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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh, NC

    Home office improvements

    Before covid, I was never one to work from home much. I had some co-workers who would do once a week but for me it was just a handful of times a year. Last March, like many, we were sent home to work and I've been working from home since. I was talking with a friend last week and realized that I had my office setup working OK but that I hadn't made changes in months and that in some ways I was just getting by. My friend had recently bought a new office chair and another had bought a glass chair mat. Since my buddy is close in size and build to me, I hit an Office Depot last week and tried a bunch of chairs and then ordered the same one he has. Next on my list of improvements is to buy a new monitor and a dual monitor mount to reclaim some desk space. The desk that I'm using wasn't purchased with 3 monitors (really 2 and a MacBook), in mind and it's a little small.

    My current setup is with 3 screens with the two on the sides at an angle. The left screen is my MacBook (on a holder to lift it up near the height of the other 2) that's used for a mix of stuff - work and personal - basically a Chrome Browser with about 50 tabs. I have a 27" screen in front of me that I consider primary (it's where all the 'real work' gets done). I have a 22" screen on the right that I mostly use for Email and Teams. My desk is basically a 4.5' by 2' table that had a 3 drawer filing cabinet under it. I pulled the cabinet out on the right as extra table space and it's often where I keep a notebook (and my water).

    I'm thinking about other improvements so I figured, it would make a good discussion thread. What have you done to setup or improve your home office? I'm interested in everything from basic stuff to unique ideas.

    Also, if anyone has advice on purchasing a monitor or monitor arms, I'll take it! Realized that I've always just used monitors provided at work and I've never bought a decent monitor myself.

    I've also looked at adjustable height desks as I consider standing part of the day (never done it so I'm not sure if it would be a waste of money).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Get a sit/stand desk. Much better for you than sitting all day. Do some research and some bargains can be found for them online. Too many of the desks are way overpriced.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by willywoody View Post
    Get a sit/stand desk. Much better for you than sitting all day. Do some research and some bargains can be found for them online. Too many of the desks are way overpriced.
    This is something that I haven't looked at before last week. When I was in Office Depot there were some there. Most were electric and pretty expensive. One was manual (which I tested), had no price tag. Of course ads for these are now showing up on my social media feed and the cost seems to be all over the place (seems like lots of companies like to sell $1500 stand up desks).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada (Ohio born and raised)
    I tried a sit/stand desk for awhile but I just wasn’t as productive standing and didn’t really find it to be comfortable.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by elvis14 View Post
    This is something that I haven't looked at before last week. When I was in Office Depot there were some there. Most were electric and pretty expensive. One was manual (which I tested), had no price tag. Of course ads for these are now showing up on my social media feed and the cost seems to be all over the place (seems like lots of companies like to sell $1500 stand up desks).
    If you have a Costco card, this one works well at a great price. I like it but the bottom crossbar is a bit in the way. The USB ports for charging are nice. It’s a bit small but works fine.
    https://www.costco.com/tresanti-47%2...100664030.html

    Uplift has great products. My real office uses their dual arms.
    https://www.upliftdesk.com/desk-acce.../monitor-arms/

  6. #6
    Put your laptop on the middle rack of the refrigerator. That way you can eat and work without interruption. The refrigerator light adds a nice backlit touch when you are on Zoom.

    Now if I could figure out the bathroom part, my office would be complete.
    ~rthomas

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Durham, NC
    I recently bought a Samsung monitor from Best Buy ($90) for my second monitor. Work would only provide me with one. Works fine.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by rthomas View Post
    Put your laptop on the middle rack of the refrigerator. That way you can eat and work without interruption. The refrigerator light adds a nice backlit touch when you are on Zoom.

    Now if I could figure out the bathroom part, my office would be complete.
    It has not happened to me personally yet but I know multiple people who have been on a Zoom call when someone forgot to take the appropriate steps before bringing their phone/computer into the restroom. In one, a trickle and flush was distinctly heard, in the other an appendage was spotted. The struggle is real.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vermont
    Quote Originally Posted by rthomas View Post
    Put your laptop on the middle rack of the refrigerator. That way you can eat and work without interruption. The refrigerator light adds a nice backlit touch when you are on Zoom.

    Now if I could figure out the bathroom part, my office would be complete.
    You can use those handy pull out veggie drawers for your bathroom needs should you so desire...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by rthomas View Post
    Put your laptop on the middle rack of the refrigerator. That way you can eat and work without interruption. The refrigerator light adds a nice backlit touch when you are on Zoom.

    Now if I could figure out the bathroom part, my office would be complete.
    LOL, I'll take that under advisement. If you get the bathroom part figured out...please do NOT post photos!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    https://www.standupdeskstore.com/sta...standing-desks

    I have a Humanscale desk but it was pricey. Bought my daughter the first one at this site and have been happy.

  12. #12
    I'll throw out some oddball stuff.

    tl;dr version: a) buy top of line chair, or use an wooden chair. b) Consider a new monitor if yours is more than a few years old; even if you think it's fine, it may be dimming.



