March, 2020 Update: If you are new to remote working due to COVID-19 I hope this helps you.
PS – If your company has not set you up with a Zoom account or you need your own sign up here. It’s the best web conferencing solution available.
If you’ve scanned any UX design job boards lately, you’ve probably seen lots of listings with “anywhere” as the location. Perhaps you’ve wondered if being a digital nomad or work-at-home mom or dad (WAHM) is a good option.
Right now it’s the only option for me due to family responsibilities. I’m not working poolside in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Instead I’m either in my home office, visiting a client or in the school parking lot waiting to pickup my daughter.
In this post I’ll share my current remote working setup. This is my go-to gear for working from home, working on site with clients, or working from anywhere with an internet connection.
Is Remote Working Right For You?
While it’s true that nothing beats face-to-face communication, distributed teams are becoming more and more common for corporate, agency and startup cultures. If you choose to work this way, it’s important to have a set of reliable tools so that you really can work from anywhere.
Besides two full-time agency positions, I’ve been working remotely from “anywhere” since 1998, when I served as a project manager for a software company that was acquired by Oracle. Things have only gotten better since then with the proliferation of WIFI and broadband internet speeds. Here’s my current setup:
Office In A Backpack
You need a place to put everything, and the removable day pack on this carry-on travel pack is almost perfect. It’s the right size to fit my laptop, laptop stand, mouse, chargers, notebook, pens and phone without being too bulky. I’ve also used it a few times on overnight trips. It has just enough room to fit a change of clothes with all the other stuff inside.
I wish it had a padded sleeve for the laptop, but so far that hasn’t been an issue. When paired with the full-size pack it’s 55 liters of freedom. I highly recommend it.
One of the biggest downsides to being a knowledge worker is the price we pay in poor posture and repetitive stress injuries. Over 20 years of hunching over a laptop has kept my chiropractor very busy.
I recently purchased this portable laptop stand to see if I could replicate the ergonomic desktop setup I have in my home office. I’ve only had it a short time, but so far so good. I like that I can look straight on at my laptop now instead of being hunched over. My neck and shoulders are definitely thanking me.
The stand was a little tough to figure out when I first got it, but there are very helpful YouTube videos that show how to set it up. It comes with a small slip case and is very lightweight.
iPhone Portable Battery Charger
This little gadget is da bomb. It has replaced my car charger and come in so handy at airports and on the train. No more competing for available outlets. It charges directly from my laptop and gives my phone a full day’s worth of power.
Behance Dot Grid Notebook
If you’ve read my post about gifts for UX designers, you’ll see that this notebook is one of my all-time faves. It has a slight dot grid pattern that fades into the background. It’s perfect for brainstorming, sketching, journaling, whatever.
I won’t get into Mac vs. Windows debate here. I bought my first Macbook laptop in 2003 and haven’t looked back. My current machine is a souped-up MacBook Pro with 16MB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
If you do any type of creative work on Adobe’s Creative Suite platform you will need as much RAM as you can stand. I debated whether or not to go with the much lighter MacBook Air, but the MacBook Pro is a far hardier beast. I also produce audio and video projects on it, both of which consume a ton of storage.
Apple Wireless Keyboard
I use this with my laptop stand and mouse to have an ergonomic setup on any flat surface.
Apple Magic Mouse
This is a great little bluetooth mouse, but it eats batteries like Pac-Man and is fairly delicate. Make sure you keep it safely tucked away when not in use. Don’t expect it to recover from too many drops, and be sure to keep spare batteries in your pack.
Ear Peace Ear Plugs
Sometimes you may find yourself in a loud environment, and turning up the volume on your earbuds just makes it worse. That’s what typically happens if I’m working in a place like Starbucks or on a plane, which isn’t very often.
What’s great about these simple little ear plugs is that they are completely discreet and knock out several db of noise. I recently wore them on a cross-country flight to L.A. back in March and really enjoyed the peace and quiet. I much prefer these over bulky noise-canceling headphones.
Charging Cable Organizer
This little case has spared me from the tangled mess I often used to find in my pack after returning from a client visit. It’s perfect for storing my mouse, laptop and phone chargers, as well as my iPhone battery charger.
Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle
I always like to have water with me wherever I go. This stainless steel water bottle is also dishwasher safe. If I’m traveling I can empty it out and pack it away to keep TSA happy, and then refill it once I’m past security using a Kishu natural water filter.
EPIC Grass-Fed Protein Bars
And now for today’s Paleo health-nut moment. Nothing is worse than being hungry and tired after a long day, which is why I try to remember to keep healthy snacks my pack at all times. EPIC bars are low in sugar and have just enough protein and fat to keep me going. My daughter also loves them, so they get extra points for being a kid-friendly and nutritious snack.
Over To You
Boom – that’s the kit. It changes slightly from time to time, but I really try to keep things as streamlined as possible. I can’t make it too heavy or it hurts my back. What’s in your bag? Are you able to work from anywhere? What’s missing from my list? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for reading!
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