Copying the in-office setup at home

Ergonomics are important, especially if you are suddenly catapulted into a home office environment. This was what I did to make my setup better.

When I turned off the light in my office on the evening of 13 March 2020, I hadn’t anticipated that three months later I would be still working from home. Fortunately, we had always kept a home office “just in case” although it was planning to be repurposed to become a room for our twins. Then COVID-19 became an issue in Austria.

At a recent meeting of a working group of translators in central banks and supervisory authorities, one of the biggest challenges identified by the group were all sorts of ergonomic issues – especially those with no dedicated office space at home. Apart from chairs and desk height many mentioned that taking a laptop home was fine for the odd day’s work maybe, but if you are used to paired monitors in the office and a full keyboard, a laptop screen and keyboard is definitely a massive difference.

In the past I would have tolerated one screen, although probably not only a laptop screen, but now being used to two 1920 x 1280 pixel screens, a single screen was something I couldn’t consider. As I wouldn’t be able to take my docking station home with me, instead I went for an UWQHD monitor (34″ screen diagonal (that is inches not cm) with a 21:9 aspect ratio) and as a result I now have an experience pretty comparable to my work one with paired monitors on a single screen. In SDL Studio 2019, I have two user profiles now, which respective deal with a UWQHD monitor and a pair of 1920 x 1280 monitors, so I will just switch profile when I go back to working in-house but not in home office.

I also use an external mouse (cabled) and keyboard, to make SDL Studio shortcuts easier than on a laptop keyboard. Work provided me with a headset, and went for an impressive Corsair Void RGB Elite USB (connecting by USB rather than through an audio jack). It is a gaming headset, and the USB connector plug is ruggedised so that you don’t wreck the cable if you move away from the computer without taking your headphones off. They are very well built – a lot better than the EUR 25 headset I bought, or the in ear buds (which I am not a fan of).

I have a desk and a proper office chair, which are essential for full working days. I did also consider a standing desk that changes height at the push of a button, and might still consider that. Last but not least, there was the issue of how to transport my laptop (for the week before lockdown-enforced permanent home office we were expected to take our laptops home with us everyday). I invested in a new Crumpler backpack, the Director’s Cut L, which in the first three days, with also transporting some reference books, came into its own instantly. My back was far happier than with a laptop back or a normal backpack. It will definitely be accompanying me if/when business travel resumes.

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