With the prevalence of remote work, you must consider not only the workspace at your actual office, but the workspace each employee has available to them at home. If your staff spends a large portion of their time remotely, you may need to provide, some of, or even all the tools required to ensure they’re being as productive and efficient as they can be at the office.
In almost all businesses, productivity and efficiency are the single most important elements to success. It’s easy to identify the industry specific tools you may need, but when it comes to general computing and office work, efficiency and productivity are often an after thought, if they are even considered at all.
The computer you provide to each employee is important, but unless these employees are involved with graphic design, development, or scientific applications, pretty much any mid range business computer produced in the last 5 years will be more than sufficient. What will make all the difference though is what you can provide WITH the computer. In this article I aim to highlight some of the things you may not have considered previously that could have significant impacts on your employee’s happiness, efficiency and productivity.
This is probably the least important part of the equation. For most office workers, the following guidelines should suffice.
- Stick to well known brands such as Dell, Lenovo, HP, Microsoft and Apple.
- Avoid the consumer grade lines from all of these vendors and stick to business or enterprise grade lines.
- Intel Core i5 or higher
- AMD Ryzen 5 or higher
- 16 GB or more
- 500GB Solid State (SSD or NVME) or more
- 3 years or more
For Laptops, make sure they also have WiFi, bluetooth, webcam and USB-C charging capabilities included.
If you already have a fleet of computers deployed and are concerned about whether they are due for replacement or not, then a good baseline would be to confirm if they are older than 5 years, have less than 8GB of RAM or are out of warranty, if so, then it is time to consider replacing them.
There are very few scenarios where this can be considered optimal. While travelling, or onsite somewhere to do a job, it can work, but it is far from ideal and should only be used temporarily for the task at hand.
This is the typical sweet spot between cost, desktop real estate, and productivity. Depending on the nature of your work, having that second screen makes an enormous difference.
- No need to keep switching from one program to another and back again, have them both open simultaneously
- Copying and pasting items from one document to another
- Side-by-side comparison of two or more documents
- Drafting an email on one screen while using source material on the other
- Data entry into one application while having source data visible on the other monitor
- Reviewing or comparing multiple spreadsheets
- Having chat or email visible while working on other things at the same time
The impact of having multiple computer monitors has been studied for over 20 years now and is irrefutable. In the most recently published Jon Peddie Research survey the improvement in productivity was shown to be as high as 42%!
Long considered too expensive, or too extravagant, triple screen configurations are becoming more and more common and offer a whole new set of benefits both over single screen and dual screen set ups. Some preliminary studies have shown efficiency and focus gains up to 10% over dual monitor configurations. A triple monitor configuration extends all the benefits of a dual monitor setup while also granting you a center monitor to focus your most important tasks on. I have personally switched over to a triple monitor configuration for the last 3 years and cannot imagine ever going back to anything else. If you have the space on your desk for this type of setup, it’s absolutely worth the investment.
Keyboard and Mouse
When you think about it, if you spend your day working in front of a computer, is there anything you physically interact with more than your keyboard and mouse? For an office worker, a keyboard and mouse should be considered the same way a carpenter considers his framing hammer, or a butcher his cleaver. These tools are almost never glamorous, but if they are not comfortable, reliable, and efficient, the work will suffer.
As a novice keyboard enthusiast (yes, that is really a thing!) I could go on for hours on how to custom build your own keyboard which is specifically designed for your usage and preferred aesthetic, but I recognize that for many people a keyboard is a keyboard and will never invest the ludicrous amount of time and money required for a truly tailored computer keyboard. Instead, what I would recommend is to make sure that whatever keyboard you provide your employees, that it at least meets a minimum standard of quality. Sticking to name brands like Logitech or Microsoft will ensure you have something decent, however if you want to go the extra mile, take a look at the various companies providing mechanical keyboards! Switch and Click has a pretty good summary of their advantages here.
Much like with keyboards, the variety of choices in the mousing world are vast. Much of what works and doesn’t work for most people comes down to personal preference, however if you stick to well known brands, you should be reasonably served. That said, there is currently one productivity mouse that has reigned supreme for the last several years and that would be the Logitech MX Master. Tom’s Hardware does an excellent round up here describing what the current cream of the crop have to offer.
If you are providing laptops to your employees, then providing a compatible docking station for their workspace is an absolute must. Most modern laptops have sacrificed much of their physical connectivity in order to become thinner and lighter. A good docking station will allow these port deprived laptops the ability to connect to multiple monitors, the local network and multiple peripherals with a single cable, thus expanding their usefulness dramatically as well as keeping the wear and tear down as there is no need to plug and unplug multiple devices through out the day while you are working on different things. As an added bonus, because all of the peripherals are connected to the dock, it makes cable management a breeze, allowing for clean and uncluttered workspaces. Additionally, a good, modern dock will also provide power to the laptop via that single cable, further reducing the cable clutter potential in any set up!
A good dock is really a no brainer for any laptop deployment. Stick to well known brands like Dell and Lenovo, make sure the docks are USB-C compatible and provide power delivery to ensure the best possible results.
Deskpad or Mousepad
This seems trivial but can play a huge role in the overall experience when working behind a computer screen all day. A quality mousing surface not only reduces wear and tear on both your mouse and desk, but it also adds a certain level of ergonomics to the mix. A quality mousing surface is more accurate, more comfortable and ultimately the surface on which all mice are actually designed to work. There are countless sources available with more details, however I think the title of this one sums it up nicely – Only Monsters Use a Mouse without a Mouse Pad
Here at S3 we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the comfort, quality, efficiency and productivity of our staff, so we’d love to hear about any other “must have” peripherals or equipment that you can’t live without when working from home or the office so we can try them out ourselves as well! Get in touch!