Digital Primates is a great place to work. The staff are top-notch, the leadership is approachable, egalitarian, and takes care of the staff and clients. I love the culture here at Digital Primates and believe it’s one of the key reasons why we attract and retain excellent staff.

Like many of you, we’ve all been remote since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to stay safe while continuing to provide for oneself and for one’s family. For many, this meant adapting to working from the privacy and comfort of their homes. Working from home requires adjustments. Often the space isn’t optimized for work. The lack of office equipment and even just the mental context of being at home can cause stress and loss of productivity.

Recently, leadership at Digital Primates made $500 available to each employee for the purposes of upgrading their work from home space however they saw fit. I felt this was generous because we still have to pay the same rent, telecommunications, utilities, and other expenses, even though we can’t use our Class A office space in Presidents Tower.

In this post, we’ll share some of the upgrades staff made to their spaces. I’ll include links to products in case you want to evaluate or purchase some of these upgrade products.

Staff Member: Kyle Blake

Title: Software Engineer III/Consultant I

Upgrades:

I spend most of my time on a keyboard, writing code. I’ve noticed for a while that a standard keyboard wasn’t very good for my posture, so I wanted to try out a split keyboard. I had read that they are great for opening up the chest and dropping the shoulders, which sounded perfect for me. No more hunching! I love mechanical keyboards and I’m a sucker for lights, so after a short amount of research, I stumbled into ZSA’s products. They have a few but the Moonlander was their newest model and I loved its style, its additional thumb clusters, and how compact it was.

What I like:

  • The keyboard immediately succeeds in helping with my posture.
  • It is very well built and looks great on the desk.
  • It offers legs to prop it up which can provide a more comfortable and more neutral wrist position.

What I don’t like:

  • The extra keys and thumb clusters mean the layout it ships with takes a lot of adjustment (you’ll notice that many of the edge keys and thumb cluster keys are unmarked) to use the new modifier key positions.
  • I use the Dvorak keyboard layout which adds some additional trouble because this keyboard ships with a modified QWERTY layout (unsurprisingly). It mostly works because the OS manages the layout change, but some symbols were very hard to find.

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Staff Member: Pete DiLillo

Title: Senior Software Developer

Upgrades:

My day is filled with far too much sitting and I missed my desk back at the office with my standing converter.  I wanted to find something comparable for home, but doing a full desk replacement is costly and in many cases was difficult to have it meet my height needs (6’4” total height).  The Rif6 had excellent ratings for stability and space along with extending to a max height that’s perfect for my size.  Adding in some lighter monitors and the height-adjustable arms I can comfortably shift between sitting and standing throughout the day without massive eye or back strain.

What I like:

  • Having the ability to stand during the day energizes me more than I thought it would.
  • The monitors are so clear, granted I was using some 10-pound beasts from 6+ years ago but it was a problem I didn’t know needed solving but greatly appreciate.
  • The gas spring monitor arms make me feel like I work in a fancy command center (or the matrix).

What I don’t like:

  • The standing desk converter takes up a lot of actual desk real estate. Sometimes I’ve put something down on the desk without realizing how wide things will be when I lower the desk and have crushed a few things.  Silly user error that I’ll have to get used to.
  • I have a desktop PC nearby as well and its keyboard doesn’t actually fit anywhere now so it just has to be swapped in as needed.

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Staff Member: Greg Humiston

Title: Software Developer III

Upgrades:

Having just had a kid, organization and lighting became the most important things for upgrading my setup. My old workstation was messy, cluttered, and hadn’t had cable management done on it in years. I also didn’t have any sort of soft lighting, making the ceiling lights hard on the eyes during the early morning. There is nothing more demoralizing than waking up at dawn and going to a messy desk while being guided by a blinding ceiling light. Thanks to the $500, I now have a workstation that is organized and clean, and lighting that is easier on the eyes. All I need now is more cold brew.

What I like:

  • The monitor switch that is taped underneath my desk to switch my left monitor from my main pc to my workstation. It makes me feel like a Bond villain at times in the best of ways.
  • The monitor arms give me so much more room on my desk
  • The device stand is surprisingly sturdy and has a wood finish that matches the desk. It might be my favorite part. No more stacked tablets for me!
  • The lighting really makes a huge difference on my eyes during early mornings and late nights
  • Using a command hook to hang my headphones from under my desk. It’s the small things in life.
  • The skateboard deck mounts were so easy to install and really helped tie the space together.

What I don’t like:

  • The lack of fingerboard ramps on my desk.

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Staff Member: Jon Knowles

Title: Software Developer

Upgrades:

I have a setup with two external monitors that I connect my laptop to when working at my desk. I choose to upgrade one of my two monitors because one of them had gotten a bit blurry and washed-out. I also hoped to simplify the cord set up on my desk by adding a dock. And I wanted to invest in a nicer keyboard since I hate typing on my laptop’s keyboard. I purchased a Lenovo L24q-30 23.8″ monitor, Aukey USB C 12-in-1 hub, and a Varmilo VA87M mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches.

