Tell me about your home offices!
March 10, 2015 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Software tester soon to be working from home would like to hear about home office rigs and setups from the Green. What equipment did you buy? How much did it cost? How's it all working out?

So I got this job! I'll be starting next week, but I do have some time to think about how to rig a decent work setup at home.

Work will be giving (well, lending) me a laptop. I want to get a dual monitor setup, USB keyboard and mouse. I'll probably be setting all of this up on a kitchen table for now but I'm hoping that's not a permanent arrangement.

I'd like to try a standing/sitting arrangement if possible. I don't see myself standing eight hours a day and I'd like to get away from sitting for that amount of time as well.

If I have to spend some serious dough on this, I do, but obviously I'd prefer not to. So I welcome answers that involve any type of budget.

I will most likely be buying, not building. I'm not much on power tools.

So please... tell me about your home offices, especially if you have a setup that allows some flexibility in postures. I'd especially like to hear from software developers/testers or anyone whose work requires deep focus on screens and a good deal of keyboard/mousing several hours a day.
posted by Sheydem-tants to Work & Money (17 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I was lucky enough to be given a Herman Miller chair (a Mirra, not an Aeron), which I've been using for about 5 years now. If you're going to be sitting, a good chair with plenty of adjustment is worthwhile.

Dual monitors are something I couldn't live without.

Get your backup arrangements sorted. I use SyncBack SE to make backups of all the important stuff to a RAID 1 NAS on my local network, and also use Backblaze for an offsite cloud backup.

To be honest, my work setup is pretty much exactly what my home setup would be if I didn't work from home - desk, PC, printer, small filing cabinet, lots of charging points and stationery.

More than anything, a comfortable, quiet environment is essential. My home office is cluttered like the den of a 19th century hoarder, but it's peaceful and my family knows to leave me alone when the door's closed.
posted by pipeski at 6:15 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I outlined my home office setup on UsesThis a while ago (here's pb). I also have a fruity chair that is totally 100% worth it. I have a standing desk also that is a lot more low key, it's just some sort of discard from the local school system, but built like a tank. It also doubles as the charging station. When I am using my computer at my sitting desk (I have a big imac for the sitting desk, laptop for the standing desk) I can also see out the window and I have birdfeeders there. I back up to a portable hard drive once a week and keep all important stuff double backed up on the cloud. I've got redundant internet at home (regular DSL and then tethered 4G if I need it). My desk is the opposite of pipeski. I clean everything off of it except my todo list, mouse and coffee mug at the end of every day. Every person is different. Having a big USB hub for plugging in things is essential. Congrats on the new job.
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Everyone else can chime in on chairs, desks etc. But honest to god, what will make a huge difference is a 2560x1440 or 4k monitor. Personally I have two 2560x1440 Fujitsus running which gives me a huge amount of screen real estate to work with.

I cant even imagine going back to an HD monitor (1920x1080).

There are now loads of different models, but get something quality that supports Display Port, HDMI, VGI, etc. You won´t regret it.

One caveat - you will need a laptop or desktop that will support them.
posted by Funmonkey1 at 7:07 AM on March 10, 2015

I don't have much to contribute as far as desk/furniture suggestions (my home office has evolved fairly organically with a hand me down desk/chair/etc; they've worked well enough for me so far but lately the idea of some kind of combo sit/stand desk has gotten me thinking.)

I will say this, though: When I started working from home I didn't really have a proper "office" set up either, and in that situation having a laptop was pretty invaluable; I could camp at the kitchen table, or on the couch, or wherever. When I did finally get situated in a dedicated work space, an external monitor was one of the first things added to my set up, along with a keyboard and mouse. That worked pretty well for a while, but when I came due for a hardware upgrade I realized that working off of a "desktop laptop" felt like I was squatting in permanent limbo in my own office. I opted for a dedicated desktop machine with a nice big screen and it made a huge difference for me psychologically.
posted by usonian at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2015

Have you combed Reddit's /r/homeoffice for ideas? There are lots of people showing off finished rooms and sharing their tips.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have two 19" monitors from from work and one personal 23" monitor that I use. The 23" is hooked up to my personal desktop permanently and one of the 19" is hooked up to both my personal and work desktops through a KVM switch so I can switch between them easily. This lets me play a movie or some music through my desktop on the 23" while I'm working on the two 19" when I'm doing things that don't take 100% of my concentration (which is most of the things I do for my job).

