The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the workplace for many people during 2020, closing offices and forcing millions to work from home. The figures don’t lie: in April 2020, almost half of the workforce in the UK worked from home.
Personally, I have been enjoying the benefits of home working since 2014, although I am fortunate to have a separate room in which to call my ‘office’, and so it is easier to maintain a healthy work/life balance, and I can shut the door to drown out the noise from the rest of the household. In this article I’d like to share my home office setup.
Here it is in full:
My main machine is a 2018 Macbook Pro (aka the one with the touch bar), 15” screen, 2.9 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i9, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD. Purchased second hand on eBay in October 2019 for £2,399.00, which included 2 years Apple Care.
This is the second time I’ve bought a Mac from eBay. Each time I’ve made sure to buy one with Apple Care, which has been essential - in both cases I have made a claim (for this device, the screen had a group of dead pixels - the screen replacement would have cost £600 otherwise).
Thankfully, the laptop is docked 99% of the time, which means I don’t have to use the awful keyboard. I still stare occasionally at the touch bar, marvelling in its uselessness.
I have serious M1 envy, but two things are holding me back:
A dual desk mount arm holds two Samsung U24E850 4k monitors. They are 24” in size, which is unusual for 4k displays: most are at least 28”. I specifically wanted two smaller screens to preserve ‘retina’ sharpness: these displays offer a screen density of 183ppi (pixels per inch), which is not too far away from the MBP’s built-in screen (which has 220ppi). Since I look at code all day, crispness of text is of paramount importance to me.
For reference, here is the ppi for some other common 4k screen sizes:
Also worth noting is a 5k 32” screen has the same ppi as a 4k 24” one. Sadly, they don’t seem to exist!
2016 saw a big Macbook Pro design refresh. Although the touch bar took much of the headlines, another big change was the introduction of USB-C ports for all external connectivity. For many, this means dongle life / hell but a nicer outcome is the option to connect the laptop to displays, input devices and power via one cable.
Since I was looking to connect two external displays via DisplayPort (to achieve 60Hz refresh rate across the board), options were limited. After a false start with a Caldigit dock (which didn’t seem to recognise displays when the laptop woke from sleep), I settled on a Startech Thunderbolt 3 dock which has been pretty much flawless. It’s really nice to be able to dock and undock the laptop so easily, something that was a bit of a pain with the older MBP design.
You will notice from the picture above that I like to use the laptop display as a third screen, this ruled out the (otherwise excellent) Henge Dock.
The essential companion to a coder’s day. Even though I work from home, years of office work have conditioned me to wearing headphones while I work - nowadays they are useful at drowning out the household noise, rather than open-plan office chatter.
After faffing around with cheaper headphones, I invested in the Bose QuietComfort 35ii cans. The old adage, you get what you pay for really applies here. The only complaint is I find them a little uncomfortable to use all day, compared to the Jabra Move headphones I used previously. The sound quality more than makes up for it, though!
Everything (except me) sits on an IKEA BEKANT sit/stand desk. Purchased in 2015, this is the third incarnation after the motors failed on the previous two. Luckily the desk has a 10 year warranty, but it’s a real pain to swap out your desk, and so on reliability alone I couldn’t recommend it.
One of the best parts of the desk is a customised version of the controller, dubbed Megadesk. This enhances the desk with memory positions - pressing the up button a specific number of times will automatically move the desk to the pre-programmed height. It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference, and well worth the $45. As a nice bonus, the motors haven’t failed since I installed the new controller!
My chair is the bargain of the whole setup. It’s a Steelcase Leap v1 which someone was selling for £50. These retail at £700+ so it’s fair to say I was very happy at picking it up.
The Leap replaced my old IKEA MARKUS chair. Similar to the Bose headphones, you get what you pay for - I can sit for hours in the Steelcase without any back pain or numbness, unlike the MARKUS. I’m a firm believer of investing in anything that will improve long term health and for me, the chair is THE most important thing. If this one breaks, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay full price for a replacement, it’s that good.
You might notice the cape adorning the back of the chair - this was a leaving gift from my old colleagues at Mubaloo 🙂
A few years ago my house was rewired, and we took the opportunity to lay cat6 cable throughout the house. As a result, the office (and most other rooms in the house) have a wired Ethernet connection to the main router, a TP Link Archer VR600. For the wireless devices, three Ubiquiti UAP-AC-LR access points are dotted around the house, connected via PoE back to the network cabinet. Broadband is currently supplied by Virgin Media, but I hope to take advantage of 1Gbps speeds once ‘fibre first’ is fully available in my area.
Lastly, the picture in the wall is of Kaikoura, on the South Island in New Zealand. It’s one of the best places in the world to swim with dolphins, as I found out myself!
Getting the right setup in your home office can drastically improve your productivity and general well-being. A little investment will set you in good stead for years of remote-working happiness.
What is your home setup? Is there anything that you can’t live without? Or anything you need to improve? Let me know in the comments below!