You may have set up a hasty home office due to sudden and unexpected work-from-home orders. Working from the kitchen table, using virtual backgrounds to hide your virtual learning children, might have been good enough for a couple months. As more businesses resume normal conditions, many offices are finding benefits in having a good percentage of their staff as remote workers. Even some, like Twitter and Square are deciding to keep work from home as an option even after COVID-19.
So, if you decide to continue to work from home, it might benefit you to take a few steps to make sure you optimize your experience. We asked Darrn Knapp from Poly, who has worked remotely both at-home and on the road for years, to offer his tips about what equipment you need to effectively work from home.
1. Laptop Computer
When we brainstormed about what is the most important equipment to work from home, Darren hits us with some common sense straight away. “It should be the laptop, right? It’s kind of a fundamental basic, right, and most employees have laptops these days. We’ve kind of moved away from the workstation and the monitor, so I don’t think too many employees were hauling their workstation underneath their arm.”
So, for sure, a laptop and a high speed Internet connection is crucial. It can run the programs needed to perform the duties of your job, and it is critical for keeping up with those deliverables.
2. Desktop Phone and Headset
The first consideration of specialized equipment to work from home is your audio endpoint. Sure, you already have a laptop, which can run a softphone application, but as Darren points out, you might want “to be able to elevate the experience and have something that’s going to do much better than the built in components on that laptop.”
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A desktop phone works the best, because it is a specialized device meant to perform best at its task. If your company is using a Unified Communications solution, they will likely have a recommendation for your desktop phone. Perhaps you have one back at the office you can disconnect, then bring home and hook to your Internet modem to connect to the network.
If you are looking to buy or select a phone for your home office, be sure to consult with your IT manager to make sure it will work with your internal system.
In order to filter out distractions, a headset is highly recommended. One with dedicated noise reduction capabilities goes a long way, too. “Think about how do my surroundings affect the call, the dog starts barking or the lawnmower is going by the front? Or are those things affecting my conference call. Again, if you’ve got noise reduction technologies at play, that’s going to help a lot.
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So now, between the laptop and a good audio connection, what is left?
3. Webcam for Presentations
The presentation software Zoom has risen to prominence due to its intuitive interface and functional packages. It also has taken huge leaps in normalizing video calls in the USA. That means you will very likely be expected to at least dress professionally from the waist up and have a webcam capable of handling your interaction.
Again, your laptop will already have a functional webcam. Those who hold virtual meetings frequently, such as William Balvanz, Training Specialist at Voyant, you can find a few downsides to this arrangement. “The camera on the laptop is never in the right place, I cannot make eye contact with my ‘audience’ while I am looking at my presentation materials, and it always makes it look like I am staring off.”
Even great laptops with retina display monitors seldom have better than 720p resolution. As Darren puts it, “It’s not a cheap laptop, but that is not a good quality video. It’s just not really solid.”
So, a dedicated webcam can offer that next step in professionalism. Being able to position the camera where it works better for you, as well as higher quality and more options for light adjustments and color correction can make you look as good as possible. There are even small cameras that can track motion, so you can present from an actual whiteboard or show real products remotely in an engaging manner.
Darren loves this feature, “we’re doing a live demo. You know, I like to walk around and I like to talk and stuff. And so if I’m over here, the camera will actually refrain here in a second as it sees that I’ve moved and says, oh, Darren’s over here and he’s standing over here. So it automatically reframes me. The technology was actually built for a conference room where you’ve got multiple people talking. But even in the home environment, this works.”
The three best pieces of equipment you should gather in order to have a productive and successful work-from-home experience, is a laptop, a phone to interact through audio, and a webcam for video.