Office Equipment & Supplies for Teaching, Learning, and Working from Home

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If there’s anything we can say about the events of 2020, it’s that they’ve turned our homes into workspaces for many of us. We might be an office worker, a teacher, or a student, but whatever we do, there’s a pretty good chance we’re doing it from home.

Indeed, there’s a tremendous appeal in being able to roll out of bed at 7:45 a.m. to be at work at 8, or knocking off at 5 p.m. for a commute home that’s all of 15 feet. It’s nice to go to the refrigerator to see what’s for lunch rather than having to buy or brown-bag it, and being able to save on gas and child care expenses can be a nice bonus.

Still, work is work, and we’ll need to be as productive in our home office as we would be if we were at the corporate headquarters. Making remote work or online education a success takes some planning, a bit of determination, and the best work-from-home equipment.

Let’s look at the basics.

PLANNING FOR COMFORT

No doubt, many of us have seen viral videos of a subject matter expert doing an interview from a home office only to have their three-year-old child wander in and climb up on their lap. And while that may give us a chuckle, others on an important conference call may not be so amused.

The first step in work-from-home success, then, is to have a dedicated workspace that’s both private and quiet. The dining room table isn’t likely to be a good option. If there are others in the house, they need to be aware that you’re at work, not on vacation. A door that can be locked is certainly an advantage.

A comfortable office chair is the next tool on your home office equipment list. You’ll likely be spending most of your workday in that chair, so it’s not something to do on the cheap. A kitchen chair just won’t do and is likely to result in an aggravating backache. Don’t forget a chair mat to protect floors.

Adequate desk space is next. You’ll need enough room for all of your home office equipment, including a computer, webcam, telephone or speakerphone, and any home office desk supplies you might need, such as notepads, pencil holders, and any other tools. You’ll also need storage space underneath or nearby the desk as well as home office organization supplies such as file folders or plastic bins to keep necessary paperwork in good order.

For a bit of added back protection, you might consider a standing desk; one that can be utilized either from a standing or sitting position. According to ergonomics experts at Consumer Reports, switching between sitting and standing throughout the day while working is the healthiest for your body.

And don’t forget the importance of good lighting. Although lighting is often an afterthought when it comes to making your home office supplies list, experts say proper lighting can have a significant impact on your productivity. A combination of natural and fluorescent lighting is a great option, and incorporating a desk lamp can add some more focused lighting for reading or other visually intensive tasks.

THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY

When it comes to your home office’s technological tools, the most critical component is a fast, reliable, and secure Internet connection. Few things are more aggravating than being on a conference call where someone’s audio cuts out or their voice sounds as if they’re underwater. A hard-wired network connection is preferable to Wi-Fi, but it’s not a dealbreaker.

A desktop PC or a docking station with an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor may be a better option than a laptop. Many of us find a laptop’s trackpad a bit unwieldy for all-day use, and a larger monitor can be easier on the eyes.

Of course, you’ll need the right collaboration tools, including a high-resolution webcam, a headset mic, and collaboration software. Prices for webcams offering 1080p resolution have fallen dramatically in recent years, and many collaboration software packages provide a limited amount of free or low-cost use. On a side note, relying on laptops’ speakers and built-in microphone as an audio solution isn’t advisable.

For those occasions where you want to skip the headset or communicate with those who don’t have web conferencing capabilities, a speakerphone is a requirement. Yamaha’s YVC-200 Speakerphone, for example, is an inexpensive and flexible solution for any home office. Features include a USB connection for laptops as well as Bluetooth/NFC connections for phones and tablets. Its rechargeable battery provides up to 10-hour use (longer with USB). The YVC-200’s omnidirectional microphone offers 360° coverage, so it’s perfect for discussions at your desk or the kitchen table.

And for a complete communication package, Yamaha’s YVC-200 Portable Speakerphone & VDO360 VDOSU 1 SEE Webcam bundle is just the ticket. The speakerphone offers professional-quality audio while connected to your laptop, phone or tablet. Its small, lightweight, and space-saving design is perfect for portability and deployment at laptops or mobile terminals. A headset jack allows for private listening and the option to enjoy music through the unit between calls. The VDO360's 1SEE webcam integrates with a USB hub for quick and easy installation and premium performance.

THE (LIKELY) NEW NORMAL

There’s no telling how long the work-from-home trend will last, but chances are it’s going to be around for a long time. A June 2020 study conducted by 451 Research found that 80 percent of organizations surveyed have implemented or expanded work-from-home policies, while 67 percent expect these policies to remain permanently or long-term.

And remote learning and distance education was on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to continue growing because of ongoing health concerns and efforts to cater to those students trying to complete their education while working full-time and raising families.

Thanks to these trends and others, the home office will be our workplace for the foreseeable future for many of us. Outfitting that home office with the right equipment will be a significant factor in our career and education success.

Want to learn more about working from home? Don’t miss these related blogs:

Ready to outfit your home office? Check out Yamaha’s line of work-from-home tools or contact the Yamaha UC team.

WORK-FROM-HOME ESSENTIALS - A CHECKLIST

The technology
  • A laptop with docking station or a desktop PC – Although a laptop may be sufficient for working from the local coffee shop, you may want to be able to connect a larger monitor as well as a separate mouse and keyboard
  •  A fast, reliable, secure Internet connection – Nearly every day, we see panel discussions on television where someone’s connection cuts out or freezes. Don’t let that be you.
  • Collaboration software – There’s a good chance that at the beginning of 2020, you didn’t have a clue as to what Zoom was. The same for Microsoft Teams or any other collaboration software. Now you know.
  • Scheduling software – It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re working—use calendar software to remind you of upcoming appointments or conference calls.
  • A webcam and a headset mic – Look for a webcam offering a resolution of at least 720p or higher. A 1080p webcam is better, and they’re becoming more and more affordable. Headset mics that make you look like you’re doing duty at Mission Control will do the trick, but earbud-style headsets are becoming the standard.
  • A nearby telephone or speakerphone – At some point, you’ll have to leave the virtual world. Just make it so you don’t have to go too far. A speakerphone lets you keep your hands on the keyboard as you communicate.
The environment
  • A dedicated, quiet home office space – Hearing someone’s dog barking during a conference call is funny the first time. Eventually, it becomes an annoyance.
  • A comfortable chair – Sitting can be harder on your back than either standing or lying down, and you’ll likely be in your chair for most of the workday. Don’t skimp on comfort. Also, invest in a chair mat, especially if your home office is carpeted.
  • Adequate desk space – Make sure you have enough desk space to work and stay organized. A desk that can be used while either sitting or standing can offer additional comfort.
  • Good lighting – Staring at the computer screen all day can be hard on your eyes. Fluorescent bulbs provide a softer light than an incandescent bulb. If you can, incorporate natural lighting.
The tried-and-true
  • Pens, pencils, and stationary – Sometimes, it’s just easier to jot down a note or a phone number on paper.
  • Stamps and envelopes – Because every so often, a hand-signed letter works best.