With British Columbia entering Phase 2 of the Covid-19 reopening we can expect many people to be returning to work. With social distancing still recommended and after the successful “trial” period of the lock-down many companies and employees will be making working from home their new norm. A permanent/semi-permanent home office needs more consideration than a temporary one. What monitor do you need? Should you get a microphone? Should you spring for that standing desk? These are all considerations that will need to be considered by employees and employers alike. You want to invest the right amount to ensure the greatest amount of productivity, but do you really need a 144htz monitor? Is 4K resolution necessary for their work? Saga Events currently offers FREE CONSULTATION on what you should be looking at for a home-office set-up. The below is not a be-all list of what should be in your office as we all have different needs. If you’re going to be doing a lot of printing/scanning make sure you have a way to do so. If you deal with a lot of paperwork, make sure you have a filing cabinet. Plants will make you more comfortable in your space and a high speed internet is a must. We expect you know that and the below is instead a guide to help you make a decision on the hardware.
Know Their Role
Like most things, the first place to start is the understanding of what the space will be used for. Creatives will have different needs than those who only work on excel or word. Creatives will also have different needs depending on if they are working on print material or purely online content (we will get to this later). Will frequent online meetings become the norm or will they be largely left to their own work and come into the office periodically for updates or communicate purely by email? Once you have the basic understanding of what the space will be used for we can now look at the details of what you will need.
When considering a monitor there are basically 3 major things to consider for everybody (how many, what size, what resolution) and then a couple specialized considerations for creatives and those with other requirements. It’s not as simple as more & bigger is best. This is just a rough run-down but if you need more help feel free to get in touch.
How many - How many will largely depend on what you are doing. We recommend that almost everybody get a dedicated monitor for their office for two main reasons. The first is productivity. It is much easier to work on a larger screen or with a dual set-up using a laptop and any professional will benefit from this. The second is so your brain knows that when you’re sitting in front of that monitor it’s time to work. Simple psychological triggers like this help improve your workflow (as is largely why we recommend separating your “play” screens and your work area).
Two monitors provides you with much more working space and is what we consider the optimal “sweet spot” when it comes to how many you should consider getting. Two large screens greatly improves your productivity if you do work that requires multiple references, or you need to hop around between different apps and windows. Having a dedicated vertical screen is also optimal for those working with code. However, if your screen is mainly for emails and working on one task at a time then two screens will be overkill. Things like video editing will greatly benefit from at least two monitors especially in post production. If your employee is expected to edit, consider two screens, one for the feed and the other for a work station. This becomes a must if they are doing color accurate work as a reference monitor is a non-negotiable. If you need a third party to explain why this is the case feel free to get in touch, as there are also a few other accessories that will need to be considered (like a decklink).
*Note, if you’re getting multiple monitors ensure your work area has the space for them. Consider getting a screen arm mount to free up some desk space.
What Size - This is very subjective. We think if you’re working on just one monitor you want something around 24 - 27 inches, 32 or a wide screen is good for those editing footage as it provides a bigger working space but we think two 27s is a better choice than a widescreen or 32 (again, this is subjective and it would be best to discuss with your team what they are comfortable working on, the desk space you have and what the screens are being used for).
Resolution - When considering what resolution to get you need to consider purpose and the size you settled on. 4K is hot and there is more footage and content being released in 4K every day. For creatives there *may* be an argument for it. Photographers, people working in 3D etc could benefit from the sharper image but for most it is overkill. Since 4K footage has more pixels on the screen it means you can do more with whatever size monitor you pick. However, this also means that text looks incredibly small on anything smaller than a 32inch and is virtually unreadable at 24 or lower. You can scale your resolution if you need to but not all programs scale well so we recommend against this. The optimal resolution for most is 1440p (2.5K/QHD) or 1080p (FHD) depending on the size of the monitor. If you have the budget, the greater resolution frees up some more space to work and we recommend it for screen 27 - 32inch. With anything below 27inchs we think a 1080p resolution is the best and most content that you will need will be viewed at 1080p anyways. Even if you are editing 2.5 or 4K video footage you can edit them at a lower resolution and it won’t ruin the footage so you or your clients don’t need to worry about that.
Consideration for Creatives - Arguably the most important feature to consider for creatives is colour. We could write a full blog on colour (and we probably will) but put simply there are different colour ranges that a monitor can see. sRGB is what the internet uses. aRGB is what print uses. Then things like Rec.709, DCI-P3 or Rec 2020 come into play when dealing with video and the different areas they will be played/viewed. Put as simply as possible, if you are putting content out for the internet 100%sRGB is your goal, if you are editing designs/photos that will be printed then 100% aRGB is your goal and if you are doing video stuff you want at least 100% Rec.709 and possibly DCI-P3/Rec 2020 depending on what the footage is for. Feel free to shoot us a message if you have more questions.
What about refresh rate (hz)? - Honestly, there is little reason to get a computer that can handle greater refresh rates when it comes to most office settings. If your employee really needs it they will know and should be able to explain this to you. But the main reason is gaming. So, if you have an employee who’s going on and on about refresh rates (insisting on 144hz) but with no real reason, this is probably why.
Considerations For Those with Frequent Video Calls
Microphones - If you’re going to be dealing with video calls with clients a lot then a good microphone will save you a lot of “what was that?” “can you say that again?” type conversations. When it comes to microphones there are two basic types: Dynamic or Condenser. Keep in mind that this advice is based on budget options, we don’t expect you to spend more than a couple hundred (if that) on a home office microphone.