    Mrs. cspan started working from home and commandeered my treasured ergonomic Steelcase chair, which I had snagged for a song in a surplus sale from a previous employer long ago. It I tried a few other office chairs from the usual local retail stores, and within a couple weeks I was sitting on the pan. They were all terrible. I haven't ponied up for a Herman Miller Aeron or a Steelcase Leap yet, but after the last terrible chair, I simply took an unpadded wooden chair from our dining room. Yet it was more comfortable than the office chairs I had tried. I've not in any rush to get a real office chair now. I now remember studying in the reading rooms in the East Library (now called Lilly?), and it wasn't bad at all then. It's still not bad now. Mediocre office chairs are actually much worse. Oh, and she got my really great chairmat too. Thick and rigid, so you don't sink into it. I have yet to find a replacement its equal. This talk of glass chair mats?? What? Sounds crazy. Maybe on hardwood but not on Persian rug or carpet.

    Standing desk: we had a cabinet/cubby area right above some counterspace that looked like it would just perfectly fit my then-current computer monitor, a really old 20" Dell. I decided to upgrade my main monitor (just a $100 Acer 24" 1080p from Costco) and test out that cubby as a standing desk area by placing the old monitor and a Raspberry Pi back there, along with a TKL keyboard, mouse, and speakers. It's kind of nice, but I don't think I could stand there for hours without maybe a high stool, like a high-seated draftsman's chair / art / architect chair that I could occasionally sit down on. And then if I did, the monitor would be too high at that point, since the cubby is not height-adjustable. I would only get a standing desk if the surface and monitor height were both adjustable.

    But that experience did reveal something to me - my old monitor's backlight had faded significantly over the years, and I didn't realize it until I brought the new one home and saw the difference. Wow, it was like I was being gaslighted by my computer. So watch out if you have an old monitor. Turn up the brightness all the way, and if it's not too bright for you, you may need to replace it.

    My main desk is a 30x60 double pedestal cherry desk, very traditional, not very tech-oriented in design, but provides a nice large work surface (what I value most) and good organization.

    I have a new scanner (Epson V600), just replacing an older worn-out one. Just worked my way through 2,000 color negatives and 200 slides of family pix. It's too big for permanent desktop placement; when I'm done with archiving other print photos I will probably downgrade to their V19 or V39, one of which has an unusually small footprint due to being able to be laterally propped at an angle.
    Laptop needs replacement, whenever I resume traveling. No point in doing it now when it will still be a few to several months before I'm vaccinated.
    Desktop PC (a tower) is quite old, and could go at any time, but it works great and is still fast. When I bought it, I paid up to get key features/specs and future-proofed to a significant degree.
    Printer is just a Brother monochrome laser. Has about 45% life left ... getting more use from Mrs. Cspan's working from home. I would buy another Brother.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    northern Virginia
    I'll add another vote for a stand-up desk. I've been working from home for the past 4.5 years. I'm happy I invested in:

    - an adjustable height desk - I bought a Jarvis desk with a bamboo surface similar to this - https://www.fully.com/jarvis-adjusta...sk-bamboo.html. There are options on surfaces and sizes, and I think I got a larger size than the one in the photo. (I'm on vacation now, so I can't check the size and can't recall the online site I bought it from.)

    - an ergonomic chair - the brand is X-chair, and I think the model is the X2

    - an adjustable height "wobble" stool - this adds additional positions besides sitting or standing. The bottom is slightly convex, so it can "rock" a bit. I believe the theory is the convex bottom forces you to use your core for balance. Weird at first, but you get used to it.Having this variety comes in handy if you're working from home full time. I don't recall where I bought the stool (somewhere online), but it is on Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/ONGO-Classic-.../dp/B01BI7GI9U (worth clicking on the link for the hilarious typo in the 2nd bullet point of the description)

    - in addition to the monitor my company provided, I bought an additional of similar size (about 27"). Each is on a little platform/shelf about 5 inches high. My laptop stays "docked" and I use an external keyboard connected through the dock.

    My wife has been working from home since last March, and her company provided a VariDesk top to go on an old desk we had. They also provided a 2nd monitor. But she's still using an old, basic arm-less desk chair that had no back support. Now that she may be working from home indefinitely, we need to look into a nice chair. We'll look at the X-Chair, but will also consider other brands.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Richmond, VA
    I was a work-from-home guy even before the pandemic. I do a lot of AutoCAD drawing so I had to go with a decent PC and dual 27" monitors. But my personal favorite additions are on the audio side...

    I really like to listen to tunes while I work. Doesn't need to be loud but I like it to sound good! Here's my current setup -

    Software - You need to be able to play the best sounding tunes on your PC, I recommend Tidal -

    "While HiFi audio is a superior sound, it is still limited in its resolution —44.1 kHz /16 bit. TIDAL has partnered with MQA to deliver audio in an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit) with the highest possible resolution—as flawless as it sounded in the mastering suite and precisely as the artist intended. TIDAL is one of the only services to render 24-bit master files streamable on portable devices as it uses a state-of-the-art MQA compression process."

    DAC - Something has to change all those 1s and 0s to analog! I love the Audioquest DACs, all of them are miles above whatever DACs you are going to get in a PC. I've got the Red

    Small Amp - You can go all over the place with this but I happen to be using an older B&K They went out of business a few years back but made some great stuff before that. Don't need a lot of power, just something built with good components.

