Working from Home: My Tech Essentials

Image of remote worker with desk full of tech gadgets

Before we get started, let me emphasize how much I identify with pulling back on expenses during these troubled times. At present, our office supply budget is zero. It took 17 years to nail down this office; by no means do I expect anyone to do a spendy makeover. You can find less expensive yet still exceptionally useful alternatives to all these products. Do your homework, take all the time you need kitting out your office, and have fun! Now, on to the essentials:

Herman Miller office chair

Herman Miller Aeron Chair. The first major office purchase for Sell-Through Solutions, way back in 2003. Like your shoes or your bed, one should never skimp on the office chair. The price puts it a thousand miles away from our budget these days but, fortunately, the Herman Miller looks and feels like the day I bought it. For the price-conscious, this legendary throne has spawned a battalion of capable-but-less-expensive imitators.

Office featuring Uplift Desk

Uplift Desk Height Adjustable Standing Desk. The Uplift Desk is the Cadillac of sit/stand desks. This reliable workhorse has been changing levels in my office several times per day, seven days per week, for more than five years. You can get smaller and cheaper desks, but absolutely spring for one with a motorized lift. The motorized lift on this one is so smooth, a coffee cup filled to the brim spills nary a drop. The lift capacity is 355 pounds. (Knowing this, I often clear the desk and use it as a workbench that can quickly adapt to my level as I work on heavy items.) The optional memory keypad stores four of your favorite positions. I now sit 50% of the day and stand 50%, and I truly believe this desk will add years to my life.

Man wearing Plantronics headset

Plantronics Savi Series Wireless Headset. I have only pity for those who still balance their greasy slab of a smartphone against the side of their face to make business calls. The Plantronics Savi is a three-in-one headset: you can connect it simultaneously to a computer (Zoom, GoToMeeting, dictation, etc.), a smartphone via Bluetooth, and a landline desk phone (remarkably, Alexander Graham Bell’s invention from 1876 is still the clearest-sounding option). The Savi intuitively communicates through whatever you’re using. The newest headsets have a 590-foot wireless range, even with a smartphone (the smartphone needs to be within Bluetooth range of the base station).

With this headset, my hands are always free and there are no limits to where I can go on the Sell-Through Solutions campus.

I use the older 740 series, so I can’t comment on the current 8200 series. Whatever you do, don’t pay retail for one of these. Big discounts abound on the interwebs. For those on a stricter budget, even wired headsets beat holding a phone all day, and some cost just a few dollars.

Logitech G910 gaming keyboard

Logitech G910 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Why a gaming keyboard for a Learning Experience Design office? Glad you asked. It’s not just the super-precise, clicky mechanical switches that take you back to the good old days of the IBM Selectric. Nor is it the ability to absorb epic amounts of punishment and pet hair. Or even the backlit keys with lighting customizations limited only by your imagination.

The reason I chose a gaming keyboard is because of the macro keys. The Logitech G910 sports three banks of nine macro keys, each of which can perform any combination of keystrokes. Photoshop is notorious for its finger-pretzel keyboard shortcuts, which the G910 can easily perform with one-touch macros. I also assigned one key to remove all the clutter and show only text on busy articles like those on CNET.com, and another key to close all other tabs in my browser. With the G910, playing apps and the Internet is like playing an instrument.

Logitech G900 gaming mouse

Logitech G900 Gaming Mouse. Yes, another gaming peripheral. I chose this one because, like me, it is both full-sized and ambidextrous. Flipping from right-handed use to left-handed use is as simple as switching hands. The current model is the G903 ($149), but the deal for bargain hunters is the previous-model G900. Ambidextrous mousers can still get that one on Amazon for $69. Not ambidextrous? For $15 or so, you can get a wireless mouse that will run rings around your horrible laptop trackpad.

Dragon Professional Software Package Shot

Nuance Dragon Professional Individual v15 Dictation Software. I can type a bit north of 50 words per minute, but why should I? I dictated this article through Dragon Professional the same way I dictate all my articles. It’s faster and more accurate than my ham-fisted typing. If you’ve dipped your toe into dictation with Windows Speech Recognition, Google Chrome Voice Recognition, or Microsoft Dictate, those are crude toys compared with Dragon — unicycles versus a Ferrari.

LG Ultra-Widescreen computer monitor

LG 21:9 Ultra-Widescreen Monitor. One versus two monitors is a personal choice. Either way, you should aspire to a solution that enables you to view two full-size app windows side-by-side. After years of dual-monitor setups, I switched to the 34-inch 21:9 ultra-widescreen monitor (roughly equivalent to two normal 21-inch monitors side-by-side). The reason: I could never get dual monitors perfectly aligned on monitor mounting arms, and when I wanted to stretch a single app (Photoshop again) across the whole shebang, there were always those two monitor bezels smack in the middle. Plus, a single ultra-widescreen monitor is much easier to set up if you are limited to a laptop.

Logitech PTZ webcam

Logitech PTZ PRO 2 Webcam. Okay, my business-class conference camera is massive overkill for most people. A better choice for mortals is the Logitech C922, with a buttery-smooth 60 frame-per-second option that puts the stop-motion nature of webcams to pasture for good.

Yeti Microphone by Blue Designs

Blue Designs Yeti Microphone. This Jack-of-all-trades mic can do vocals for music, podcasts, Twitch streaming, e-learning narration, and more. You’ve seen the iconic form factor on a million YouTube videos. I use my Blue Yeti primarily for Dragon Dictation and e-learning voiceover narration mockups. The mic is enormous, so I have to sit it off to the side of my monitor, but it still cleanly picks up my voice and makes my desk look badass.

Alienware Aurora Desktop PC Image

A fast computer. We won’t get into PC versus Mac, or laptop versus desktop. A desktop has the potential for vastly more power, but many of you have a laptop as your only choice. That’s perfectly fine; simply kit it out with the peripherals above, and it will behave like a desktop. Don’t do the “laptop with no peripherals” thing. Good posture will be impossible. Your neck, back, and carpal tunnel will betray you.

APC uninterruptible power supply image

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) with battery backup. I’m using an APC 1500va model. These things can really save your bacon when there’s a power outage. (Occasionally, I don’t even notice the outage.) A UPS won’t let you continue working indefinitely (with my high-powered rig, I might get 30 more minutes of juice), but they give you enough time to finish what you’re doing and shut down safely.

Acronis True Image Backup box

Software. Everyone works differently and has different jobs, so we won’t discuss general apps. In fact, I’m only gonna recommend that everybody do this one thing: back up your files! You can use a built-in solution like Windows File History to back up locally to an external hard drive. Or, for exponentially more options, you can purchase local backup software like the industry-leading Acronis True Image.

Sell-Through Solutions backs up continuously, both locally and online, using CrashPlan for Business for online backups. We can get our hands on any file we created for any client since we first opened our doors in 2003. If you can’t, I probably should’ve led the article with this, because it’s the most important thing: Start backing up your files today.

— Charles Thompson