The essential equipment and technology you need to work from home
Want to work from home the right way? Ensure you have all the kit and the proper set up for maximum productivity and wellbeing
If you’ve spent the majority of the past year working from home you’ll probably have a fairly settled set up already. But with a return to any sort of office-based working looking unlikely for the foreseeable future there is always the need to fine tune your home office. As well as a fit-for-purpose desk and chair (see how to design a home office), you need technology that makes working from home easy. Whether you have a laptop and have been meaning to acquire a keyboard and mouse to make it posture friendly, or just need to add in a track pad or printer, below are vital tips from tech professionals who also happen to be working-from-home experts. You can also check out our laptop buying guide and printer buying guide for further advice.
‘Consider the space you have available and think about what is necessary to ensure it’s a comfortable working environment,’ says Chloe Harris, Partner & Buyer, Microsoft Computing & Gaming. ‘Try to replicate your office space as much as physically possible at home. If space allows, set up a desk and a chair with good lumbar support, along with a second screen. Not only will they make you more comfortable, they will also allow you to get into the right mindset to work and stay productive. It’s all too easy to get comfortable on the sofa and drift in and out of focus.’
I only have a laptop, is there anything else I should consider?
Sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end curled over your laptop isn’t going to do you or your back any favours. ‘If you’re using a laptop, buy a separate keyboard and trackpad or mouse, and make sure the screen is lifted up from the desk to bring it to eye level,’ advises award-winning technology journalist Chris Haslam. ‘An additional mouse will avoid reliance on the trackpad of your laptop,’ says Chloe. ‘In addition to this, a headset or bluetooth headphones are a great way to be engaged in conference calls without having to disturb those around you. If you have space for an additional screen, the purchase of a second monitor will ensure you’re able to multitask like a pro.’
OK, so how do I get everything in the right position?
If you’re working from home all the time, getting your computer set up at the right height is essential for your health and wellbeing. According to this guide from the NHS, your arms should be bent in an L-shape with your elbows by your side. Whether sitting or standing to work, your eyes should be level with the top third of the monitor to prevent neck and back strain. Keep your shoulders back and feet flat on the floor (no leg crossing if you’re sitting!). ‘It’s vital to get the ergonomics right, so consider a stand to put the laptop at the right height once you’ve positioned the keyboard properly on the desk,’ says technology writer David Phelan. If you’re looking to invest in a new PC, investigate the selection below and ensure you get everything in the right position.
Which keyboard to choose?
If you want to buy just one thing to enhance your laptop when working from home, go for a keyboard which will allow you to put your laptop at the correct height. ‘If you’re a MacBook fan, the Apple Magic keyboard is a real joy to use. Windows users can turn to the range of keyboards from Microsoft, like the Microsoft 900 Wireless Desktop Keyboard and Mouse pack,’ says David. ‘Oh, and if you don’t have a laptop but an iPad instead, all the latest Apple tablets apart from the iPad mini are compatible with a Smart Keyboard which turns the iPad into a serviceable laptop alternative.’ Note: according to the NHS guide, your keyboard should be about 4-6 inches (100mm-150mm) from the front of the desk so you can rest your wrists between bouts of typing.
How about a printer?
Remember how you used to curse the office printer? You’re probably missing it now. ‘If your job requires you to print out documents, a wireless inkjet printer will be invaluable, as you can plug it in anywhere and, as long as the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough and there’s paper in the tray, you don’t need it next to you,’ says Chris. His top tip if you want to keep costs down? ‘Refill printer ink can sometimes be more expensive than the printer itself, so check first, as a simple black-and-white laser printer may be more economical if you print documents rather than colour photos etc.’ A good all-rounder? ‘Something like the Epson Expression Photo XP-8605 is a great printer that turns out solid photos as well as crisp documents,’ says David.
What about the Wi-Fi?
‘The internet is a crucial companion while you’re at home. You may find that you get a faster signal from your mobile, and it’s easy enough to “tether” your laptop to your phone’s signal instead of the home Wi-Fi, though watch out for data costs if you rely on this,’ says David. ‘If the signal is great in the living room but poor in your home office, extend the signal with something such as the Google Nest Wi-Fi Router which spreads it from room to room wirelessly.’ While a Wi-Fi extender won’t make your broadband speed any faster, it will mean you can get a reliable signal across the house. ‘This means everyone can get out from underneath each other’s feet instead of huddling in the room closest to the router,’ adds Chris.
How do I make sure everything is compatible?
If you're buying new tech to go with items you already own, it’s important to get it rigged up properly. Luckily, it shouldn’t be too tricky – see cables and power products. ‘Most of the devices you add will be able to connect to your laptop via Bluetooth or wireless connection, so as long your laptop has these you shouldn't have too much of a problem,’ says Chloe. ‘For items such as monitors, these will have HDMI or VGA connections which will be suitable for most laptops. However, if you have recently bought a nice new slim laptop, it is worth checking the ports as it may only have USB-C, which means an additional adaptor may need to be purchased.’
Any other considerations?
‘Noise cancelling headphones are a godsend, especially if you have kids at home, or you suddenly discover your partner or house mate makes a surprising number of business calls and Zoom chats during the day,’ says Chris. ‘The Bose Headphones 700 over-ear noise-cancellers are the best you can buy,’ aadvises David. A webcam is also a good investment if you find yourself spending a lot of time in video conference calls. Don’t forget a few choice desk accessories, and, if you rely on your daily caffeine fix to make you productive, you can always add in a great coffee machine (see how to choose a coffee maker).