Remote work provides the flexibility to work from anywhere. For many people, that means you can customize your home workspace to your unique needs. It's important to configure a remote setup that works best for you. If you're just getting started in a remote role, check out this guide for more tips.
Setting up a home office can be difficult. Many office spaces hire design professionals to create the workspace, but that burden shifts to employees in a remote environment.
While there are benefits to ditching the cubicle, it can feel overwhelming to design a new workspace. It's not as hard as you think to create a space where you can be comfortable, focused, and productive.
Workspace expert Ryan Anderson from [MillerKnoll] (https://www.millerknoll.com/) shares how to set up a personal workspace using best practices for ergonomics, productivity, and environment.
Like Ryan says, it's important to view your home office as an evolving project. Iteration applies to workspaces, too. As you begin working in your office, you may realize that you need to shift your monitors, add lighting, or find that you get more done in silence or ambient noise than wearing headphones playing music. GitLab teamed up with the workplace design experts at Herman Miller to create the Work-From-Home Field Guide. This resource is a blueprint for leaders and remote teams to build healthier workspaces, no matter where work gets done. On this page, we're sharing lessons from that guide, with a lot of added detail.
Setting up a home office requires two types of equipment: technology and furniture. Budget, physical space, accessibility, or any number of other factors may limit your ability to find the gear that will serve you best. Plus, you'll probably look for equipment that suits your taste.
While we can't answer every equipment question for you, here's an in-depth guide to what some of our workplace experts are using in their own home offices.
Since remote workers are responsible for internet connectivity, invest in a substantial home internet connection. You may also want to have a backup in case your connection fails - for example, you could upgrade your smartphone/plan to support tethering or invest in a dedicated mobile hotspot or MiFi.
Assuming you're lucky enough to have excellent access, you may also want to set up a secondary connection so there's enough bandwidth for everyone working from your location. One person uploading a large file could impact the audio or visual quality of another person's video call if they are trying to share a single connection.
Refer to your company's policy for specifics on purchasing a computer or laptop. Since this will your main mode of working and communicating, be sure the specs and speed fit your optimal way of working.
In an all-remote setting, video calls are vital to maintaining close relationships with clients, partners, and colleagues. While voice calls are flexible and allow for uniquely efficient lifestyles (e.g. listening to a conference call while running in a park), it's important to integrate video into workplace communication.
There are generally three tiers of camera quality for at-home workspaces (professional studio rigs notwithstanding).
megadesk back in action. i dont think i can be a single monitor person though— Chris Gets Better (@chrisgetsbetter) March 27, 2020
whats best? multiple, single, or ultrawide pic.twitter.com/yRjlzx5lBz
For optimal image quality in video calls, a dedicated mirrorless camera or DSLR is the ideal. The Verge maintains a basic setup guide if you're new to the concept. Sony's Alpha line of mirrorless cameras are excellent for webcam use. However, these types of cameras and their accessories can be very expensive, and may not be right for everyone's needs. Before committing, read the following considerations.
Most phones and laptops come with passable webcams direct from the manufacturer. If you're on a budget or travel often, this may be the best option for you. However, built-in cameras do not offer optimal quality.
If you take frequent video calls in your home workspace, a dedicated webcam like the Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro offers a higher resolution camera compared to built-in cameras, and is better able to handle low-light scenarios. Many dedicated webcams also include a software suite for touching up one's appearance, tweaking white balance, and applying background themes when paired with a green screen. These are also less complicated to install and maintain compared with mirrorless/DSLR rigs.
Consider selecting a webcam with a versatile mount, enabling it to be set atop a desktop monitor as well as a laptop. You can greatly improve the output from a dedicated webcam by focusing on good lighting.
Whether you're working with a webcam or the built-in device camera, you can optimize your space for better results. By utilizing a ring light or Elgato Key Light, and ensuring that there are no windows to your side or rear, you'll create a more even picture with fewer shadows. For more, read 5 tips for mastering video calls on the GitLab blog.
