5 office upgrades for teaching from home. (Plus three I like having.)

I worked and was teaching from home for well over 200 days. These are the home office upgrades that we’ve splurged for. Yes, the links to products are affiliate links and might just help pay for all of the shopping done at home to make our offices better.

1 – Second monitor. This is a must for me. I often have multiple applications or tabs open that I want to flip between and having two screens makes this much easier. But for Zoom calls it’s even better. I can have one screen showing the class or meeting attendees in a grid, while the other screen is what I’m sharing, they’re sharing, or a document I’m working on. Seriously, if you’re not doing this simple addition you’re definitely slowing down productivity and limiting what you can do. I even got my wife hooked. The monitor we bought is a Benq. I was looking for one that had multiple HDMI inputs and this one does. Of course, depending on the outputs of your computer, you might need a dongle. Pepper and I both have HooToo USB C dongles that let us add 3 standard USB plugs and the HDMI output to the monitor.

2 – Separate mouse and keyboard. Okay, I admit that I have only rarely used the separate keyboard. But I wanted to get them as a set so that I would only use one USB port for the wireless keyboard and mouse combo. I find my productivity also slows considerably when I don’t have a separate mouse available. The plan for the separate keyboard was to have my desk be convertible between a sitting and standing, and I knew for best comfort that I would need a different height for the keyboard than for the screen if standing. Standing desk. Must. Happen. Soon.

3 – Printer. We are amazed to have gone so long, and thus confess that for 7 years whenever we needed to print something it was done at work. Though on occasion if we needed copies, color prints, or photos printed we certainly did support a local business, the occasional printed page didn’t seem like a big deal. And I think our employer would agree. That said, working form home this long it became clear that we needed one. We have a neighbor that we would bother on occasion to print something for us. And though we’re very, very digital in almost everything we do, having the ability to print has been nice. We knew we wanted the ability to print without having to hook up a coble or move files to a thumb drive, so cloud printing or other wireless capability was important. Also, we often need digital versions of documents, and while using my phone to upload to Google Drive works well, sometimes the lighting is problematic, so I was also hoping for the ability to scan and upload to our devices wirelessly. Lastly, I wanted a laser printer. I’ve just bought too many inkjet printers that then it becomes less expensive to buy a new printer than to buy the ink cartridges required. We settled on a Canon ImageCLASS MF23X printer and scanner. So far I’m pretty happy with it. The only thing I have not liked is that the scan is so good that it captures part of the back side of a sheet. Seems like a setting I can adjust but just have not looked into yet.

4. External speakers. I usually like to put on my headphones and jam away. I can play it as loud as I please and get into my groove. (See my thoughts on music streaming services.) But the laptop speakers just don’t cut it. So I went with a set of Creative Pebble speakers with subwoofer. One thing I wish they had was the ability to plug my headphones into them, instead of unplugging them and then plugging in my headphones.

5. Ring Light. The setup in my home office does not have great lighting. For a while I have had a floor lamp on the table next to my desk for better light on my face when in a video meeting or class. I went with an inexpensive USB ring light with stand. When it is on I do get quite a bit of glare on my keyboard, but it sure helps with my lighting – especially when using a virtual background.

Now a few others that I also like having…

First, a green screen. I made a 6 foot wide by 6 foot tall frame out of 2 inch PVC pipe and then stretched green cloth on it. It cost me about 30 dollars for the PVC and fabric and was very easy to put together. Here’s a video of me experimenting with it before I had the ring light (which in the end really helped get better results out of the green screen!).

My green screen trials.

Second, an office chair. Having the ability to just swivel a bit and adjust the height made sitting at my desk so much better. The chair I have does not tilt, but having the height right for resting my arms on my desk and the ability to scoot forward and back easily has an unmeasurable impact.

Third, a mini-fridge. Sure, there’s a big fridge just a few steps further in our kitchen. But in this case what having a mini fridge just feet away from me showed me that I actually do not want one in my office at the school. it was just too easy to keep stocked with Coke which when combined with a much more sedentary work day made me very aware of my empty calorie intake. I’ve always known it was there, but this really highlighted it for me!

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