I also use google voice for my "office" number and use the desktop to call into conference calls and such. A good headset makes that a lot easier. I have a co-worker who is also home-based and calls in on her cell phone and it's often difficult to hear her for the people in the conference room and I often have to turn my volume way up to hear her but no one ever has a problem hearing me nor do I have issues hearing anyone else.

I have this chair from Ikea because I'm too cheap to buy an actual ergonomic chair (and I couldn't find one used) but this one fits me perfectly and I wouldn't move a thing even if there was more to adjust.

If you're someplace that has winter, get a small space heater (I have the small one recommended here and it's great!). It's cheaper and more efficient than heating your whole house while you're the only one home.

Everyone approaches it differently but people always ask me if I'm in my pajama's or sweats all day but I'd never get any work done that way. I have to get up at a regular time and get ready for work just like I was going to an office. The difference is that I dress a LOT more casually (though still in stuff that I'm not embarrassed to wear in public) and I shave only occasionally. But there is a whole spectrum. Some people go for a walk so that they feel like they are "going to work" while others take care of their e-mail from bed before they change from PJs to sweat pants.

Lastly, make sure you get out of the house regularly. Take a quick walk a couple of times a day and make sure you get as much social interaction as you need. I'm mostly a loner and like that I don't ever have to leave my house but even I need to get out and do stuff with actual people somewhat regularly.
posted by VTX at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2015

I work from home, and can't stand or sit all day - I need to alternate a little. Desks that can be raised and lowered easily were out of my price range, so I bought these plastic shelves and put them on top of one side of my desk. The left side of my desk is now the sitting area, and the right side of my desk is now the standing area. I've been using this setup for 8 months and other than the really messy cord situation I'm very happy with it. Rather than stacking all 4 together, I put them together as two 2-shelf units and put one in front of the other on my regular desk. The back shelves hold the monitors and the front shelves hold the keyboard and mouse.

Related hint: buy excessively long cords for everything: HDMI, USB, power, etc. You can always wrap up a long cord and put a twist tie on it, but until you really know your system you never know when you'll need more cord. Paradoxically my cable situation would be much neater if I had much longer cables because I could run them on the neatest route instead of the shortest route.

Seconding VTX's recommendation for a Google Voice number as your office number. I can ring my work cell phone or my personal cell phone, and when I had a desk phone from work I could ring that too all from the same number. It really cuts down on confusion. I prefer using a cell phone with a Bluetooth headset over using a desk phone - it lets me shift from sitting standing freely, and it lets me get coffee when I'm on an unending conference call. If you train yourself to be really diligent with your cell phone's mute button you will have freedom like you've never had before. And if your cell phone provider gives you unlimited talk time, then you never have to worry about your bills.
posted by Tehhund at 7:49 AM on March 10, 2015

I set up a home office in a dedicated room almost twenty years ago, using furniture similar to this. It was very reasonable: ~$1200 assembled, delivered, and set up. Over the years, I've changed my office layout as needed to suit my needs as the pieces are endlessly reconfigurable.
posted by DrGail at 7:51 AM on March 10, 2015

Oh, almost forgot. See if you can get some kind of confirmation from your boss, even if it's just verbal, that having you work from home is for the company's benefit (even though it's awesome for you too) as that is one of the requirements for being able to claim the home office deduction on your taxes. I started working from home because we got a puppy and needed to be closer to home but my boss ALSO needed the space since all of my co-workers are in a different state anyway.