Wearing headphones,particularly in noisy environments, creates a more positive audio experience for all. Your choice of headphone will vary depending on your workspace. For example, if you're using a dedicated microphone, you may prefer comfortable studio-style headphones without an in-line mic. If you want to reduce the amount of hardware you're using, headphones with an in-line mic will be more appropriate.
GitLab recommends trying out various headphone styles in advance if possible. Open-ear vs. closed-ear, for example, provides a very different listening experience. Noise-cancelling headphones are great for crowded coworking spaces, but may blot out too much sound for work-from-home caregivers who need to be aware of what's happening inside the home.
It's important to consider long-term comfort for those who may find themselves in video calls for multiple hours per day. For example, some people prefer in-ear headphones rather than over-the-head headphones.
Bluetooth headphones can be problematic for roles requiring a significant amount of calls, due to limitations of microphone quality, latency, and battery life. If you opt for Bluetooth headphones, you may want to also use a separate wired microphone. Bluetooth headphones, if paired with multiple devices (e.g. one pair of headphones with a pairing history involving a laptop as well as a phone), may jump between devices. We recommend pairing one set of Bluetooth headphones per device to avoid unexpected disconnects during video calls.
What constitutes "good headphones" varies significantly depending on preference. We recommend digging into Wirecutter's various headphone guides for researched suggestions.
Almost any phone or laptop comes with a built-in microphone that should be adequate for your needs. A pair of Bluetooth or wired earbuds with an in-line microphone can help reduce background noise, if you work in a noisy space. These are commonly included with most smartphones.
However, if you frequently speak in front of audiences, record talks or podcasts, or simply wish to have excellent audio quality, invest in a dedicated USB microphone (and, if desired, a desk mount for added ergonomic positioning). For example, Blue Microphones offers a variety of options that are crafted with creators, streamers, and podcasters in mind, and all provide exceptional clarity and noise reduction on video calls.
Several GitLab team members have positive experiences with the M-Audio UberMic.
"When audio quality is high (vs low), people judge the content as better and more important. They also judge the speaker as more intelligent, competent, and likable. Messages that are difficult to process are less compelling." This research, conducted by Norbert Schwarz at the University of Southern California, reinforces the importance of investing in equipment and atmosphere to generate the highest-fidelity audio in a remote work setting. If you have the funds available, this is an often-overlooked but very worthy way to use them.
If you feel that your digital workspace is too cramped when relying solely on a laptop, consider using at least one external monitor. External monitors offer flexible positioning, which allows your neck to be situated in a more natural and ergonomically correct position.
If you do video calls often, an external display will enable you to use one screen for video chatting and another for documentation, referencing pages, etc.
If you'd like a portable monitor and you primarily use a MacBook laptop, consider expanding your visual workspace with Sidecar (available in macOS Catalina). This allows an iPad to double as a secondary display for your Mac.
If you present content regularly, consider adding a teleprompter that enables you to read a pre-written script while looking directly into a lens. This straight-on profile creates a more authentic connection with the audience, akin to a newscaster on television, especially when creating training modules or asynchronous video overviews.
For a basic solution, consider the Padcaster Parrot Smartphone Teleprompter. If you have a smartphone and mirrorless/DSLR camera already, this $99 kit provides everything else you need.
Sid Sijbrandij (CEO and co-founder, GitLab) shared a video overview of his streaming and teleprompter setup on GitLab Unfiltered.
GitLab CEO Teleprompter Setup; captured during GitLab Commit Virtual 2020
Teleprompters enable eye contact similar to meeting someone in-person and can make meetings more engaging. However, there are currently challenges with using a teleprompter setup as your everyday video conferencing setup. Once these are overcome, we may recommend it.
Laptop keyboards are engineered to fit the laptop, not to be ergonomic. Whenever possible, consider working in a space where there's room to utilize an external keyboard. This allows you to adjust the keyboard so that you're typing in a natural way, reducing strain on your wrists and fingers.
