Working From Home: Part 2 – The Software & Hardware
In part 2 of this series, I will discuss what kind of technology that you can use for meetings, computer tech, etc etc etc. I will breakdown ways you can make an office at home and it doesn’t involve buying the most expensive items or the most expensive software.
When it comes to monitors, I don’t think you need a 4K 120HZ that is 40 inches. I currently have 2 monitors, they are Dell monitors and they get the job done, they aren’t meant for watching movies, or creating films. I am a coder, and I do a lot of reading on screen so my monitors are more calibrated to have easy to read text, so I am not straining my eyes. I would say always go with 2 monitors, never work off your laptop especially if its a 13-inch compact. Use the ports to create a workstation, thats why the ports are there. Most of my monitors were bought when a company or home office was closing down. But I did get some top of the line monitors for cheap, nowadays you can’t really do that due to the many lockdowns happening. So if you are searching for monitors online, check for deals, newegg, best buy, amazon, and don’t go crazy if you don’t need to. And also check with your office first if you are moving to remote. Some of my friends have told me that their work has let them take home their workstation and see if you can, it’s a way that can save you money.
Microsoft Teams is my go-to communication software for working together. Yes, I know there is Slack but when it comes to tele conferencing, Slack charges for a lot of the features and with companies needing to save money I would say go with teams…unless of course your company already has a productivity system that they don’t utilize. Which sounds crazy but some companies my friends work for just realized they have Microsoft Teams and Yammer, and some others have Google’s team chat system and video conferencing. It’s one of those things that people tend to ignore when they get an email about a feature update, most don’t read them. So, if your workplace already has an office productivity system like Office 365 or Google Drive, check out and see what is included in it app wise.
Also if you are needing a system for conferencing, I would say go with Zoom, Zoom is easy to use and is supported on a variety of devices and what I love about it, is if you need to bring an outside person into a call you can just email them the call in number and conference code and it will work. Now do you need to go out and buy a super duper 4K web cam? no not really. I think with the fact that a ton of people are at home nowadays, having the video on might not be the best idea. Especially with the bandwidth and having so many people streaming. I have seen the internet buckle in the area I live because everyone is at home and all the children are streaming. If you think about it, kids are doing online courses, families are streaming and working from home, the internet is probably under a lot of stress.
When it comes to conferencing, I get asked about how often do we do it. I know with the out of sight bosses tend to think that their workers are eating Cheetos and just binge-watching Netflix and not doing any work. Nope that’s actually the kids. I think it all comes down to what the job requires. My team will just do stand ups on a per need basis. So, once a week and maybe near the end of the project we do daily half an hour calls. But does your job need to do that? This is something you should talk to your workers about cause when you do the math, if you are doing 1-hour long stand ups every day, that is 5 hours lost a week. And if they go into 2 hours, and you have 8 hours in a day. That only gives you 6 hours to get everything done and if you are short 2 hours then it can become counterproductive.
Also one last thing, if you are going to use a web cam make sure you set it up and actually test the mic and video cause I have been on so many calls where people do not test the mic or video and I always see the top of their heads or they are muted and they keep talking in the video and scramble to try to figure out why you all can’t hear them.
The Work Computer
If your office waited till now to buy a laptop for you to work remote…they might have trouble finding anything. All the Costco’s and best buys in my area have nothing under 500 dollars. And 500 dollars is the sweet spot when it comes to a work computer. If you are just using zoom, teams, and office for work and nothing else, then you don’t need more than 8 gigs. If you are a dev, you are probably like me and have a machine that is decked out to your liking.
Now can you do work on your personal computer? This is a little bit of a grey area. When it comes to me, I work on my work laptop, until something needs to be checked in mac and in that case I actually have another account on my mac, but there is no email, nothing company related, it is just a QA account for testing things in a native iOS / macOS environment. I would advise against mixing business on your personal computer cause depending on the company you work for, checking your work stuff on a non VPNed machine is a big no no. The best thing to do is to check with the IT team and ask them about it before you add anything to your home computer.
From JIRA, to ASANA there are quite of number of task management apps out there. From the basic to the enterprise level. If you already use one or have purchased one, then definitely take advantage of it. If you have slack or teams, these chat systems integrate with most productivity software and what I love about these if someone makes a task update and tags me then I will be notified via the chat app. Which one is my favorite? Well it depends on what the company is doing, enterprise agile work…JIRA, or QA ticketing and client requests. Asana. Or in some cases I will use Microsoft To Do if it’s a smaller team and project.
Now if you are a manager who is used to having a bulletin board of sticky notes in front of you and you are worried about not having the board in front of you, these productivity tools have it on a digital bulletin board and you shouldn’t be afraid of using something in the cloud.
Now another type of productivity software is Office 365 or Google Suite. These type of tools are cloud based, being able to share and make notes on documents in real time is something all companies should be taking advantage of. Also with these tools, I would be sure to enable shared calendars cause it helps make scheduling meetings so much easier when everyone can see when your busy or when you work time is cause you don’t want to be that person spamming “when are you free” for a meeting every single day.
You don’t need a printer, seriously you don’t since who are you going to give the papers to? The only real accessories that I went and bought was a comfy chair, an ergonomical keyboard and mouse cause my wrists would end up hurting after a few hours and being a developer, you can’t have that happen, so I invested in my own keyboard.
When it comes to accessories, see what your business can provide to you. Most are willing to accommodate a home office setting by giving you the tools.
Password Managers and Two Step and company VPN’s
Now one thing that companies might want to invest in since they are fully remote are company password managers. With the ever expanding remote suddenly taking over and having to remember passwords, I would say the company might want to invest in an password manager to help manager and not worry about having to remember so many passwords and with the fact that a lot of users do use the same basic super simple password, this could help elevate the IT departments stress of having to send out a company wide email every time someone gets phished.
Another thing that could help the IT department not to go crazy over the fact a lot of their users are working remote now, is the fact is if all the users have two-step enabled. This is an extra layer of security for when you are working remote. It is a way to make sure your stuff isn’t stolen and to keep people from fully able to log into anything even if they get the password.
And finally, if your company wants to truly make sure your safe and secure. Then they will invest in a business VPN that protects the company’s data, if you don’t know how a VPN works then you can look it up. There are a lot of VPN’s out there and there are quite a number that are more business focused or maybe your company already uses one, then you are good to go. Oh and just in case you don’t know VPN’s can slow down your speed because you’re running a protective shell around your computer, but that’s something that happens when you are protecting your system.
Utilizing the technology while working remote does also takes an adjustment. You can’t just look at the technology but you actually have to use it and use it right. Actually trying to understand the technology, such as reading up on it or watching how to videos can help cut time having to relearn the tasks over and over again or even cutting down on the remote work adjustment. Also be sure you help teach the rest of the team so they can as well take full advantage of the tech.