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Low-cost upgrades for better work from home

Unwilling to buy pricey gadgets to make the home office bearable? Consider these wallet-friendly solutions instead

Trevor Tan on 29 Apr 2020

The Straits Times


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"You think I got a lot of money, is it?"


These are some responses and quips I have seen to many articles about making work-from-home (WFH) life easier since the outbreak of the coronavirus.


Not surprisingly, these articles recommend we buy stuff, with some offering expensive options such as premium computer mice and gigantic monitors.


I have written a WFH buying guide in these pages too.


But I have to admit: It is only prudent to be careful with money in these trying times. After all, who knows if I will still have a job tomorrow?


So, here are some low-or no-cost ways of making our WFH set-ups more pleasant.




A monitor or laptop stand is good for propping up your monitor or laptop to the correct height, so you do not slouch or suffer neck aches when working for long periods.


But you want to save money, possibly to splurge on that dream monitor stand later, right?


The interim solution is simple: Use books or magazines instead.


Dust off books you have not read for ages and put them to a better use. Stack enough books under the monitor or laptop to raise it to the ideal height, so your eyes are level with or slightly below the top of the display.


Furthermore, your stack of books is easily height-adjustable - just add or remove a book to get the perfect height.


On the downside, you cannot slot your keyboard under your monitor or laptop like you can with a monitor stand, so as to save table-top space when you are not working.


But a monitor stand would not entice you to read a book when your working day is over.




Many WFH guides recommend setting up a space at home just for work. But many people here live in shoebox apartments where space is a premium.


So how does one eke out his or her own space to work?


One simple solution: Use your ironing board. It is probably under-used right now. There is no need to iron your work clothes now that you are in WFH mode.


With your ironing board probably height-adjustable, it will be easy to tweak it to level with whichever chair or sofa you are sitting on.


The ironing board is also lightweight and easily portable. You can place it in front of your sofa, so you can watch the news on television while typing on your work laptop.


The remaining space on the ironing board can even serve as a temporary "pantry" on which to place coffee and snacks, provided the iron rest does not have huge holes as some do. Mine doesn't.


When your work is done, simply fold up the ironing board and stow it away to reclaim your space.




Need a webcam for video conferencing with your colleagues because your office laptop does not have a built-in one - or its poor resolution makes you look like a TV presenter from the 1980s?


If you are unable to buy one because they are sold out - last I checked, they were - or you are not willing to make the investment, you can use your smartphone as a webcam.


Also, truth be told, your smartphone likely has a better camera than most desktop webcams out there.


But it will require you to spend some money on an app, such as iCam ($6.98).


There are many similar apps - with some of them being free - but they support either exclusively iPhones or Windows computers.


I found the iCam to work well with Android smartphones, iPhones, and Mac and Windows computers.


You need to buy and download the app to your smartphone, then download the free iCamSource program to your computer.


Follow the on-screen instructions to ensure the smartphone app can connect and "talk" to the computer program.


When they are able to talk to each other, your smartphone will be used as the default webcam during your Google Meet or Zoom conference calls.


One last thing: You probably need a phone stand to prop up your smartphone during these calls.


You can make one with binder clips or a clothes hanger.


Otherwise, you can build some strong arm muscles from holding up your smartphone during conference calls.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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