    Speakers - Probably, other than the source material, the biggest "difference maker". Don't try to go huge, just get a pair of nice bookshelf speakers that you can work into your desk situation. I have a pair from one of my all-time favorite manufacturers, Totem Acoustic. Totem Mites.
    Definitely go somewhere where you can demo speakers since everyone's tastes are different. Take some of your own music and listen for a few minutes if possible.


    That's just my $.02...
    Last edited by Nrrrrvous; 02-16-2021 at 08:32 AM. Reason: punctuation is my friend
    "That young man has an extra step on his ladder the rest of us just don't have."

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    Might want to consider a battery backup

    I recently replaced my old laptop with an updated desktop/tower computer. Although I'd never purchased a battery backup before, I felt uncomfortable with the possibility of data loss due to an unexpected power dip. That had not been a consideration with the laptop due to its internal battery.

    So I bought an APC backup unit with the ability to power the desktop for about an hour. However if we were to lose power, what I would do is immediately save my data and shut down the desktop.

    Once I got it set up, I realized that there was an unexpected benefit to the setup. For any power outage that might run up to half a day or a little more, the backup battery can be used to charge cell phones or similar devices. Their demand is much lower than the desktop (about 100 watts). I also put our wi-fi router on the backup so if the power is off line for a while, we'll still have internet access through our phones - which we can keep charged.

    So even though I felt a little bad about spending the money for the backup unit initially, I was really pretty satisfied when I caught onto the unexpected benefit that it provided.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vermont
    speaking of battery backup, do any of you folks have experience with whole house battery backup? Big big Tesla type units in the garage, good to keep the house running completely for a day or two...I have a backup generator, but I'm intrigued...

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Thanks for the good suggestions, keep them coming. I'm really starting to think that I'll consider a standing desk. Thanks for the links an info...

    Nrrrrvous - good reminder about the music. I generally run Pandora on my MacBook. When I was in the office, I used some decent headphones and the sound was OK. But here at home, I generally have just been using the MacBook speakers (yes, I realized you just threw up a little)...and they are not good. At the very least, for starters I can use a decent Bluetooth speaker I have and then make real improvements (although not to your level...my ears aren't that good anymore!).

    Ggallagher, good idea with the battery backup.

    Amazon has me a bit spoiled. The site I ordered my chair and glass chair mat from has great prices and free shipping but when I ordered the site says that items will be shipped in 7-10 days. That's a fine tradeoff for the amount of $$ I saved but I had to remind myself to be patient, I've gotten spoiled by Amazon's free 2 day shipping. Note, the site is called govets.com and I found it because a friend posted a Facebook post about an 18 wheeler delivering his glass chair mat!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington, DC area
    Quote Originally Posted by Ggallagher View Post
    I recently replaced my old laptop with an updated desktop/tower computer. Although I'd never purchased a battery backup before, I felt uncomfortable with the possibility of data loss due to an unexpected power dip. That had not been a consideration with the laptop due to its internal battery.

    So I bought an APC backup unit with the ability to power the desktop for about an hour. However if we were to lose power, what I would do is immediately save my data and shut down the desktop.

    Once I got it set up, I realized that there was an unexpected benefit to the setup. For any power outage that might run up to half a day or a little more, the backup battery can be used to charge cell phones or similar devices. Their demand is much lower than the desktop (about 100 watts). I also put our wi-fi router on the backup so if the power is off line for a while, we'll still have internet access through our phones - which we can keep charged.

    So even though I felt a little bad about spending the money for the backup unit initially, I was really pretty satisfied when I caught onto the unexpected benefit that it provided.
    I have a couple apc smart ups 1500s. One runs my router and power-over-Ethernet APs, so with a power outage, I still have internet (so long as Verizon is still up). The other supports my AV setup, mostly for power conditioning and to be sure the TiVo doesn’t have to restart in the middle of a game. Pepco used to really suck, with outages any time it got too windy.

    -jk

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Quote Originally Posted by -jk View Post
    I have a couple apc smart ups 1500s. One runs my router and power-over-Ethernet APs, so with a power outage, I still have internet (so long as Verizon is still up). The other supports my AV setup, mostly for power conditioning and to be sure the TiVo doesn’t have to restart in the middle of a game. Pepco used to really suck, with outages any time it got too windy.

    -jk
    That's the same thing I bought, and I've been very happy with it.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Richmond, VA
    Quote Originally Posted by -jk View Post
    I have a couple apc smart ups 1500s. One runs my router and power-over-Ethernet APs, so with a power outage, I still have internet (so long as Verizon is still up). The other supports my AV setup, mostly for power conditioning and to be sure the TiVo doesn’t have to restart in the middle of a game. Pepco used to really suck, with outages any time it got too windy.

    -jk
    Quote Originally Posted by Ggallagher View Post
    That's the same thing I bought, and I've been very happy with it.
    Great minds. I have the same one. One power glitch without one will remind you what a pain it is. Absolute must-have.
    "That young man has an extra step on his ladder the rest of us just don't have."

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