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How To Set Up a Productive Work- From-Home Development Office

Written by 
Jorge Mejia
,
Senior Software Engineer
How To Set Up a Productive Work- From-Home Development Office
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Table of contents

For the last year, we have been working from our homes. Some people were not ready for this: they didn’t have a dedicated space for working, or some of them had a very casual space for only a couple of hours a day. It is my intention with this post to motivate you to set a dedicated, productive workstation so you can finish your work on time and not suffer during the process.

If you are working at your dining table with a bad chair, you will probably get distracted more often and will find your job a little boring because you are just not comfortable at your table, and getting a new desk with cool gadgets will make the same work more fun.

Let’s start with the desk setup itself. This is a very subjective topic, you might find that two monitors are better than one, or three monitors, or maybe you prefer a standing desk over a normal desk. I am going to share my subjective opinion and experiences from these past years.

I like minimalism and simplicity. A very clean desktop is a clean mind, if you have a mess on your desk, you won’t be able to complete work efficiently. If you have an overwhelming amount of things in your workspace you will have them in your mind as well. You don’t have to keep all your cool things on your desk, no matter how cool they are. You can find another spot to put them where they can keep being cool, so my piece of advice is: keep your desk clean and clear.

Over the past three years, I have been changing my setup. I started with a laptop and a second monitor, then I added a third monitor, but I found myself using my center monitor most of the time and using my laptop’s screen, and the third monitor only for Slack and a browser. This didn’t seem worth it to me. When I wanted to focus on the browser I used to move it to the center monitor, making the third monitor useless, so I came back to only my laptop and a second monitor, but I kept my laptop closed and used only one monitor. So then I had to face my next decision: a bigger monitor or an ultrawide monitor? I chose ultrawide and I have no regrets; it’s exactly what I needed, one single screen where I can fit all that I need, while I can keep my laptop closed and my desk minimalist and clean.

Display

I got an ultrawide monitor. It is very aesthetically pleasing and very productive. While you are working you can have both your code and your browser open at the same time. I don’t need a dedicated space for Slack. I don’t chat that much and also don’t need a dedicated space for Spotify, since I can play, pause and change the current song with keyboard shortcuts. Anytime I need to chat with someone or find a song, I can bring the application window to the front and use it. I won’t be using those two applications at the same time, so it works for me.

I prefer a simple and minimalist setup where you don’t have distracting things that won’t let you focus on your work. My setup is as clean as possible. I found two or more displays too overwhelming. When I’m working I don’t want to be distracted and the simple fact that having a lot of screens and things open at the same time gets me distracted. I have to close my chat application if I don’t want to get distracted by reading random chats during the day or having YouTube open and getting distracted with videos. So I went with the idea of keeping only the important things I need to complete my assignments on one screen. I really suggest you try this one: close all the windows you don’t need. Trust me, you don’t need a dedicated space for your Slack window, you’ll get the notification if someone needs your attention. Mail dedicated space? Not needed. You will get a notification as well. That’s why an ultrawide is the perfect choice for my needs because usually I only have two windows open at the same time (code editor and browser).

I chose a 29-inch LG monitor, but I’m thinking of upgrading to a 34-inch monitor. I strongly believe that it will increase productivity for my work, because I will be able to have a bigger browser window while I have my code editor open. I usually have a two-column layout in my code editor and multiple tabs.

My compliment for working with an ultrawide (or any other monitor) is vim + tmux. It allows you to move through your code and panes without leaving your terminal or even using the mouse, so I encourage you to give it a try or find a very similar workflow.

Laptop stand

As I mentioned before, I like to keep my desk as clean as possible. Closing the laptop and getting a vertical stand was the best choice. It looks awesome and aesthetically pleasing and saves space, which helps me keep my mind clear and not get overwhelmed.

Chair

If you are going to spend 8+ hours sitting in front of a screen, you have to get a great chair, one that makes you feel comfortable and that does not get you tired at the end of the day. Chairs are incredibly expensive in my country so getting an ergonomic chair was not an option for me, but reading reviews and watching videos I found this beautiful gaming chair that offers good ergonomic posture and feels great! Don’t hesitate in investing in a good chair, your back will thank you later. If you can make the investment in a better chair, do it!

Keyboard

We are developers, so the keyboard is our main device of work. It is the thing that allows you to write your code, so eventually, you will find yourself using it for hours and hours. Writing with a pleasant keyboard is a game-changer. If you are going to type for hours, why not with a keyboard that feels amazing?

I did my research and chose the Anne Pro 2 mechanical keyboard. It is the best keyboard for me, a perfect size that feels great anytime I press a key. It doesn’t have dedicated arrow keys, but it has layers, simply pressing a function gives you arrow keys when you need them. I also use vim as my main code editor, so I really don’t need them when working. Additionally, it has Bluetooth support for multiple connections, so you can change from one device to another very easily.

Mouse

Even though I don’t use my mouse that often, I wanted a great mouse for the few times I do need it. I went with the Logitech MX Master Series 3. It is a great mouse with enough buttons to keep the same gestures that the Apple Magic Mouse. 

Webcam

Prices of webcams have skyrocketed due to the pandemic, so getting a brand new HD webcam is tough. But you don’t have to buy just the best webcam to get decent quality. I bought a Logitech C270 webcam for around $30 and it does a great job. Lighting is important to image quality, so a desktop lamp or a dedicated light source can make your Zoom calls look much better. Even better if your desk is near a window.

Light

You need a really good light that helps not to damage your eyes looking at a screen all day. I turn on my room’s main light to illuminate the whole room and keep a desktop lamp to light the back of the monitor (if you suffer from astigmatism this will change your life) so the light from the display won’t hurt you that much.

I also have a third lamp that I use to illuminate the back of my room. I bought two RGB light bulbs for my desk lamps so that I can find the right color for the atmosphere.

Clock

I needed a clock for my desk because I hadn’t noticed how easily I lost track of time. Sometimes an hour would pass without me realizing or completing anything. So I put a big clock on my desk to remind me of the time throughout the day. I went with this beautiful clock from Amazon. It is like a wooden cube with an alarm.

Speakers

A good pair of speakers is a must if you like listening to music when you are working and you don’t like wearing a pair of headphones in your ears the whole day. I decided to get these speakers because they don’t have a single bad review. They’re helpful for when you want to play music to concentrate or give your room a specific atmosphere. The speakers of the MacBook are just not enough since it is always closed, so I needed external speakers.

Headphones

Sometimes the speakers are not enough. Maybe your neighbors are being too noisy and you want to get that isolation time. I have several pairs of headphones: one for Zoom meetings, one for isolation, and one that’s truly wireless.

To Do

I like having a physical to-do list for urgent tasks that I want to always have in mind no matter what I’m doing, on the computer or not. You can achieve this with a tablet or an iPad if you already have one, or just a simple notebook. This little board is great because you can write and erase very easily.

Plants

Last but not least, some beautiful plants to look at during the day! They are a must and don’t forget to add them to your shopping list the next time you are upgrading your setup.

Jorge Mejia
Written by
Jorge Mejia
Jorge Mejia

Even though I began my engineering career with an interest in robotics, I fell in love with software and the limitlessness of its potential. In the world of software, I'm bound by nothing by my imagination. I'm a curious, passionate autodidact, and I've helped clients in mining, telecommunications, health care, and more. I enjoy writing code in Ruby and JavaScript for their ability to create seemingly anything. When I'm not programming, I love gaming, and watching films and TV.

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