Now into my 20th year of working primarily from home, it's time to share some of the most effective tools I've found to get the work done. Most of my time is spent at a dedicated workstation in a spare bedroom of my house, but often I need to be "remote" from my home office so portability and flexibility is needed. Read on for more!
Quite a bit of my time is spent writing and I used to rely on whatever was the cheapest keyboard I could find, or what came with the PC. When I upgraded to a Logitech G213 keyboard, it made a world of difference in my typing ability over a cheaper, chicklet-style model. This isn't to say the G213 is expensive by any means, as it's one of the least expensive keyboards of its type and well worth the money. It's worth noting that even for the clutter they bring and limited range, I prefer wired devices including my mouse and keyboard. The only negative is that this keyboard has spoiled me and when I go mobile, my laptop and iPad keyboards are now more difficult to type with.
Video calls are a normal part of working from home and there are a couple of tools I use to present myself as well as possible to the people I'm meeting with. Over the years I have tested dozens of the top webcams and I find myself coming back to the Logitech Brio time and again. It's the oldest webcam I own, but overall I've found it to be the best "all-around" camera for video calls and content creation. While the Brio has an automatic exposure setting that adjusts itself to changing conditions, I like to control the lighting in my room whenever possible. For that I use a combination of Neewer's 14" Ring light and Blackout Curtains from NiceTown. Blackout curtains are excellent to block sunlight, which may cause a poor video chat experience. An ancillary benefit is a slight reduction in room temperature without the sun beating into your home office. Note though, no matter what anyone says, these curtains do not - and I repeat - do not - block sound so please don't buy them if you think they will help reduce any outdoor noise. A light ring is great for both video chats and photography. The Neewer has a dimmer and color temperature controls and ships with its own sturdy tripod.
When I need to go mobile, whether it's to an outside office, coffee shop or even my back porch, I take one of two devices depending on what work needs done.
The HP Spectre X360 is my current laptop of choice and has been for a couple of years now. It is relatively light and small and has good battery life. It has a touchscreen and a stylus, but I've never been a fan of a Windows-based touch experience on a small screen so the stylus has been lost and screen rarely gets touched. The keyboard is good, but like I mentioned above, it's getting harder to readjust away from my G213. I use the laptop when I'm writing in Word or need Windows specific tools. My only complaint with the X360 has been fan noise, which can get very loud and is a known problem. Hopefully, HP has addressed this in newer versions.
An 11" iPad Pro is likely the most used piece of gear I own. If I could choose just one device to be by my side at all times, it's the iPad that wins even over my iPhone and certainly over a laptop. Unlike a touch laptop, my fingers are all over the iPad screen and I've found that it is much easier to clean than screen of my HP. When I need to write, I pair the iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard. I will likely not use a third party keyboard again with an iPad. The connection between the iPad and the Magic Keyboard is immediate, stable and requires no setup. The keyboard experience is "good" and I like the track pad. Sure it's bulky and heavy, but I wouldn't switch to another keyboard based on weight or size. The only thing I don't care for is the Microsoft Word experience with the iPad. Google Docs is much better with the iPad, but if I need to use Word, I will opt for the laptop.
When the workday has wrapped up I like to spend some time on my back porch winding down and watching my dogs run around the yard. It's a great time for glass of bourbon before starting dinner. I like my bourbon neat in a Glencairn glass. If you've never used one of these glasses, I highly recommend it!
Working from home may not be ideal for everyone, but if you can set yourself up with the right tools, it can be a rewarding experience. For more information of the audio tools I use, check out my recently published blog here.
About the Author
Bryan Hellard is a tech reviewer and researcher for products in Unified Communications. He has over 20 years of experience in the industry across several roles, including product engineering and management, R&D, and end user consulting. He can be contacted at: Bryan@uctestlab.com.
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