I’ve been working remotely for about a year and a half. In that time, I’ve worked from many locations but most of my time has been spent working from my apartment in Chicago. During this time I’ve tweaked my environment by building a standing desk, building a keyboard, and changed my monitor stands. Below is a my desk (click for larger image).
I built my own desk using the Gerton table top from Ikea and the S2S Height Adjustable Desk Base from Ergoprise. I originally received a defective part from Ergoprise and after a couple emails I was sent a replacement part. Once I had working parts, attaching the legs to the table top was straightforward. The desk legs let me adjust the height of my desk so I can be sitting or standing comfortably.
I have two 27 inch Apple Cinema displays that are usually connected to a 15 inch MacBook Pro. The picture doesn’t show it, but I actively use all the monitors.
My laptop is raised by a mStand Laptop Stand. While I’m sitting this stand puts the laptop at a comfortable height. I highly recommend getting one.
The middle monitor, the one I use the most, has had the standard stand (you can see it in the right monitor) replaced with an ErgoTech Freedom Arm. This lets me raise the monitor to a comfortable height when I’m standing (as seen in this picture). It also allows me to rotate the monitor vertically, though I have only done that once since installing it. Installation of the arm wasn’t trivial, but it wasn’t that difficult.
I’ve been using the arm for four months now and I’m enjoying it. If you bump the desk the monitor does wobble a bit but I don’t notice it while I’m typing. I haven’t noticed any slippage; the monitor arm seems to hold the monitor in place.
I’ve decided against getting a second arm for my other monitor. Installing the monitor arm renders your monitor non-portable. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I travel and stay at a place for long enough that I want to bring a large monitor.
My desk chair is a Herman Miller Setu. It is a very comfortable chair that boasts only a single adjustment. You can only raise or lower it.
I moved to this chair from a Herman Miller Aeron. The Aeron had been my primary chair for eight years prior to me buying the Setu.
They are both great chairs. I haven’t missed the extreme amount of customization the Aeron provides; its actually nice having fewer knobs to tweak. I also find the Setu more visually appealing. The Aeron is sort of a giant black monster of a chair; I prefer seeing the chartreuse Setu in my apartment.
The Keyboard and Mouse
I built my own keyboard. It is an ErgoDox with Cherry MX Blue key switches and DSA key caps. More details about my build can be found in an earlier post.
I’ve been using this keyboard for about eight months. It has been rock solid. This is my first keyboard that has mechanical switches. They are nice. It feels great typing on this keyboard.
The ErgoDox has six keys for each thumb. I originally thought I’d be using the thumb clusters a lot but, in practice, I only actively use two or three keys per thumb.
The ErgoDox also supports having multiple layers. This means that with the press of a key I can have an entirely different keyboard beneath my finger tips. It turns out this is another feature I don’t frequently use. I really only use layers for controlling my music playback through media keys and for hitting function keys.
If I were going to build a keyboard again I would not use Cherry MX Blues as the key switch. They are very satisfying to use but they are loud. You can hear me type in every room of my one bedroom apartment. When I’m remote pairing with other developers, they can here me type through my microphone.
For my mouse I use Apple’s Magic Trackpad. I definitely have problems doing precise mouse work (though I rarely find myself needing this) but I really enjoy the gestures in enables. I’ve been using one of these trackpads for years now. I really don’t want to go back to using a mouse.
I’m a fan of using pens and paper to keep track of notes. My tools of choice are Leuchturm Whitelines notebook with dotted paper and a TWSBI 580 fountain pen with a fine nib. I’ve been using fountain pens1 for a couple years now and find them much more enjoyable to use than other pen styles. The way you glide across the page is amazing. I usually have my pen inked with Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts. The ink is a beautiful blue black color and very permanent.
No desk is complete without a few fun desk toys. My set of toys includes a bobble head of myself (this was a gift from a good friend), a 3d printed Success Kid, a keyboard switch sampler, a few more 3d printed objects, and some climbing related hand toys.
That pretty much covers my physical work space. I’ve tweaked it enough where I don’t feel like I need to experiment anymore. The monitor arm is my most recent addition and it really helped bring my environment to the next level. I think I’ll have a hard time improving my physical setup.
If you want to try out fountain pens I highly recommend the Pilot Metropolitan. It is widely regarded as the best introduction to fountain pens. The medium nib is about the same width as my fine. It is a great introduction to fountain pens. Another great intro pen (that includes a smiling face on the nib) is the Pilot Kakuno.↩