When I tell people that I work remotely, I am often confronted with this idealistic vision of remote work: They imagine a person sitting at the beach or in a remote cottage in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but his laptop.
Can we be productive with such a work setup? Does it matter where I work? There are certainly times when you can (or should) work in exotic locations, but most of the time, working in the middle of nowhere or on a beach just doesn’t work.
And there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the environment we work in matters a lot.
So what is a good setup? What are the basic elements you need to set up a productive workspace for remote working?
When I first started working remotely, I had my laptop and I worked on my kitchen table or on my couch. This configuration suited me for a while, but I soon realized that it was not enough.
I was missing a real desk with all the accessories you inevitably need when you work: a printer, a pen and paper (yes, I still print things and write on paper), but also an outlet to charge my laptop and my phone. Also, since I do a lot of Zoom meetings, I need to connect my computer to the internet via a network cable to avoid my Wifi failure and to ensure good audio and video quality. In other words, I had to sit near my router.
I also realized that sitting – in fact slouching – on the couch for 10 hours a day was not very good for my posture and health. Plus, it didn’t look very professional during video meetings! Two more reasons to buy a desk and a good chair.
For me, the basic elements to arrange my work space are the following:
- my computer
- a good internet connection with the possibility to use a network cable instead of Wifi
- a webcam
- a headset,
- a desk and a good office chair
Let me explain why I need these elements :
Why use a cable when we now have WiFi everywhere? To stabilize your Internet connection. If you live (and/or work) in an area with a lot of wifi networks or if your bandwidth is not very good to begin with, your connection can become very slow, making video calls with more than one person almost impossible.
The solution is to connect a network cable to your router and disable wifi!
As I do a lot of virtual meetings, I also have a webcam (most new computers have one built in, but if you’re a fan of good video quality, you’d better buy a separate camera) and a good headset. If a camera is not essential, a good headset is a must!
Most portable headphones work, but they are not good enough to get good sound quality for a meeting. It is better to buy a USB headset (you can find a decent one for 30-40 EUR).
USB headphones are usually much better than the ones you plug into the jack.
Finally, if you work more than two hours a day in one place, it’s a good idea to get a table and a good (ergonomic) office chair. An alternative is a standing desk, which often takes up less space.
I haven’t tried one myself, but I know many people who have and are happy with their choice.
After researching the elements needed to set up a workspace for remote work, you have to decide where that place is.
- At home?
- In a shared office?
- In a co-working space?
For me, working alone at home was really nice at the beginning : no colleague or noise can disturb you ! It’s just that after a few weeks, I felt very lonely. That’s why I started working in a shared workspace a few days a week and sometimes in cafes.
Most remote workers I know work from different places: they have a home office, go to public spaces from time to time and also have access to a shared office or a co-working space.
I recommend you make sure you have at least one space where you can really work without being disturbed. There are times when you want to be in a bountiful space like a coffee shop or an open workspace, but your own workspace should give you the ability to cut yourself off from the world, so you can do the parts of your work that require focus and creativity.