There are a wide variety of ergonomic keyboards, and it's worth trying out a few in a retail location if possible. If this is not practical, Wirecutter has assembled a well-researched guide on the best ergonomic keyboards.
A traditional mouse can put strain on the wrist by creating movements in an unnatural position. Fortunately there are plenty of other options available such as vertical mice, trackpads, trackballs and pen tablets. Each has their own advantages. Find one that is comfortable for you and minimizes wrist movement as much as possible (vertical mice, for example, engage your shoulder and arm more than your wrist and trackballs rely on moving your fingers). You can also consider a left-handed mouse. Painless Movement has a regularly updated list of the best ergonomic mice as well as comprehensive information on the various types towards the bottom of the page.
It's important for remote workers to be cognizant of repetitive motion. While it may seem extreme to some, consider installing two mice and switching hands to move one's cursor.
Keep in mind that work often happens in multiple spaces throughout the workweek. You'll want to consider a range of spaces for different types of work:
Seating should be not viewed not as an expense, but as an investment in your health, comfort, and productivity.
Unless you plan to utilize a standing desk, which is covered below, your chair is likely to be the single most important element of your home office. Not all ergonomic chairs are created equal, and a chair that works well for one person may not be ideal for another. It's important to consider your posture, and make adjustments to habits if needed, to make the most of an ergonomic chair.
Many remote workers spend a significant portion of their day seated. While resources exist to explain how frequently you should take a break, stand up, stretch, and engage in activity during the workday, you should be careful not to skimp on seating.
If possible, visit a physical store to try out a variety of ergonomic seating options, or purchase online from a retailer that offers a generous return policy.
Steelcase and MillerKnoll both offer solid options. While retail pricing on chairs from these firms is very high, you can often find them used for less. To assist in your research, consider Wirecutter's exhaustive (and continually updated) guide to office chairs.
Employers: Consider offering an allowance for employees to invest in a high-quality ergonomic chair.
Generally, a larger desk is preferred, as it reduces crowding. A clean, uncrowded desk is a happier place to work from.
new desk setup pic.twitter.com/AqPUPA8fTm— jake burden (@jake_burden_) November 30, 2020
An adjustable standing desk is a great, ergonomic option. You can find standing desks at a variety of price points, heights, adjustability levels, and more. An adjustable desk allows you to easily move your desk higher in order to stand while working, and then adjust it back down to sit for a time. This is a good article on The Best Standing Desks in higher price ranges.
Research is ongoing as to the ideal ratio of sitting to standing during a workday.
Using advanced ergonomic and health risk calculations, Jack Callaghan, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology, has found that the ideal sit-stand ratio lies somewhere between 1:1 and 1:3 – a vast departure from traditional wisdom.
If you plan to stand for an extended portion of your working day, consider investing in a standing desk mat. Also called anti-fatigue mats, these cushion one's feet and allow natural weight shifting while working.
If you're transitioning from an office environment where supplies magically appeared or were stocked in a closet for your use, now you are responsible for acquiring them. Check out our complete list of office supplies.
When communicating via webcam, you need to be aware of your lighting scheme.
Meetings are about the work, not the background, but those who are designing their home office may want to consider lighting before too many absolutes are put in place. Here are a few lighting tips to be mindful of.
While studio lighting is ideal, not everyone will be inclined to install large, heat-generating light boxes in their home office. As remote work and livestreaming become more popular, companies are devising smaller solutions. Elgato's Key Light is a great example. By placing one Key Light at the edge of a desk and facing its LEDs directly into the wall, a soft, refreshing light is bounced back onto the participant.
DIY solutions are relatively easy to create with a mount and a light ring.
Aside from your video setup, lighting is also an important factor in your overall comfort and productivity in your office space. Natural light is best, particularly when your desk is facing the light source to help avoid glare. If you don't have access to natural light, consider using adjustable bulbs to mimic natural lighting.
Consider where you prefer to work on a daily basis and optimize this space for focus. Try to remove visual, sound, and motion distractions to maximize your focus on work while in the space and healthily disconnect when you exit.
