Home Office

In the same way, your business takes Health and Safety seriously when you are working in an office the same needs to hold true if you are serious about long term remote working.

Internet

For stable internet what we mean here is rock-solid, consistent, doesn’t drop any packets which gives your video calls that uninterrupted, I’ve forgotten you are sitting in a different city, type of feeling. Not all Wifi connections are created equal so if you are having issues explore other options like changing the WiFi channels you connect to, wiring directly into your router or connect to a Mifi device. The important thing is to establish a connection that stops those annoying dropouts. So if your colleagues are always telling you that you have frozen … again, then look to see if you can fix your Wifi or find an alternative.

Dual Screens

One screen for seeing your workmates, one for doing your work. If you want to keep your social connections and work at the same time it’s essential to have two screens. A video call with the other people sitting behind your active window is as good as voice only (except they might see you picking your nose). Dual screens is especially useful when facilitating workshops as it allows you to read the “room” and the overall mood of the participants.

Headset & Mic

Good sound quality is important as it takes less effort on a call if you don’t have to constantly ask the speaker to repeat themselves and just because they are expensive audiophile headphones they may not be suitable for video conferencing. What’s most important is the microphone, as this isn’t for you it is for your teammates. A headset with a microphone that dangles a foot from your head on a wire, brushing against your clothing, makes it difficult for others to hear you. If you are using one of these in-line microphones, be sure to hold on to it (yes, I know this no longer makes it hands-free) to prevent the excess noise. For the best experience, consider getting a headset with a boom mike, preferably a model that includes noise-cancelling microphones or even a good quality desk mic if you are in a quiet space. Recent MacBooks (and presumably other laptops) have pretty decent microphones, while these might be okay for conference calls, they don’t work well when you are trying to type and talk at the same time (pairing, taking notes, etcetera), as the noise from your fingers hammering the keys will be distracting to others. The worst option would be a headset with a microphone built into the earpieces. Sadly, this includes some expensive, very comfortable headphones that seem to have terrible microphones built into them. These headsets (with microphones built into the earpieces) can create a poor experience for others on the call. But whatever you use, ask for feedback to make sure you can be heard clearly.

Dedicated Space

Make sure you have plenty of desk space so you can fit your dual monitors and a space that is dedicated to work. A separate room is preferable, but if that’s not available, a space that is designated for work helps keep your work-life separate. Some of our colleagues use a room divider (like a dressing screen), which is quite a cheap but effective way of separating your 'office' from the rest of the room if you are sharing space. You feel like you're 'going to work' when in that area. And it has the added benefit of making your video background a bit more professional.

Pro-desk and Chair

For the same reason you need good quality office furniture when you are in the office. You don’t want to end up with a bad back because you picked up a cheap bar stool. A cost-effective chair option is a gaming chair, they tend to be pretty comfy, have lots of adjustment features but a fraction of the price of ‘pro’ or ‘exec’ type chairs.

Drawing tools

Many teams working in a co-located office come to live around a whiteboard to sketch out how the software or processes will work. There is no reason to give that up when working remotely. Using a real graphics tablet and stylus with associated drawing software such as MS Whiteboard makes for a good way to collaboratively create and share ideas. . Don’t bother using a mouse as it makes it quite hard to draw. Consider the Wacom Intuos (small with Bluetooth) as a great entry-level tablet or an iPad with the pencil. These kinds of sessions lean on the fact that the sketches are freeform and an aid to the conversation rather than a prescriptive box and line tool. However, if you want everyone to collaborate they all need the equipment to ensure equal access.