Dynamic microphones are our preferred mics but they take a bit more set-up. We like them because they (usually) are more robust and will last you a long time, meaning you can buy used ones fairly comfortably without worry that they’re defective. They pick up less background noise so they tend to be better for client calls where you want to have a clear audio output but also want to be typing. However, dynamic mics aren’t as easy to set-up. They need to be fed through an interface to make them work which is why they take a bit more set-up but once you have one you’re good to go.
Condenser microphones are useful because in our opinion they are easier to set-up. USB plug & go mics tend to be condenser and for the purposes of casual video chats these will do great work. Keep in mind that they tend to pick up more noise since they are more sensitive and might have a "fishbowl" vibe. as they pick up some vibrations off the walls. If you’re typing away while on a call all your clicks will probably be picked up loud and clear. Heed our warning.
Headphones - If you’re getting a microphone, get headphones. You can get away with simple ones but get something to prevent the feedback and your microphone picking up who you’re speaking to. Nothing fancy, but you need something.
Webcams - One of the first things you need to think about with webcams isn’t the camera itself, but where you can place it. Lots of laptops and some monitors come with built-in webcams and, while this seems like great savings at the beginning, their fixed position often means the focus, angle, exposure, and general lack of mobility can make them quite limiting (plus these built-in cams typically don’t have the best technical specs). Nothing is worse than being in a Zoom call with a client and having to look up their nose for 45 min. If you’re only meeting with your team once a month this might be fine, but we recommend investing in something better if you are speaking with clients.
If you are having to spend a lot of time in the webcam limelight (like if you are an on-line educator) then you want to invest in a mobile webcam. Mobility will help accommodate for different light sources and allow you the freedom to present while standing. You typically want your camera to be back-lit, meaning you want a good light source projecting from behind the camera to your face (but not too bright, don’t get a spot-light and blind yourself or cause focusing issues for the camera).
On the technical side, we suggest a camera with auto-focus capabilities, especially if you are going to be moving around a bit. You want to get a camera that films at least 720p at 30fps, but 1080p and 60fps will serve you better if you need a higher production feel to your videos (anything that people pay for or requires detailed image should highly consider this). 4K is typically overkill and most video conferencing software won’t support anything over 1080p.
The Desk & Chair
Arguably the most important part of any home office is the desk you work on and the chair you sit at (or don’t). Simply put, get a desk and chair that work together and for you. You don’t want your chair’s arm rests banging into the table so you can’t get close or be seated way too low or high. For ultimate ergonomics we recommend getting adjustable tables that will allow you to take a break from sitting and spend some time standing. Adjustable desks are fairly affordable these days.
Phone Options (VOIPs)
One concern that is frequently brought up in our conversations is what to do about a phone system. If you’re dealing with clients or vendors or are in sales, customer support etc., you are most likely frequently making calls and doing group calls or transferring calls between members of your team and your clients/vendors’. You could do things with your mobile number, redirect calls by providing phone numbers of your team, opt to set up a zoom etc, but this is inefficient and, the theme of our home-office set-up is productivity. That is where VOIPs come in.
Voice Over IPs or VOIPs are, to put simply, a cloud based communications system that allows you to do all of the above. If you have a strong internet connection (or data plan) you can use VOIPs instead of a regular provider. You can get a desk phone (which we prefer during long days of work) or get an app so your team can all work from their mobile. There are free and paid options out there with a range of features, but we recommend getting a provider that charges a bit as you will get a clearer service with less lag. We also recommend getting a service that offers the app so if you need to leave the house for a meeting you can have both your work phone and personal phone all on one device (each with their own number). Employees might worry that this will eat away at their data, but VOIPs take surprising little data to make a call and a regular plan with a couple gigs will be more than enough as long as you're not always on it.
This is a topic that requires its own post and we haven’t tested enough providers to give you decisive recommendations on who is best, but if you would like to discuss more or want some recommendations get in touch.
Bias Lighting - For those who are working in front of a screen for most of the day will want to get some bias lighting. Bias lighting not only looks awesome, but reduces eye strain and helps provide a clearer color profile of the screen (a must have for creatives). Most computer monitors emit light at 6500K and the ideal bias lighting will match this. However, any decent quality lighting will help. If you want our suggestion, Medialight's products are the best, but come in at a higher price tag.
Lighting - Good office lighting is essential for well-being. It is safe to assume that an employee’s main workspace will be adequately lit (and probably isn’t something an employer will cover), but a good desk lamp is a nice to have. Similar to the above, if you want to get really nerdy and accurate look into some 6500K natural lighting.
Surge Protector - If you’re working with a lot of valuable devices or information, make sure you get a surge protector for ease of mind. The small price you pay for this is well worth the security.
Backup Driver/ Hard Drives - If you need to go into the office and you are working on large files that don’t fit in your laptop. Or, if you have a desktop you use at home that you can’t take with you then it’s a good idea to invest in a portable harddrive. You should probably be doing this anyways to have a reliable backup (or multiple) for your key files.
There is a lot to consider when setting up a home office and if you need to get something up quickly you might not have the time to do all the research. Time is crucial now as many things are selling out fast and taking longer to re-stock. Combined with the time crunch, oftentimes information online is not always clear (like why do many creative offices have gray walls?). The above information should help point you in the right direction, but if you need some more detailed advice feel free to get in touch and we can help you get you or your team set-up. If there’s anything you think we should write a full blog on let us know and we will go into more detail in a future post.