RT Cunningham

You Need a Workstation to Work at Home Effectively

I’m surprised when I’m told by certain people how they get their work done at home. One in particular explained his workstation to me, which it wasn’t.

All definitions aside, the primary purpose of a workstation is to get some work done. If it doesn’t meet that criteria more than 50 percent of the time, it’s something else.

The Workstation Defined

The Wikipedia definition:

A workstation is a special computer designed for technical or scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by one person at a time, they are commonly connected to a local area network and run multi-user operating systems.

One dictionary definition:

A general-purpose computer designed to be used by one person at a time and which offers higher performance than normally found in a personal computer, especially with respect to graphics, processing power and the ability to carry out several tasks at the same time.

It’s easy to get confused with definitions and that’s why I tend to ignore them. The modern desktop or laptop computer can do everything that the largest population segment needs it to do. A web designer (as one example) probably needs a beefier machine than most, especially when working with graphic design.

With the cost of computers dropping all the time, a multi-operating system environment isn’t really necessary. You can do the same thing with multiple computers or devices. That’s how I do it.

Connecting to a local area network is probably important in a business work environment, but not in a home work environment. The Internet itself, a wide area network, is the network of choice for home professionals.

Workstation Components

You can argue about what makes up a workstation, but you can’t argue what makes up a work environment. But then again, you can probably argue about what amenities to include in a work environment.

I’ll try to explain using my work environment as an example. My work environment is a compromise. I like to do my thing at odd hours, early in the morning and late at night. Although I prefer using a separate room or my outdoor “man cave”, under the carport, Josie (my wife) prefers me working in the master bedroom. It’s essentially my indoor man cave.

Josie doesn’t sleep well unless she sees me when she has her “waking periods”. You know, when she needs to go to the bathroom or something or when she rolls over. She likes it when I make a “little noise”.

Josie likes hearing a little noise when she’s trying to go to sleep. Not the noise of all the neighborhood roosters crowing at once or some stray dogs doing their mating things close to the front of the house. She likes hearing me tap on the keyboard and if that isn’t enough, she wants me to play music.

I like listening to music when I work, but not so loud that it interferes with my concentration. She likes it a little louder. I wait until I hear her breathing regularly or snoring and then I turn it down.

My Workstation

I have my laptop computer sitting on a computer desk made for a regular, tower-type desktop computer. It has a shelf above the level for the computer. I have all kinds of stuff lying around on both levels, but the upper level has two computer speakers sitting on it.

The Wi-Fi router is sitting on a table near the computer desk. I use the wire connection instead of Wi-Fi, though I have both connections active with the operating system. When I want to haul the laptop outside, all I have to do is unplug the cable connection and go.

Linux Mint can be set up to use multiple work spaces, but I prefer the “alt-tab” method of switching between applications. It works the same as it does on Windows.

There’s enough space on the computer desk, on the right side, for my coffee cup. Unfortunately, I’m clumsy and I’ve knocked the cup over more times than I care to admit. Fortunately, my laptop sits forward far enough that it always spills behind the computer.

I have a land line on the table near the Wi-Fi router. It’s required by my DSL provider but I always have the ringer turned off. I only use it for outbound calls and only when I have Internet connection issues. Most of the time, I have my mobile phone sitting on the slide-out tray designed for a regular desktop computer keyboard. In fact, my charging source is a USB port on the laptop.

Your Workstation

My laptop computer has a large screen, 15.6 inches. I refuse to use anything smaller in anything other than an emergency. I have a Windows laptop of the same size on standby so I won’t have to use my 10-inch netbook for anything. There will always be something with a decent-sized screen on standby.

What you use for your workstation could be completely different. A good tablet with a USB on-the-go (OTG) adapter and a regular keyboard would probably work just as well as a laptop. With a multiple-USB adapter, you can even use your preferred pointing device. In my case, it’s a mouse.

I don’t think anyone should use a smartphone as a workstation. The screens are just too small for most people and you would probably need a very high-end smartphone to run the right applications. It’s not impossible, of course. If it’s the only way you can do your thing, go for it. I’m always being amazed by the oddball things some people learn to do with their phones.

More than a Workstation

I have a 42-inch television in the living room. I rarely watch it. It will probably still be around when I’m long gone. When I’m not working, I watch movies and TV shows on my laptop computer. I’m not subscribed to any streaming services, like Netflix, but I often watch YouTube videos.

I spend a lot less time in front of a keyboard these days than I used to. For that reason alone, my workstation has to be always at the ready. I tend to work in spurts and it irritates me when something, anything, isn’t working the way it’s supposed to work.

All work and no play makes Richard a dull boy. If you understand, feel free to comment.

December 19, 2016

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