A few things that made #wfh a lot better

My desk setup
My workspace. Needs some expert cable management and perhaps some wall decorations…

I developed my career as a designer in an environment that demanded presence in an office. Sure, not having broadband internet or a fast computer made work-from-home impossible back in the days.

There were all kinds of offices over the years. From offices with private space to elaborate “open-plan offices” that scar you for life. Especially in the ‘pre-noise-cancelling-headphones era’ where phones rang all day long.

Most of my clients used to prefer my presence in their office. So I’d travel with my full nomadic work kit and work in their open-plan office all day. No problem. Even when working from home was already much easier with Broadband internet and the right communication tools.

Sometimes, we’d send chat messages when we were sitting next to each other just to give the other the opportunity to respond asynchronously. Sometimes that felt just like remote working but on the same geometrical location… a bit weird, but okay.

Then, of course, the pandemic hit. A period of government-mandated working-from-home. People working in the field of tech didn’t have to adjust much; we up and running as soon as we opened our laptops. We just stopped relocating our bodies and kept working like we always did.

I saw a lot of people working from their dinner table. I had a small desk and a chair from my dinner table. But I was getting sick of that pretty soon. And after a few weeks, I heard IKEA did click&collect, so off I went to get a proper desk and a nice chair.

I didn’t stop there…

A bigger monitor.

An ergonomic mouse.

And then…

the big thing

A year into the pandemic, I did a big thing. I moved -my workspace- out of the house and got myself a real office. A small room all to myself. Where my business books live next to my desk, which I upgraded to a mechanical one with memory slots.

IKEA UPPSPEL gaming desk, looks a bit too wild infantile but gets the job done.
IKEA UPPSPEL gaming desk looks a bit too fancy but gets the job done.

I am not a gamer. I think it wastes my time, so I do not game. Unless you count Zwift as a game, eSports might be a bit different. But what I did like about the games desk setups are the mechanical keyboards.

Tread carefully now; this might influence you too…

I kept seeing these fancy keyboards. After a quick google search, I discovered the niche of mechanical keyboards. It didn’t take much convincing that I wanted one, only the multitude of options to choose from overwhelmed me a bit. I decided to buy myself an “IKEA” variant, not from IKEA, of course. But one that was generally popular and easy to use, well designed and didn’t take an engineer’s training to start using.

I chose the Keychron Q2 and would have chosen a variant with the fancy knob, but I wanted black, and I wanted to buy locally.

Keychron Q2 65% black - stock
The Keychron Q2 is a 65% keyboard

So I got the keyboard. And it looked super cool; it had a ⌘ key. Which I came to appreciate as that isn’t widely accepted in the mechanical keyboard world. And some people just don’t understand why that is important.

But I wanted more. I got some fancy keycaps. Which broke my heart for not having a ⌘ key. I have alt now. If you don’t understand why that makes me sad, perhaps this blog in its entirety will not be for you. You better leave.

So I got fancy keycaps. But then the spacebar was so loud, it was like being in an open-plan office again, the noise. I was about to start an engineers course to fix it myself when I outsourced modding my keyboard. Lubing and taping and adding dampening material… ouch, you can really go insane with that, and you know what? As a freelancer, you are slightly more aware of your time. You can do everything yourself, but sometimes other people can do it in half the time it takes you for less money than you’ll make during that time, and they should also be better at it.

My Keychron Q2 custom
My precious…

I now have a geeky keyboard. The sound it makes while typing is weirdly gratifying and makes me more productive. I can even type better with fewer errors. And when people see my desk setup, they tend to be a little jealous of my colourful geeky keyboard. One that was insanely expensive to buy, customize and then modify. But screw it, if I had known how much fun it would be, I would have bought one years ago. Or perhaps not during my nomadic phase, as it weighs too much to carry on. Really, this thing will knock a burglar out when you throw it at them.

Oh, one more ridiculously expensive thing I bought…

Most of you had this issue years ago. A Macbook with just one or two USB C ports and buying adapters to connect your devices or memory cards and such. I bought the Macbook M1 in late 2020, and it was my first USB-C rodeo. I had a lot to learn, and also I wasted a lot of money on hubs that didn’t work properly. I use a vertical mouse (also a fantastic pandemic purchase, by the way, that costs next to nothing but saves me from RSI), and that requires a USB receiver.

I found that my USB hub always seemed to lag. I discussed this with my local Mac store, and they looked at me like I was an idiot. They sold me the most expensive one, thus the best one available, so what was I complaining about? This issue I was having was simply nonsensical. According to them… shame on them…

But during the phase of diving into the mechanical keyboards, I noticed that gamers usually also had a few devices on their desks. They have a ton of smart and geeky accessories, another attention trip if you look into that topic.

But a particular device caught my attention. It looked like a hub with external power. I had asked my mac store if there are hubs with external power. Their answer was a blank stare and a smug cough.


But, low and behold, these things do exist!

Yes, there are hubs, very powerful hubs with external power.

They can hook you up with multiple screens (even 8k screens, but not if you have the gen. 1 M1 ) and have ports and power to spare for all your other connectivity needs.

You name it, it can be done. Now I have the ridiculously expensive Caldigid TS4 to use my fricking “20 euro” mouse. Big sigh…

At least I know that when I buy a new Macbook in the future, I can put as many big screens as my IKEA gamers desk can carry. There. All worth it.

Thanks for reading. You are amazing, you know that, right?!