards and touchpads can be finicky. I recommend connecting a good Keyboard and Mouse to your laptop. My go-to for this is pretty much any Microsoft or Logitech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combination. Today I actually use a Microsoft Surface Keyboard (USB rechargeable) and a Logitech Gaming Mouse (Gamers need that ultra high resolution and know a mouse needs to be comfortable. While you’re at it, I highly recommend you get a BIG mouse pad. Not the one you got at the conference last year but one that’s XXL like the Aukey one that’s like 3 feet by a foot and a half. This thing is awesome.
USB Docking Station
Long gone are the days of the laptop ‘click and lock’ docking station. Today they’re replaced with USB docking stations. If your laptop has regular USB 3.0 ports the Plugable USB 3.0 docking station is great. If you have a USB-C port you can get an inexpensive port replicator. Just make sure you’re adding enough ports to get the job done.
Audio Headsets and Speakerphones
Most computers today have built-in speakers and microphones but these are not up to the task of providing good audio when on a video conference call. My team all use the Logitech USB headsets. My personal preference is the Logitech USB headset H390 with Noise Cancelling Mic. We’ve used this headset and it’s predecessors for years with our softphones and it’s been great. It’s usually around $30. For those that prefer wireless, the Logitech Over-The-Head Wireless Headset H600 has worked well but remember you’re going to have to keep them charged. Fortunately, you can use them while they’re charging.
If you’re like me and prefer to go completely hands-free or need a solid conference room phone for a small room, I highly recommend the Jabra Speak 510. I used one of these exclusively for my phone in my office for the past two years and absolutely love it. As a bonus, the 510 has built-in Bluetooth so you can use it with your mobile phone as well. If you don’t need Bluetooth, the Jabra Speak 410 is about half the cost and otherwise on par. I’ve found the Jabra devices to be great when doing video conference calls when you don’t want to appear on video with a headset on your head.
Of course, if you’ve invested in a pair of Bluetooth air buds, AirPods or the like, you can connect those to your computer as well. Your computer should have Bluetooth enabled but if it doesn’t you can easily get a USB Bluetooth dongle.
As you move remote you’re going to lose the nonverbal cues you normally see when having a face to face conversation and these are vital for a number of reasons. You absolutely must use video conferencing and you absolutely need a good webcam. 1080P and something on par with the Logitech C920. The Logitech BRIO is another great option with added features but it’s about 2X the cost. While you’re at it, you’re also going to need good lighting for your camera. An adjustable ring light that you can adjust the color temperature and brightness would be ideal but this is strictly a budget decision. The reason for the lighting is so that you stand out from the rest of your environment when on video.
While you’re on Video you might be concerned about what appears in the background. There are a number of software programs on the market that replace the webcam background with “virtual green screens” so you can place an image behind you or blur out the background so people won’t see your children running in behind you. I’ve used chromacam.me and snap camera (from snapchat) and find both work extremely well and are budget-friendly.
You’re likely taking your VoIP phone from the office home with you or you’re transferring your calls to your cellphone. If you’re able to, I recommend installing a software phone on either your cell phone or computer and using a headset. It provides that separation between work and home that’s extremely important.
Keep in mind every worker is different and what may work for me, may not work for you. My biggest recommendation though is to go with known brands when buying this equipment. Remember your job relies on the equipment you use and you want to use quality, reliable equipment.
If you have questions or want to chat, feel free to reach out. Our company, Applied Innovations, has been helping businesses like yours enable your employees and business to work more efficiently, more securely and more connected.