Tricked Out Home Office
So your work from home (WFH) environment is working for you, or is it?
Try these easy fixes to change a ho-hum home office into a high-performance work from home solution.
DIY standing desk
The ergonomic experts tell us that sitting all day hunched over our keyboard and laptop is bad for our body and joints.
Even worse, they warn against using makeshift locations like couches, dining room tables, or nook countertops.
But what if you don’t have the space for a properly equiped desk and office chair? Or simply don’t want to invest in more furniture?
The chair is easy – just eliminate it. Standing desks were a fad, if not an actual trend, even before we all starting working from home full time.
You don’t have to buy a fancy $300 standing desk or a motorized glam version that might cost upwards of $1000.
Just look around your home – you already have everything you need. A pile of books or magazines works. Empty shipping boxes from that meal in a box delivery service or the latest gadget your bought online will also do.
Or the heavy duty corrugated containers grocery stores or fruit stands use for toting produce from farm to market.
Just pile them up to reach a comfortable height so you can stand in front of your laptop without squinting or bending.
If you are fortunate to already have a work from home desk setup with an external monitor and keyboard, then a slab of plywood or even an old door will be a perfect makeshift table top to hold everything securely and within reach.
Lights, camera, action!
Previously I explained that a better microphone is the single most important thing you can do to improve the quality of your Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or other video conferencing.
Now on to the second-most thing you should do. Get better lighting!
Some people might correctly say this is just as important. Normal lighting in our homes and home office is terrible.
Bad lighting makes you look old and frail, distracts the viewer, and even throws off the pretty good auto exposure and auto focus in most laptop or mobile phone webcams.
Take advantage of what you have for free. Change your physical location to the best place in your home that has great natural lighting.
Position yourself so window or natural lighting is aimed towards your face. You do not want distracting windows in the background or to your side.
Sometimes, just turning around can magically move the window to the right spot.
If you want more of a glamour appeal, there are a range of affordable LED ring lights that will highlight your face and improve your image dramatically.
This is a moderately priced LED light that includes a stand and a dimmable LED so you can adjust the lighting and it is under $150.
Bare-bones budget LED solutions are also available for less than $20, which is dirt cheap for better-than-nothing.
My favorite speciality light is this palm sized, battery-powered LED. It’s actually a professional photography light so it is suitable for both still and video.
It is both a dimmable, adjustable white light and a full color LED that can be set to any color in the rainbow.
The light can be used as a hair light or extra key light, or to provide those cool colored backgrounds you often see in YouTube videos.
Best of all, it charges via a modern USB-C or a wireless Xi charger – just like many smartphones.
For both fun and a professional approach, this portable green screen works with Zoom and other software to let you create virtual backgrounds so your messy work area isn’t visible to the world.
Getting in the zone
Trying to concentrate in your work from home setup is hard enough with being in a makeshift office and juggling distractions from family members and pets.
Do you work with the TV on? Maybe you like to listen to music? How about absolute quiet?
Whatever your preference, upping your audio game will make a huge difference.
Adding a good surround sound audio system, soundbar or speakers might be a good investment. Particularly if you think you will be working from home for the foreseeable future.
You can’t go wrong with a Sonos Beam with built-in Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant. Command your favorite music from a ton of different streaming services with just the sound of your voice.
Music on the go
Maybe you work in whatever quiet spot you can find? A different corner of the house, your bedroom, the front yard, patio, or empty guest room?
Now might be the perfect time to consider a portable Sonos setup. The battery powered, Sonos Move may not be cheap, but it provides awesome sound and goes everywhere with you.
Take it to any room, inside or out. Unlike us, it is waterproof, so hanging out by the pool is no problem.
Built-in Wi-Fi means high quality audio everywhere in your home and when you do leave, the Bluetooth capability lets you keep using it everywhere.
Your own cone of silence
For ultimate concentration, nothing beats a pair of in-ear headphones.
You can’t go wrong with either the original Apple AirPods or the new AirPods Pro.
I love the active noise cancelling in the AirPods Pro – it transports you to a personal cocoon of isolated music like magic.