I’ve worked from home for the past six years. In the years prior, my work time was a mixed bag of remote and in-office. Now, living in a small town in Idaho, spending most of my days in a small room, I have a lot of time to figure out what makes sense for an office setup, and what doesn’t. I spend most of my time in the home office, with one day a week in a local co-working space (although more often than not I don’t bother and just stay home). I imagine this will be a work in progress for years to come, so right now I’ll share more of a status of the current state, and less an understanding of the best solution overall.
There are three purposes, well more like four, for trying to tweak my home office setup. First is utility; I need certain things to get my job done. Second is aesthetics. I like things to look good because it helps create an environment where I’m happy to work. Third is curiosity, of a sort; I like to tinker and try out new things and see if they’ll give me some level of gains. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s fun to try. The last purpose is for better ergonomics. As I start to into my thirties, it’s becoming important to take care of myself and have a setup that’s built around me, instead of the other way around. When typing I want to have my wrists, shoulders, elbows, neck, and eyes all setup in such a way as to avoid strain or injury. So with those in mind, I’ll dive into some things I’m using.
Let’s start with my desk. I have an automatic stand-sit desk. There’s nothing particularly fancy about it, and at the top level it’s just tall enough for me as a 6’ 2” human. After a decade plus of slouching, and likely causing some displeasure for my back, I took ergonomics seriously. Right now that involves a combination of sitting and standing. For sitting I use a type of elevated standing chair, which I’ve discussed previously [link].
The standing desk is not new, but it’s only been in the last 18 months that I’ve used it more for its standing features. That came about because of acquiring the chair. It’s an easier transition to just slide off your chair when the desk is already close to the height of standing. I’ve also encountered the previously described issue with my back, where sitting for long periods becomes uncomfortable. It’s easier to just stand; granted that took a while, and I had to work up to the point of standing for 2-8 hours/day without feeling fatigued. Now I prefer to just stand most days.
Besides the standing desk, I bought an anti-fatigue standing mat from fully.com. This helps a lot and gives my feet something squishy to move on; I also wear a pair of Santa Cruz convertible slip-ons for comfort. They’re just fancy looking Crocs, but the most relaxing thing I’ve found for long hours of standing.
My computer setup has varied over the years as I’ve both upgraded and downgraded. My current system, and the one I feel most happy with, is an M1 MacBook Air, sitting on top of a Roost Laptop Stand, combined with a 27” LG Monitor on an Ergotron raised arm. Between the stand, the arm, and my desk, I’m able to tweak things to get just the right height for elbows, wrists, and neck.
The laptop, with 7 GPU Cores, and upgraded ram (16 GB), is perfect for my needs as a designer. I can run Safari with 30+ tabs, Adobe Illustrator, Figma, Slack, email, Zoom conference with screen sharing, Local by Flywheel, and 3-4 other apps I’m forgetting right now. That can all be going with barely a hiccup. It’s amazing, and was enough to convince me to switch away from a 2018 15-inch top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. I can’t wait to see what Apple does with their silicon on a real high-end laptop.
Besides the Roost Laptop Stand, I also use an Apple keyboard and mouse, along with Magic Grips for the mouse. I’m not sure if they give real ergonomic benefits, but I like the feel of them. As an aside, the Magic Grips are not intended for travel. If you regularly move your mouse from your desk, to a laptop bag, and to another desk, they’ll likely break down. I’ve had to get several replacements already (which the company was kind enough to send me at no charge). I’m thinking I may want to own two mice, eventually; one for travel and one for home.
I also bought a cheap desk pad for my keyboard and mouse, which allows me to lean over and rest my elbows without hurting the tendons. This happens sometimes when I switch to drawing on my iPad.
For iPad I use a 2020 12.9” iPad Pro. It’s great, and I’m writing this article on its Magic Keyboard case; although I have a nitpick with that, where the cursor randomly jumps to another spot in the editing process and starts inserting words; I might have to get it looked at. Hoping to write an article soon where I talk about the ideal writing setup; hint, the iPad is close, but not perfect.
At some point I bought an LED lamp, which gives a bit of brightness to my desk, and looks decent. I’ve tried several other things, but those are the key pieces that help get work done. My next step is to figure out the best method for a Wacom tablet; I acquired one last year and love it, but the large size (it was an Intuos Pro L) means re-arranging my entire ergonomic desk setup. That’s a bit more challenging when you have to move the keyboard and mouse around to make room for the tablet. I may try purchasing a small Wacom tablet and putting it to the side of the mouse; curious to see how that plays out.
Each of these pieces took time, and I’ll improve as I go forward. The main thing I’m watching for these days is my overall body placement. It’s important to listen to what my body is saying, and adjust accordingly.