Working remotely means that your work isn’t tied to a location, time of day or dress code (among other things). We’re able to work this way thanks to the internet, but the internet wouldn’t exist without hardware.
In the same way, your virtual work experience relies heavily on the quality of hardware that you rely on. So what do you need?
If I were to assume you know nothing, Jon Snow, I’d say that the first thing you need is a personal computer. But there are different types of computers to pick from, so you have to ask & answer these questions:
What does my job need? What software will I be using? How portable do I want my workspace to be? What’s my budget?
Broadly speaking, there are 3 categories of computers out there.
You can do some serious damage with a smartphone or tablet, but it has to be powerful enough for the job.
There’s the desktop computer, which gives you high computing power at a lower cost. It’s also easily customizable and upgradeable.
Finally, there’s the laptop computer, which is designed to be a desktop that you can carry around.
They each have their strong suits and drawbacks. If you’re buying a desktop computer, chances are, you’re not planning to pack it up in a bin bag and head to another country.
If you work remotely because you love to travel, a good choice of a computer would be a small to a medium-sized laptop, with 13–15 inches of display. Or an iPad Pro paired with the Mac Mini. Or an Android tablet, depending on your work’s needs and personal tastes.
Your computer will be the brain of your operation, connecting to other pieces of tech to make up your high-quality remote workspace. Whichever you choose, spend enough on high-quality tools. Take it seriously.
It was Abraham Lincoln (not me) who said, “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.”.
As important as your computer is, you can’t work remotely without an internet connection. If your smartphone/tablet is your work computer, using a dedicated wifi router will put less load on your battery.
I recommend getting a portable router so you can work from anywhere.
If you live in a place with considerable power outages, the portable router is the best choice because it comes with a rechargeable battery. Just be sure not to leave it charging when it’s full so you won’t damage its battery over time.
And spend good money on good internet. It really isn’t worth the stress or irritation, in my opinion. It will also save you time when working.
You can’t ignore a display monitor, a mouse or a keyboard.
Desktops are usually sold with them, and laptops are built with them. Smartphones and tablets have those features embedded in a single touchscreen, but I wouldn’t recommend using them for more than an hour or two because of posture. Find out more in Body & Mood Ergonomics.
The number of monitors you need depends on how often you have to switch between software and how much you’d like to see at once. Lastly, you might need a scanner and/or printer, if you work with hard copy documents.
You’ll need a work desk. For working. Nuff said.
You’ll (perhaps, hopefully, presumably) want a chair, preferably one that swivels because it’s fun. But it’s not necessary to work sitting. You’ll just need a tall desk if you want a standing setup, and a regular foot massage.
To pen your thoughts, you’ll need a notepad and — you guessed it — a pen! I’ve seen use cases of chalkboards, but I’m not about to sweep any chalk up. A whiteboard with whiteboard markers (not permanent markers) for brainstorming is also useful.
A webcam is essential for video meetings if you have those (and you should). Most laptops come with one, and mine makes me look hideous.
You’ll need to set up an audio system too. Both audio and video systems are essential parts of your meeting rig. You can use the in-built audio setup on your computer, or get a dedicated microphone and a pair of headphones/speakers. That depends on where you’ll be working.
Some speakers & headphones come with an in-built mic for the best of both worlds, so get your Hannah Montana on.
A desk clock is an optional addition to your workspace. Not exactly essential for a portable workspace, but a good tool to have. It will help keep an eye on your work hours, especially if you can set check-in and check out alarms for work.
A wall calendar is useful for visually-oriented people. I think digital is more effective for collaborations and portability, but a physical one helps some people with individual tasks.
If you can, go for an ethernet internet connection. It’s faster.
And if you have limited USB ports on your computer, you can opt for purchasing Bluetooth accessories, or a USB hub. With a Mac, you’ll likely need a USB adapter to connect your gadgets and gizmos.
A surge protector is necessary if you get regular power surges where you are, or for when you travel. It keeps your precious electronics from getting damaged.
Keep your stuff in the cloud, so you can really work from anywhere and on any device. A VPN is also a good idea to protect your data from being stolen on public networks. I don’t use one though, I’m a cowboy.
Universal power adapters are the greatest creation of this century — since the idea didn’t occur to people in previous centuries. For God’s sake, we have 15 different types of plugs and sockets! If you travel or buy electronics online, you should get a universal adapter.
Finally, without a power outlet, remote work is finished. Or it’s only a matter of time. Get your cables, chargers and wires in order, organised.
A power bank is critical if you’re gonna be on the go. You can get solar-powered laptop chargers and power banks or just stick to the conventional ones. Remember to check out the ergonomics blog for tips on staying healthy at remote work.