Welcome to My Desk! What I’ve Done to Stay Grounded During COVID-19

Welcome to My Desk!  What I’ve Done to Stay Grounded During COVID-19

Getting Started on my Desk

On March 12, the local schools closed.  On March 13, I went to the office for a meeting, packed some things, and went home. I’ve been WFH ever since.

The first thing I did when I got home was to arrange my desk for work.  Before it had been used for storing important papers that I would look at someday very soon.  Those are now in a box.  I will look at them very soon.

My desk is in my room, which I know isn’t “best practice.”  If you can, set up your workspace in a separate room.  But I only have so many rooms and my other choices were in my basement, which doesn’t have windows.  Windows are important – they tell me what time of day it is.

There are also two children and 2 cats.  This is important.

When setting up my desk, I had to consider several issues:

  1. How could I best fit my computer and at least one extra monitor?  I use two monitors at work, so keeping that system was vital.
  2. How could I maintain at least a half-way decent posture?
  3. Is my internet fast enough?
  4. Do I have enough outlet space?
  5. Can I see at least one window?
  6. Can I see the cats?

My current set up addresses most of these issues.  The internet could be faster.

On March 13, I grabbed what I thought would be most important: The Yeti microphone, the Yeti stand, some cables, my Lexis mugs (you know which ones), and my good tea.  I did not grab my mouse and my keyboard.  I immediately regretted that.  One of my colleagues was able to rescue them before Chicago-Kent shut down.  I’m so glad she did – the laptop keyboard was not sustainable for avoiding pain in my shoulders and hands.

After I came home, I asked my son for one of his many monitors.  He tried to give me an old 20″ but that didn’t work. Sorry kid, one of your three 27″ monitors was going to be mine for a while.  You’d survive with a 20″ for your 3rd monitor.  Once I cleared my desk, set up the monitor, and placed the Yeti, I was ready to record many, many training videos. Not to mention all of my other work.

Over the next few months, I had to make a few adjustments.  The original chair was killing my back, so I got the kind of chair that my kid uses for gaming.  I wanted to try to make a green screen work, which meant I had to move my desk in front of a wall.  I’ve moved this desk at least 3 times.

My Desk Now

I’ve crowded this on/near my desk:

Image of desk and technology

  • 2017 MacBook Pro – I’ve been using Macs since 1987, so my home computer is a Mac.  Fortunately, the current one is not very old – about 3 years, so it can handle most of what I throw at it.  I also chose most of the top-of-the-line features when I bought it, which I’m very glad of now (16 G RAM is very handy).  We also have a 2012 MacBook Pro, but that’s being used as a Windows-based Minecraft server.  I think we can also get the 2008 Mac to boot up occasionally, but I’m very glad not to rely on those.  The 2005 Mac seems to be toast.
  • 27″ Samsung monitor – Eventually, I had to give back the 27″ screen to the kid and get my own.
  • Intey power supply – 8 power points and 4 USB ports.
  • Yeti mic on a stand – I bought the Yeti refurbished from Woot many years ago.  It’s one of my most useful tools for recording.
  • MPOW headphones – Cheap but durable.  If you can get the older version, I find its power lasts longer than the newer one – and comes in pretty colors.
  • Seagate 5T drive – To store larger backup files (my 1TB drive can only handle so much).
  • Apple Watch – to remind me to stand up every once in a while.

Other:

  • Comcast– AT&T doesn’t work well in my area, so Comcast it is. I thought I was doing well with my internet setup, but then the other day I got a warning that we were about to reach our cap.  I upgraded our speed and went to unlimited data. With the way we use the internet, particularly with the kid’s schools being online in the fall the cap was not sustainable. This might be something law librarians and IT want to keep an eye on, especially for students who live with roommates. If schools can provide any help with students who are experiencing issues with data caps, that would remove one less worry.
  • Netgear Modem – Comcast wanted me to use their modem when I went to unlimited.  They asked me how many devices we have on wireless.  I told them I had lost count after 20 (see: kids).  We decided to stick with the modem I already had.  Again, libraries librarians and IT, if students or anyone else say their internet connection is unexpectedly slow at home, the issue might be their modem.  I specifically chose my modem because we use so many devices.

The modem, for various reasons, is located in the girl’s room on the first floor.  My room is on the second floor.  My wifi connection is decent but is better on the first floor.  I tried an Eero but it didn’t help extend my wifi better to my room, so I returned it.  But some have found this device really helpful.

Sometimes I use my iPad as a 3rd monitor, but my desk is a bit small to make it work well.  Also, various kids who already have iPads often steal mine.  I also always have my phone with me, because I do.

At one point, I had a 2017 Windows laptop for testing, but the original owner took that back (I had taken his monitor, too, after all).

I have a printer.  Getting it to work is a pain, so it’s sat in a corner this whole time.  “I’m out of color ink.” “I’m printing in black and white- why does that matter?” “Didn’t you hear me, I’m out of color ink and refuse to budge until you pay a lot of money to replace it!”  Printers: not worth the trouble.

Furniture for My Desk

Items near and on Debbie's desk

  • Desk from 1996 – I think.  At one point it had a keyboard tray but that broke several moves ago.
  • Gaming chair – very adjustable, has a footrest and back massager.  It’s not the easiest thing to put together so I made my kids do it.
  • Footrest – there’s no standard chair that will allow my feet to touch the floor. I’m only 5′ 1″ and chairs aren’t built for me (though usually I sit cross-legged).
  • Backrest – again, chairs just don’t fit.
  • Tablecloth green screen – I also have a pop-out green screen.
  • Vincent Van Gogh and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – important friends.
  • Graphic novels – I haven’t read them yet but need to return to the library.
  • Laptop stand – I had been using a bunch of books to raise my laptop to monitor height but that wasn’t a good solution. However, using some kind of riser is vital to preserving neck muscles.  I also have a larger laptop desk – too big for this area – that I use around the house or during the two times I decided to use a standing desk.
  • Window and places for cats to sit – My desk had been against the window which meant that the cats would push things aside to get a better view of the window.  Now they can watch the back yard to their heart’s content.

cats in the window

Who’s paying for all this?  Well, me.  But this is what I spend my money on in any case, so most of these things I was going to get at some point, or already had.  Then again, some people have 9 monitors and use those (that’s too many for me to track).  In some cases, your work may pay for your WFH needs, such as adequate home internet connections or computers and supplies.

Most of the individual solutions I’m using aren’t pricy (except the MacBook…). If even one or two can help you get organized – or save you some aches and pains – give them a try.  It may be that you’ll be working from home for a long time.  You should be set up for your productivity and comfort.  And not kill your budget.

So CS, AALL, and anyone else- what’s on your desk?

By the way, if you think I’m causing my kids grief by taking their stuff, they aren’t exactly hurting:

Girl: 2012 custom gaming computer, 2 monitors, headphones, Yeti, 3 iPads when she was in school- 2 now, Switch, phone.

a girl and her tech

Boy: 2019 custom gaming computer that cost less than the MBP, 3 monitors, 2017 Windows laptop, 2012 MacBook Pro Minecraft server, Surface 3, iPad Mini, Chromebook for school, mini Yeti, VR, various mini-game consoles, Xbox One, Apple Watch, phone, and a bunch of stuff I don’t even remember. The VR, the Xbox, and the Windows laptop are supposed to be communal but somehow wound up in his room.

Educational Technology Librarian at Chicago-Kent College of Law

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