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Lockdown

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”, but were in the throes of repurposing it 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 taking a laptop home was fine for the odd day’s work, but not for working full-time from home. If used to paired monitors in the office and a full keyboard, a laptop screen and built-in keyboard are very different.

Two screens, or not two screens?

Once I was used to a single screen, but now have paired 1920 x 1280 pixel screens, a single screen wasn’t a consideration. I couldn’t take my docking station home with me, so 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). This gaming headset has a ruggedised USB connector plug so that you don’t wreck the cable if you step away from the computer. They are very well built, far better than the EUR 25 headset I bought, or in ear buds.

Sit well, work well

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, is the issue of how to transport my laptop (in the week before lockdown-enforced permanent home office where we had to take laptops home). 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 is far happier than with a laptop back or a normal backpack. It will definitely accompany me if/when business travel resumes.

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