Logistics: Remote Work Equipment

Every job takes skills and tools.  For companies which are well suited to go remote-first, most of the remote work tools will be digital.  But it’s also very important to have the appropriate equipment in place for the people who use them.

The critical software for the communications which is so vital to remote work is covered in a separate section.  The software primarily communications tools, which runs on is also a large subject which needs to be covered elsewhere.

But where it comes together, along with a lot of the policy and procedures that make a remote company successful, are the remote work tools – the equipment that every remote-first company has to have.

Remote Work Tools

Every image of remote work starts with a laptop or a mobile device.  This fuels the romance of being a digital nomad, since these devices are portable and can be used just about anywhere.  This image is not helpful when considering remote work tools in the same way it does not help understand the setting.

Remote workers are workers who happen to be remote.  That may seem obvious, but they have the same considerations as office workers in many ways.  They are people who need to be productive and communicative while remaining healthy.  

Think of your equipment needs first and foremost as you would for an office.  The remote worker onboarding process is roughly the same in many ways, except the tools of the trade are not located in one place.  That, in the end, is the only difference.

Owning the Hardware

Hiring a remote workforce is often treated like outsourcing freelancers.  They are expected to provide their own equipment to do the job, along with providing their own setting to work in.  This is not necessarily a good way to go for two reasons.

The first is the protection of intellectual property.  When your company’s intellectual property is produced on equipment owned by someone other than you, it is much harder to protect.  The layers of security you may need to have in place cannot be fully implemented or enforced. If the computers that are being used do not have appropriate software protection, they could be vulnerable to hacking.  

The other critical consideration is employee health and wellbeing.  If it is entirely on the employee to provide their own remote work tools, they will be tempted to cheapen out and save money where they can.  This can lead to repetitive injuries and other health issues which affect productivity.  

If you have a remote team located in other nations, or even in remote rural areas of the same country, access to the proper equipment might be difficult.  It is often a good policy to provide your remote worker tools which are necessary from the home office, exactly as if you are setting up a cubicle in the same building.

Ergonomics Matters

Whether you are providing the equipment as part of your remote worker onboarding process or not, ergonomics is important.  Very few workers know enough about the right equipment and how to use it, so the first step is often education.  

There are many valuable resources online which will help you setup and maintain a healthy office for all of your workers, no matter where they are.  The best place to start is always education on the subject, especially as you develop your own checklist for onboarding.  

If you do not want to provide remote workers tools directly from your company, you can still subsidize them to make sure that they are purchasing equipment that is ergonomically appropriate for the tasks they have to perform.  

As with everything in remote work, being as careful and explicit with the requirements up front is always the most important part of getting it right.  You want your employees to be healthy and happy, so there is no point in trying to same money with inferior equipment that does not promote wellbeing.

Beyond the Computer

Remote employees may choose to work from several locations, or they may have a coworking space which they prefer to operate from.  That implies a portable device like a laptop which they can carry with them. However, these can produce a lot of eyestrain and are rarely suitable for intense graphic work.  They are also very difficult to use when teleconferencing while going over shared documents, spreadsheets, code, or anything else.

Some kind of docking station which allows multiple screens is usually important for successful remote communications.  While this is not technically a consideration solely for remote work, it becomes even more necessary in order to support the communications necessary for an effective remote team.

There are many other ergonomic products which you or your employees will have experience with.  What matters most is the mindset where you place employee wellbeing and ability to get the job done first.

Not Just a Table

The need for remote worker tools goes far beyond the hardware, however.  You have a team of creative people who, no matter what, are still human. If they are going to define a productive space, they need the tools to make it effective.

Working remotely is good for allowing workers to get up and stretch, pace, or whatever they need to physically break up their day.  They may also need desks which allow them to stand, a position which has been shown to relieve stress and repetitive injuries.  A padded floor mat, like those used in kitchens where chefs have to stand all day, can also help relieve strain.

Lastly, never forget about appropriate lighting.  The glow of a computer screen is not good for the eyes over the long days which characterize a startup company.  Be sure that your workers have good backlight in their workspace.

Continuous Learning

The precise equipment needs for your company can and should change.  There will be new tools which become known to your employees that will help them be more productive.  There will be things learned from wellbeing check-ins that should be a part of every remote-first company.

In order to support this, an ongoing budget for equipment can bring new remote work tools to your employees in a way which enhances their enthusiasm as well as their health.  There is nothing quite as exciting as receiving a package in the mail with a new toy.  

Equipment is never a good place to try to be cheap.

As you learn about new tools and better ways of doing thing, implement them right away.  Review your remote worker onboarding plan to be sure it reflects what you have learned along the way as well.