OK, I've gone from spending an hour in my home working to nine Zoom calls on Friday and then working until 10PM on various projects (Covid response, helping companies survive, investment funds, etc.). So suddenly having the right home office setup has become really important.
So help the economy and order some stuff, but here is what I've found is vital in order to be productive in this new world:
- A 32" Monitor. I'm typing right now on a 32" monitor that's 4K and is just way less cramp than a 27" one. We have a gaming room with a 55" but the issue is that you want and I've used 40", but the problem is the mounting of the webcam. Ideally, you want this on one-arm stand so you can move it anywhere you want. I use 4k.com and rtings.com religiously to analyze this and right now the LG 31MU97 at $870 is expensive at Amazon, but it is 10-bit color and IPS, so a great choice.
- AmazonBasics Monitor Arm. yes, you need one of these to get the positioning right. It's sort of an optional item, but on the other hand, Amazon Basics is $116 right now and will last a lifetime.
- A great webcam. You can't get one right now, but the Logitech C920 is just about ideal. It lists for $130 normally, but most importantly has the right mounting to fit on a monitor and just be slight above eye level. For good Zoom calls, it's important (ask any Asian teen), that the camera shot is high, it will make your face look nice. The C920S version as an aside has a hardcover on it. Good for simple security (or use a piece of tape 🙂
- Multiple monitors. Yes, 32" isn't really enough, so if you have a Mac, then using your Macbook Pro as a screen is really vital. It's pretty easy to use
- Trello Time Management. Normally at regular work, you are pulled along by meetings, but at home, you have to put more energy into it. So "Scrum yourself. Put your Trello board in full screen and load Scrum for Trello to track your hours used. That's really important, because you can lose hours screwing around. Budget your time in 30-minute increments. Each day, I have three boards for home, day job, and my moonlighting ones. If you use the scrum system in the morning make sure that the total points add up to less than 16 (that is 8 hours of work).
- Give yourself permission to multitask. The human mind is pretty strange, if you have a hard problem work on something else and it's amazing how 30 minutes it will be so clear what to do.
- Turn on Announce time. In System Preferences > Date & Time, turn on Announce Time in half-hour, then you can budget your time that way.
- iPad Sidecar. If you are lucky enough to have an iPad, then hook it up as a third monitor. I put two things on there. I have the web interface for my router there so I can figure out why my Zoom calls are slow and also music lives there.
- Get a great microphone. Yes, most monitors have decent sound, but you really want a good microphone to have conversations. I use a Rode NT1 and is really good for group zoom calls (cocktail parties). And it works well with microphones. It's expensive at $250 at Amazon, but worth it. Makes you sound professional.
- Get great headphones. You are at home, so don't bother people plus a great headphone set means you can actually hear the scratchy zoom calls well and rock on when you can. Since are at home, why not really enjoy the great sound and not be guilty. I love rtings.com for this purpose, they do really complete reviews. I have the Sony WH-1000XM3 which has truly great sound quality and is wireless, but since you are plugged in at your desk, you can really go crazy and get the best audiophile headphones. Soundwise, I find the these headphones to be really bass heavy when listening to high quality music, so even though it's rated 7.2/100 for neutral sounds, it doesn't to me sound as good as a $95 wired headphone. I actually like the Shure SRH 440 as a neutral sounding headphone. They like the Sennheiser HD 800S because they are really balanced and easy to wear forever which it should be for an 8.3/10 for a whopping $1,600 at Amazon. A more reasonable alternative is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x at $150 at Amazon rated as a 7.7/10. I have the Shure SRH440 for $95 at Amazon which is also a decent headphone at a good price at 7.6/10.
- AirPod Pros for wandering around. If the call doesn't require you to be on video, then turn it off and use your AirPod Pros. Calls are a great time to do a little yoga and exercise while you are listening. If you completely passive, you can get in quite a workout while listening. They are also dual purpose, pair with your iPhone too and you can go on virtual dog walks with friends for a little exercise. I try to have budget time for at least an hour workout.
- Have the right music mix. Yes, it will really help you work. This is what I'm listening too and yes, I do add cool songs as needed.
- Have a water bottle. You will need one. The first day I was at home all day, I completely forgot to eat and drink. We have a huge variety, but a 16 ounce Hydro Flask is great.
- Have the right lighting in your room. For Zoom, remove all the strange colored stuff, you want a uniform background so you can use the virtual background features. it's a great conversation generator.
- Have a front light for your face, you do want one, you will look way better and a simple light really works. If you have studio lighting that is even better.
- Use a screen manager. You will have many tasks, I use Divvy for this, but setting the keys so you can stuff windows into quadrants is really helpful, you can have four projects going on and then stick them in the right places. I use the CTRL-ALT-COMMAND 1 through 4 to put things into quadrants. There are free utilities to do this, but Divvy works great.