If you’ve ever had to work from home with a work laptop, you’ll have faced an immediate question: where do I put it? What’s the best way I can set things up for efficient homeworking?
For a lot of people, the best space that comes to mind is the kitchen table. It isn’t that bad a choice – it’s a good, solid, large workspace. You can put your laptop down and spread out. The chair won’t be an office chair, but it will support your back better than the sofa.
But not only does the kitchen simply not look professional (do you really want your boss asking about what you’re cooking tonight?), kitchen tables and chairs just aren’t designed for work. Your back will soon discover that.
Your home computer is probably already set up at a much better desk. It may even be in its own room, where you can shut out other distractions. And it’s likely that your best chair for working is already in front of this desk.
The only issue is that your home computer and things are already set up on it. But there are several ways you can solve that problem.
Is your main computer desk a bit of a mess? Invest now in clearing it up. Not only will that help make enough space for you to put your work laptop down too, it will definitely reduce your stress levels as well. If your home computer is a laptop, you could also consider just putting it away during the day to make all the space you need.
Once you’ve cleared things up a bit, you’ll probably find there’s enough space to get your work laptop on the desk alongside your home computer. That’s definitely preferable to constantly swapping them around, putting one away in the morning and getting another out later on.
Side-by-side will work best if you’ve got a swivel chair, or one with castors, so you can turn easily to the monitor you’re using. But if you’ve got a way to support it, above-and-below can also work well, especially if you can put your work laptop up at eye level (which is the ergonomic choice).
If you don’t mind investing, you might want to look into getting a dual computer and monitor stand, which would allow you to put both your work and home computers at eye level, side-by-side.
If you do raise your laptop screen up to eye level, you’re definitely going to need a separate keyboard and mouse back on the desk. But you probably should have that anyway.
You’ll be your most productive with a full-size keyboard and a proper mouse. They should be right in front of you, on your desk, so that you’re never straining to use them.
It’s more than likely that you already own a keyboard and mouse – connected to your home computer. If it sounds like a chore to disconnect these from the home computer and connect them to your work laptop, you’d be right, but like so many chores, it’s absolutely worthwhile. In exchange for the time spent connecting them, you’ll be able to work properly all day.
The good news is that connecting your keyboard and mouse to your work laptop isn’t something that requires an IT technician. If they’ve got cables, it’s just a matter of pulling those cables out, and pushing them into the USB slots on your work laptop. If they’re wireless, you just need to do the same with the wireless receiver.
If you get tired to disconnecting and reconnecting things, you might want to invest in a second keyboard and mouse (or ask work to provide a pair) which you can keep permanently attached to your work laptop while you’re using it.
Of course, this only makes sense if you’ve got plenty of space on your desk for two keyboards and mice. But even if you do, it’s a shame to waste it. It would be better if you could keep your desk clear, so you can use that space for other things.
The ideal would be to keep just one keyboard and mouse on your desk – the pair you already own – and have a way to cleverly switch them from your home computer to your work laptop and back.
Synergy is a piece of software that does exactly this. Once it’s installed, you can leave your mouse and keyboard attached to your home computer, while using them on your work laptop.
One of the additional benefits of this setup is being able to use both your home computer and work laptop at the same time. With Synergy, you can literally move your mouse off the edge of your home computer’s screen and onto your work laptop’s screen, as if they were one computer. But they aren’t – your home files and work files always stay separate.
This means that, if you want, you can actually make use of both computers to be even more productive. You can have a browser window open on your home computer, while your work email is up on the laptop; or a live meeting on the laptop while you take notes in your favorite app.
To make a success of homeworking, you need to make sure you’ve set things up so that you can be your most productive. If you have to use a work laptop, make sure you’re using it at your best desk, in your best chair, in a professional environment, and with a proper mouse and keyboard.