While remote workers should relish the benefits of being close to friends and family while working, some may prefer a more formal approach to signaling their availability.
For example, the Luxafor Flag and Luxafor Switch light indicators utilize a color system to alert those around you (or outside of your home office) whether or not they are free to interrupt without requesting permission.
Alternatively, if you have access to a nearby light fixture, install a color-changing smart bulb connected to your phone or computer to change the color to indicate availability.
Remote employees may want to consider hiring a trained ergonomic consultant to provide professional input and recommendations on how your home office should be constructed. While this is an investment, it's the type of cost that can be significantly offset over time by improving your health and wellbeing.
Research has found that there is no single temperature in which all people are more productive. Consider testing several temperatures to see which suits you, or adjust temperature based on your work activity.
Plan your work time and time off in advance. When you're not working, turn off Slack and close your email client. At GitLab, this only works if all team members abide by the communication guidelines. It also helps to enable the "working hours" feature on your calendar so that team members in other time zones know when to schedule meetings.
Have an open, honest conversation with co-dwellers about your working hours. Explain that while you are home, you should be considered unreachable unless there's a significant level of need.
Be sure to have the "I'm home but working" conversation with children, who may struggle to understand why a a working parent is in the home but unable or unwilling to engage with them for certain parts of the day.
When you work from home, you create a space that fuels your work. According to this Thrive Global article on remote space setup, "Maybe that is art, pictures, having a couch close by, or maybe it’s just having music playing…at home you can really do whatever you want. It feels less like a corporate job and more of your own thing."
Try not to worry about your background too much. Sometimes pets or family wander into a room while you're on a call and reminds us that we are people first and colleagues second.
Look at our equipment examples to see some of the items that other GitLab team members have purchased, and please consider adding to the list if there is something you'd like to share.
Get creative if you cannot dedicate space for a permanent home office. You can assemble movable pieces for a "mobile office" that you set up and tear down daily, utilize a co-working space, work from a public business or building, or tether to work anywhere. Our team members have entertaining stories of getting creative to connect, everything from working in parked vehicles to access public wifi to SIM cards and tethering devices allowing connection from an exotic mountaintop.
Whether an organization is fully remote, remote-first, or hybrid, it's up to company leaders to enable an equitable and inclusive employee experience. Just as you'd invest in a team's workspace in a physical office, enabling team members to create healthy and productive spaces is a core part of building remote infrastructure. An optimized workspace leads to team member happiness, wellness, and engagement, and it also leads to better overall results for your organization.
Keep in mind that there's no "one size fits all" for a home office setup, because each member of your team has different needs, work preferences, and home environments. Consider providing budget for your team to spend on their home workspace, a coworking space, or equipment needed to be productive on the go. For example, at GitLab, team members are allowed to spend company money as they would their own, with guidance provided for various types of equipment. Keep in mind that team members' needs may change as they experiment to find their ideal work environment.
Anyone can test their knowledge on how to set up a productive home office or remote workspace by completing the knowledge assessment. Earn at least an 80% or higher on the assessment to receive a passing score. Once the quiz has been passed, you will receive an email acknowledging the completion from GitLab. We are in the process of designing a GitLab Remote Certification and completion of the assessment will be one requirement in obtaining the certification. If you have questions, reach out to our Learning & Development team at
GitLab is one of the world's largest all-remote companies. We are 100% remote, with no company-owned offices anywhere on the planet. We have over 1,500 team members in more than 65 countries. The primary contributor to this article (Darren Murph, GitLab's Head of Remote) has over 15 years of experience working in and reporting on colocated companies, hybrid-remote companies, and all-remote companies of various scale.
Just as it is valid to ask if GitLab's product is any good, we want to be transparent about our expertise in the field of remote work.
GitLab believes that all-remote is the future of work, and remote companies have a shared responsibility to show the way for other organizations who are embracing it. If you or your company has an experience that would benefit the greater world, consider creating a merge request and adding a contribution to this page.
Return to the main all-remote page.