Working remotely is one of the best benefits there is but it has its pitfalls too.
At Alexi, we know all about that because we’ve been remote-first since Day 1, pre-covid. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making remote work happen and when it comes to building an inclusive and resilient culture from afar. But all of that starts at home.
Ensuring you have a healthy environment is crucial to successfully working remote. Sometimes that means investing a little, sometimes it’s just a question of organization or mentality.
I’m going to talk about my practices through the lens of my own workspace because I recently remade it from scratch based on all the things I’ve learned over time. This incorporates things I’ve learned over several years through my own experienced and from others.
So, without further ado, let’s get into my 10 best remote workplace tools.
1. Ergonomic Chair
You likely spend over 1000 hours every year in your office chair. Everyone who has ever had a bad chair can attest to the aches and pains they cause. Many chairs are great for an hour or two, but when you’re spending 40+ hours a week in them you start noticing their deficiencies real quick. So, first and foremost, before you spend time or money on anything else: get a good chair.
2. Quality Video-Conferencing Equipment
I hate spending money on webcams and microphones, especially when my laptop has both built in. But dedicated microphones and webcams provide so much more quality that it can be very worthwhile to invest the money to look and sound more professional. You might not notice any benefits yourself, but others will.
You should spend some time figuring out what features you want and/or need. Personally, I would suggest you look for the following, at a minimum:
In a webcam: 1080p @ 30fps, autofocus, privacy cover.
In a microphone: a USB condenser microphone. Make it a cardioid mic if you want to block sounds from behind the microphone too.
You would always make an effort to look and sound your best in real life. Are you making that same effort virtually? If not, realize that progressively more people are doing so. So, secondly: get good video conferencing equipment.
3. Screen-Space & Place
Consider a 2 or even 3 monitor setup. It greatly improves productivity. Multiple screens allow you to work on things without having to constantly alt-tab. I’m typing this on the left side of my 27” main screen, while the accompanying image sits on the top right, with Tidal below it, and with slack on my laptop screen.
Modern monitors come in a huge variety, do your research. New monitors cover everything from $100 basic monitors to $2,000 50” super ultrawide monitors that physically curve around you, engulfing you in a new reality. Each has upsides and drawbacks. You’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle. Personally, I look for high refresh rates, 1440p, and KVM switches.
As well, think about the height and angle of the screens. As with the chair, ergonomics are really important here, so spend some time making sure everything is lined up properly. If you’re using a laptop and an external monitor, you may need a laptop stand and/or riser, but these are generally not very expensive. $10-20 is a very worthwhile investment in keeping yourself healthy.What you can see matters so consider going to get a second monitor to increase your view. If you already have one, or if you can’t get one right now, you can still think about how to arrange your available screen space to best suit your needs.
4. Desk-Top Items
My Desk-Top essentials are (see if you can spot them all):
Gaming Mouse & Mechanical Keyboard for better ergonomics
Cup of __________ (coffee/water/tea), on a coaster
Wireless charging pad
Wireless Earbuds (for phone calls)
Mood-Lighting Salt-Lamp & Flamingo
Rubiks Cube/other toy for distraction
Last, but certainly not least, a photo of my fiancee
5. Hi-Fi Audio & Doubled Space
This is so important to me it gets its own category. I love to listen to music while I work. And I also spend a fair amount of time in meetings. To make sure I get a good sound quality I’ve spent the last few years saving and slowly buying better audio equipment.
Better quality audio lets me turn down the volume while being able to make out more and so helps to save my hearing. This helps prevent me from going ‘WHAT?!’ at the tinny voices assaulting my ear.Audio stuff is expensive but may be worth saving for because a good audio setup makes meetings a breeze, and music a joy.
6. Greased Lightning?
Protect your equipment and organize your cables (as best you can…mine aren’t great). Make sure your electrical setup is appropriate to what you’re running on it.
7. Secondary Spaces
I love having a second chair I can move into. It makes my small space feel much bigger, and it totally changes the character of my workspace. Set up a secondary space, it makes working from home feel more spacious and less constrained.
8. Furry Friends
Can your furry friend hang out near you? It’s hard to be angry when someone so cute is right next to you. Make your furry friend feel at home in your space, it will help you keep your stress levels down, and you’ll feel less lonely. Admittedly this only works if they’re well behaved.
9. Inspire Yourself
Find some art or other things to put up near you - things that excite you. It’s easier to reach your potential and enjoy what you’re doing when you’re inspired. So, inspire yourself with meaningful visual pieces. Personally, I use old-timey tobacco advertisements. One of my favourites is a 1930s Phillip Morris ad showing a bellboy and advertising Phillip Morris’ health benefits. It makes me realize that even when change feels slow, we’re still moving and how different the world is today.
I’m not by any means a clock watcher, but there’s just something about having a big analog clock above me that makes the space feel more professional somehow. Make your decor feel professional, it makes working from home feel more spacious and less constrained.