Logistics: remote work equipment

We cover the ins and outs of remote work equipment, the reasoning behind different levels of ownership and what to consider from an employer perspective.

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4 minute read

Every job requires skills and tools. For companies prepared to go remote-first, most of these tools will be digital. But it’s also important to have the appropriate equipment in place for people who use them.

Remote work tools + policies + procedures + communication software*
= Remote-first company success 

*Communication software will be covered in a separate section. 

Remote work tools

Remote work starts with the ability to be connected- of course, one thinks of a laptop or mobile device. This fuels the romance of being a digital nomad, since these devices are portable and can be used anywhere. However, this image is not helpful when considering remote work tools.

Remote workers have the same considerations as office workers in many ways. They just aren't confined to a particular space. This may seem obvious, but they need to be productive, communicative and healthy.

Think of what one would need in an office. The remote worker on-boarding process is roughly the same in many ways, except the tools of the trade are not located in one place.

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 creating their own environment to work in. This is not necessarily the best 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 could lead to repetitive injuries and other health issues, which affect productivity.

If you have a remote team located in other nations, or even in 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 and set them up for success, exactly as if you are setting up a new cubicle in an office. 

Ergonomics matter

Whether you are providing the equipment as part of your remote worker on-boarding 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 to provide the right resources and education.

There are many valuable resources online to help you setup and maintain a healthy office for your team, no matter where they are. The best place to start is to educate yourselves on the subject, especially as you develop your own checklist for on-boarding.

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

As with everything in remote work, being explicit with the requirements is 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 save money with inferior equipment that negatively impacts wellbeing.

Beyond the computer

Remote employees may choose to work from several locations, or they may have one co-working space they prefer to operate from. Work will probably be completed on a laptop. 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, or code.

Docking stations that allow multiple screens can help with successful remote communications. While this is not technically a consideration solely for remote work, for certain roles, it becomes a necessity in order to support the communications for an effective remote team.

There are many other ergonomic products which you or your employees can find. What matters most is being aware of your employees' wellbeing, as that impacts their ability to get the job done.

Not just a table

The need for remote worker tools go far beyond the hardware. You have a team of creative people who are still human. If they are going to define a productive space, they need tools to make it effective.

Working remotely is good for allowing workers to get up and stretch, pace, and do whatever they need to physically break up their day. They may also need standing desks, as standing relieves stress and repetitive injuries. A padded floor mat, like those used in kitchens, can also help relieve strain.

Lastly, never forget about appropriate lighting. The computer screen's glow is harmful to the eyes over long days. Be sure that your workers have good backlight in their workspace.

Continuous learning

Equipment needs can and should be constantly changing. There are new tools hitting the market everyday, helping improve and increase productivity. Wellbeing check-ins should be a part of every remote-first company also help monitor what needs to be improved.

In order to support this, an on-going budget for equipment can bring new remote work tools to your employees to help enhance their enthusiasm and state of health. There is nothing quite as exciting as receiving a package in the mail with a new toy.

Do not skimp out!

As you learn about new tools and better ways of doing thing, implement them right away. Review your remote worker on-boarding plan to reflect what you have learned along the way.