6 Tech Upgrades (From $30) To Level Up Work-From-Home Productivity

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This article was first published on DollarsAndSense.sg.

Work-From-Home (WFH) arrangements are #thenewnormal – as can be seen even as Singapore transitions into Phase 3 (Heightened Alert). For the foreseeable future, working from home or some form of hybrid work arrangement is likely to continue. This means that having an effective WFH setup where you can take a Zoom or Microsoft Teams video call is going to be important.

For those of us who have been scraping by on minimal equipment and temporary solutions, perhaps it is time to finally bow to the inevitable and invest in the proper technology equipment for a productive WFH arrangement.

#1 Invest In Reliable Internet With A Good Router

Having laggy calls or being disconnected from online meetings is disruptive and frustrating. While most households have upgraded their broadband plans for better Internet connections, most people don’t realise that have a good router will affect your internet connection.

For those who are still using the entry-level routers provided (often for free) by their Internet Service Provider (ISP), a poor wireless internet connection can be due to the router performance (and not the shortcomings of your broadband plan).

Upgrading to routers with Wi-Fi 5 or better capabilities will provide a more reliable wireless internet connection for all your devices within the area of a 5-room flat. Unlike other technology devices that tend to be obsolete within a few years, router technology tends to last longer and you can get secondhand routers that provide comparable performance.

Instead of shelling out $300 to $500 for a new top-tier router, you can purchase a secondhand ASUS RT-AC88U, for $80 to $120 on Carousell. Even though it’s an older model Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 AC), it still can give you most of the performance and reliability that the newer Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 AX) routers give.

Cost of Upgrade: ASUS RT-AC88U, $80 to $120 on Carousell

Read Also: Buying Guide: 5 Gadgets Under $100 To Improve Your Employees’ Work-From-Home Experience

#2 Invest In Good Audio Quality With Good Earphones And Condenser Microphone

Working from home means that you are exposed to every noise, such as children crying in the background or construction and renovations happening in the neighbourhood. Having background noise bleed into your conference call can be annoying and disruptive.

A good headset, such as Logitech G331 Wired Gaming Headset, provides good audio quality for those who are in online calls all day.

For those of us who already have mid-range or better in-ear earphones but want better noise isolation (and block out all the construction noise from your neighbours), consider using memory foam ear tips to replace your earbuds. These mould to your ear and block out noise effectively, while remaining comfortable for prolonged use. Make sure you find the correct size for your earphones.

Even if you can hear clearly, you may not be heard clearly, especially with a noisy background. If your home environment is noisy, consider a condenser mic because condenser mics have a very tight pickup range, which means that it picks up sound poorly from distant sources and thus only picks up your voice. The following picture shows the noise levels from a condenser mic (top) and a laptop stock mic(bottom) in the same noisy environment.

As you can see, the laptop mic is roaring at max volume with background noise while the condenser mic is almost completely silent because nobody is talking directly into it.

Cost of Upgrade: Logitech G331 Stereo Wired Gaming Headset, $69 on Shopee. Comply foam ear tips (set of 3 pairs), $29.90 on Shopee. Condenser Microphone, from $25 on Shopee.

Read Also: 5 Noise-Cancelling Headphones/Earbuds Below $250 For Online Meetings During Work-From-Home

#3 Project A More Professional Image With Webcam And Green Screen

Older laptops may suffer from poor or no webcam, while desktops may require a separate webcam. One hack is to use your mobile phone as a webcam with apps like iVCam. Most mobile phones (even older ones) have relatively stellar cameras compared to your laptop, and they handle low-light situations well.

Alternatively, a professional webcam, such as Logitech C920 Webcam, can clip onto your PC or laptop monitor. As a bonus, these webcams often feature edge detection and facial recognition which enhance background trimming for apps such as Zoom, making it less likely for background objects to show through your virtual background.

A trick borrowed from live streamers and professional video production, an inexpensive green screen can also enhance your background presentation. Zoom has a green screen feature and you can overlay your slides as your webcam background. Third-party software such as OBS Studio can be used with OBS VirtualCam to snip out your image and even overlay it onto your PowerPoint presentation for a professional look.

Cost of Upgrade: iVcam Permanent, US$24.95. Logitech C920 Webcam, $149 on Shopee. Green Screen, from $10 on Lazada. OBS Studio, Free.

#4 Keep Active With A Standing Work Desk

Working long hours seated can be uncomfortable and even unhealthy. Having the option to stand or sit while maintaining the ergonomics of your workspace can be invaluable at increasing work productivity (and fending off food coma).

While Omnidesk is possibly one of the most well-known motorised standing desks in Singapore, there are many motorised height-adjustable desks available online. While they offer significant savings, you will need to do some homework to ensure that accessories like third-party cable management trays and monitor arms are compatible.

Cost of Upgrade: Standing Desk (With Motorised Height Adjustments), $400 to $500 on Shopee.

#5 Support Your Posture With A Computer Chair

Working on the sofa may be too comfortable, while working on a dining chair may be pure torture and horrible for your posture. While the popular and award-winning Secretlab Omega chair is very adjustable, it does come with a significant price tag. A good trade-off would be this Xiaomi Chair which offers some of the adjustability options and is made of similar materials at a much more affordable price of $189.

Cost of Upgrade: Xiaomi Ergonomic Gaming Chair, $189.90 on Lazada.

Read Also: Work-From-Home (Again): 5 Best Office Chairs From $149.90 To Improve Your Posture

#6 Supercharge Productivity With An Extra Monitor

Having a second screen or an extra monitor can be a huge boost to your productivity, especially if your work revolves around switching between multiple documents or large excel sheets.

Local company, Prism+ has some great deals, starting for just $249 for a 24” FHD monitor. Monitor arms can also be used to save desk space while offering you versatility for placement. Their monitors are also quite light, which means that when you revert to Work-From-Office, you can easily bring this to upgrade your work desk.

Alternatively, for more portability, you can consider portable 15.6” monitors which can be easily carried around the house for those who do not have dedicated work desks.

Cost of Upgrade: PRISM+ W240 24″ IPS 75Hz Productivity Monitor Gaming Monitor, $219 on Lazada. Portable 15.6” monitor, from $200 on Lazada.

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