I think that any supplies, furniture, or any other equipment that you might need that your company isn't going to reimburse you for are deductible either way so save receipts or otherwise document how much you spent and on what. If you do qualify for the home office deduction you'll need to know the square footage of your home office area (it can be the whole room if that is the only thing you use it for), the square footage of your house, and how much you pay for all of the utilities that are in any way related to your home office (so not cable TV but just about everything else: internet, electricity, gas, garbage, water, etc.). So you'll want to have that data organized for tax time.
posted by VTX at 8:26 AM on March 10, 2015

My setup is a home-built desktop, with 2 1900x1290 24" 16:10 monitors. They're mounted on Ergotron arms attached to IKEA TROFAST cabinets on either side of my recliner. Desktop fits in the middle section, and the bins are useful for various storage items. My work laptop (macbook air) fits on a shelf and can connect to one of the monitors. My printer sits on one of the upper shelves. I use an Evoluent vertical mouse, and it made a huge difference for my wrist pain. I recently got a Logitech k480 keyboard, and it has been pretty great. Being able to switch between multiple bluetooth devices is very useful for my situation.

I can't sit in a normal office chair for prolonged periods of time due to circulation issues, and due to other things I can't stand in one spot for long periods of time as well. I also have a large lapdesk to put my keyboard and mouse on when I'm working.

Pic 1 Pic 2
posted by HermitDog at 8:56 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

My spouse just bought this IKEA version of a sit-stand desk, the Bekant. It has a motor you can use lower and raise the desk. He LOVES it. The only caveat being that he has not found a way to attach a keyboard tray yet.
posted by Dashy at 8:59 AM on March 10, 2015

I was lucky enough to get this chair as a gift from my architect father-in-law, who uses this brand in his spaces. It's heavenly to sit in and supportive right up to my shoulders, which would probably be nice after some standing. I have also had the IKEA Markus chair mentioned above and loved the high back.
posted by Otter_Handler at 10:03 AM on March 10, 2015

I got a desk when I started working from home, but later wanted to be able to stand, so I got a Varidesk. Just another option for sitting/standing.

My laptop sits in a Roost stand on my desk and my Thunderbolt display is on top of the Varidesk. I just have to adjust the angle of the screens when I go from sitting to standing.
posted by pyjammy at 10:13 AM on March 10, 2015

I work from home alone, and especially since the kids left for college, I've pretty much taken over one of the family room couches. And let me tell you, it's pretty darned comfy. I've got a Win and Mac notebook computers mounted on Ergotron arms, plus an 11" Mac hidden under the DSI Evolver to the left. Nothing is actually attached to the coffee table; I used Gibraltar Drum Rack Hardware to build a framework to support (and counterbalance) the Ergotron arms, plus there's a lot of stuff underneath that you can't see, like a 75W PA system, a 19" rack with a Furman power system, a 5 channel audio mixer, 32TB of NAS, and some other goodies.

I highly recommend the Gibraltar hardware - it's not inexpensive but it's rock-solid and one helluva lot of fun to work with - like big Adult tinkertoys.

Also, just for fun and if you're looking for ideas, I ran across this Lifehacker Workspace Show-and-Tell thing the other day, and there's a lotta cool stuff in there.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:04 AM on March 10, 2015

In terms of the dual-monitor setup, do you mean laptop-plus-external, or two external monitors? If the latter, check that your laptop can support it. If you do the former, get a riser for your laptop monitor so it's closer to the height of your external monitor.

Also I highly recommend having at least a separate desk if not a separate room for working. It makes a huge difference psychologically.
posted by radioamy at 11:13 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a big fan of a docking station if you are on Windows. You can chill on the couch / bed and knock out emails. When your ready to get down to real work, walk to your office, dock, and light up dual monitors.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:46 PM on March 10, 2015

I'm a programmer and I work from the office in my basement (dedicated room). Luckily, my employer paid for all of my equipment:

- Sit-stand desk
- Ergonomic office chair
- Laptop
- 24" monitor mounted to an arm, so it frees space on my desk
- USB wired mouse and keyboard (no batteries to change)
- Docking station
- IP phone with headset

Everything is plugged into the docking station, in a dual monitor setup. When I want to work elsewhere, I just release the laptop from the docking station. When I get back, I put it back on and everything works instantly, no plugging/unpluggin cables. I love my docking station!

I automatically backup my laptop to my personal NAS everyday during lunch (using FreeFileSync).

And when I work away from home, I use a Media5-fone for iPhone to connect to our Asterisk server so I can still take my calls.
posted by kag at 8:13 AM on March 12, 2015

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