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Non Obvious things that make it nicer to work from home

by Mark P. McDonald  |  March 18, 2020  |  Comments Off on Non Obvious things that make it nicer to work from home

So you are working from home now.  I hope that you and your loved ones are safe.  Advice on how best to work from home abounds.  Here are some of the less obvious practices and tools that I find helpful.  Please add onto these in the comment sections with things that work for you.

Remember I am skipping the obvious things to get into the happy surprises you can bring to your work at home experience.

Lap sized whiteboards

Kicking off with something totally non obvious but a big productivity tool.  White boards that are the size of a 8.5 x 11’ piece of paper.  These have been a godsend as you never think much about how often you go to a whiteboard in the office.  These are great for sketching out ideas, maintain a to do list, or just to have around the house.  The link for 6 one sided boards, which I would recommend as you only need two, but the rest of your family will steal the rest.

Using the white board helps avoid the writers block that can come from working with paper or writing in a notebook, or worse using power point.  It always seems better to just start scribbling and getting into the flow.  Good markers are a must.  I recommend EXPO Ultra Fine markers in a range of colors.

A wall clock or big desk clock

Just about everything has a clock in it, so why invest a few bucks in another clock.  Simple, because you can casually look at a wall clock or one on your desk.  That becomes important again in a video conference setting.  Your on camera listening to a college or even your boss and you just notice how annoying, boring, repetitious, take your pick they are.  You want to know when it will all be over, that is when the wall clock comes into play.  A quick glance and you know.

A wall clock or desk clock is helpful in one other area – quitting time.  Working from home its easy to work all the time.  But you need a break and a time to shut down, otherwise you will work all day and into the night.  A wall clock reminds you break away and get onto other tasks.  Put a sticky on the clock for when the end of the day is to remind you to break away.


Lighting is critical and easily overlooked when you are working casually from home.  I would suggest that you need three light sources in your work at home area.

  • A general overhead light, something that already probably exists. Check the bulbs and recognize that a bright work area raises your energy and attitude.  It can be easily overlooked when you are casual work at home person.
  • A desk specific light for the work area. There a ton of lights out there.  I suggest a LED light with a long light bar.  I am using this one from Daktronics it has a Qi-charger built into the base for your phone so it is two products in one.
  • A video conferencing light. This a light with an adjustable top so you can swing it up to light up your face during a video conference.  It is also your secondary deck light.  I use this one I got at IKEA a while ago, but any one will do.  40W max otherwise you will blind yourself. It sounds stupid but it makes a huge difference, without it you can easily look like someone in a witness protection program or working out of a cave in an undisclosed location.

Computer Stands

Speaking of video conferencing, its is time to raise your computer to the next level.  By that I mean putting it on a stand or a few thick books.  The idea is to raise the camera on the computer to the level at which you normally sit.  Otherwise all you are projecting is razor stubble, nose hair and your jowls  It may be fun to think that your customers and colleges are looing up to you on a video conference, but they are not seeing your best side, just the bottom side.

Unless you are going to be working at home for a long time, I would recommend breaking out a few old books, blocks of wood etc. to get things to the right level.   No expense and see there was a reason why you kept those old chemistry text books.  For me, its an old accounting book and a few economics texts.


If you lift up your computer, then you need a remote keyboard.  There are tons out there.  Wireless is a good way to go, but wired ones work fine.  Just get one that has a raised angle to help protect your wrists.  A good mouse upgrade may be in order as well.

You can argue that there is nothing wrong with the computer’s built in keyboard and trackpad.  Yes but working from home is more textual – emails, etc. than working in the office.  This makes a good typing experience helpful.

Blocking those video conference cameras

It’s a good idea to either block the computer camera when you are not on a video conference. Just an extra level of protection.  Is a fold piece of paper over the camera.

Computer based speakerphone

I am going out on a limb here.  If you know you are going to be working from home the majority of time after the crisis, or you have a healthy home office allowance from your company then consider a home speaker like a Jabra or other brand.  You can get a good one for around $200.00.  I have one that connects with a cable and no problems, the wireless ones can cost twice as much.

I left out the obvious stuff about chairs, noise cancelling headphone, upgraded wifi etc.  But here are some things that make me more productive at home. Please share your ideas of practical and product things to make your work from home experience as good as it possibly can be.

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Category: personal-observation  

Mark McDonald
VP Analyst
12 years at Gartner
33 years IT Industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program. Read Full Bio

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