What I like:

  • I love the new monitor. It’s crisp and gives me a lot more real estate than before.
  • The Varmilo keyboard is a pleasure to type on. This is my first mechanical keyboard, so I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy it, but I absolutely do.

What I don’t like:

  • The dock is extremely temperamental. I can’t just unplug it from my USB-C connection and plug it back in and expect it to work normally, otherwise, it will either freeze my machine or apply bizarre resolutions to my monitors. I’ve never had a dock that actually worked with my PC well, though, so I guess I have low expectations.

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Staff Member: Jalen Massey

Title: Developer III

Upgrades:

It has gotten pretty tedious doing a lot of development while being constrained to a 13” screen, so an additional monitor was in order to ensure that I could be a lot more efficient in my day to day tasks.

What I like:

  • My desk in the office is set up in a similar fashion, so it felt like being back without the commute.
  • Much easier to debug web applications when my console isn’t cramming the window size.
  • It’s cozy and makes working from home less monotonous than it can be at times.

What I don’t like:

  • Since the monitors are stacked vertically, my camera has been forced to the side, so I am constantly looking away during videos.
  • This is more me being lazy, but since the AOC monitor on the top only has one input, I do have to manually switch the cable from my work computer to my personal PC at the end of the day.

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Staff Member: Mickey Smith

Title: Software Developer

Upgrades:

Right when the pandemic started I, like a lot of people I’m sure, immediately went and purchased a bare minimum desk to hold my work laptop and a monitor. As time went on, I realized that I didn’t really have the real estate that I needed to work comfortably on the desk. Additionally, the desk was pretty short and I felt hunched over for most of the day. That was fine at the beginning but after 7 odd months, it became time to get something that wouldn’t continue to cause chronic pain. I opted to grab a desk with a much larger surface area that’s height-adjustable. Now I find that my back and wrists hurt much less, I have more energy throughout the day, and I can comfortably hold plenty of stuff on my desk. I also bought a mechanical keyboard because I found the previous one became a bit uncomfortable to use throughout the day.

What I like:

I didn’t think I would be a person that stands most of the day but I definitely find myself doing so more than I ever thought I would. As a bit of a fidgeter I feel much more comfortable standing during the day or getting to lean on a stool, etc. My hands and wrist are much more comfortable throughout the day because they can be at the proper height and use a more ergonomic keyboard.

What I don’t like:

  • Not seeing my coworkers in person! Otherwise, that’s about it. WFH has been extremely enjoyable for me and I feel lucky to have an employer that has been so accommodating!

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Staff Member: Dan Wilson

Title: Director of Marketing and Developer Relations

Upgrades:

I do a fair amount of zoom calls. What’s more, I participate in several streaming projects like React Wednesday. I noticed my lighting and video quality was not as professional as I would like but didn’t make time to deal with it. The $500 bonus was the prompt I needed to fix these issues.

What I like:

  • The camcorder quality is excellent. I’m no longer just a blurry head!
  • Because my monitor is so large (34”) I have to be careful to look towards the camera else I look like I’m looking somewhere. The camcorder has a viewer window I can face towards me to I stay aware of how the frame looks.
  • The lighting is adjustable in color and intensity. I can adjust the lights to remove shadows and
  • balance out the room.
  • Using a pole monitor stand, plus the clamp/rod setup gives me the needed distance between lights while reducing clutter. I’m super happy with the light rig. I did try out a few products before landing on the final set.

What I don’t like:

  • It seems some apps don’t fully release the camera. This means I can’t use it with another app. If I unplug the HDMI cable and plug it back in, it works fine. A minor inconvenience.

Video Quality Differences

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Staff Member: Alex Zhu

Title: Software Developer

Upgrades:

Back when we first started working permanently from home, I actually already had started to renovate my home office setup.  A lot of the upgrades I’ve purchased have been to help me with ergonomics, as I have had problems with my wrists and am trying to be proactive with taking care of them.  Comfort and accessibility were my priorities when upgrading my office.  

What I like:

  • My new ergonomic keyboard and mouse. It’s been the most helpful of purchases to help me on the workday.  Additionally, both the keyboard and mouse have Bluetooth profiles, so it is as simple as clicking a button to switch Bluetooth profiles to connect them to my personal machine if I need to.
  • Having the extra monitor really helped with both productivity and managing eye strain. It also doubles as a personal monitor which is a plus.
  • Having a large keyboard tray to hold my peripherals frees up desk space and keeps my workspace cleaner.
  • As it turns out, any chair is an upgrade over a $50 Amazon basics office chair.

What I don’t like:

  • The monitor only has one HDMI input, so if I want to switch between work and home use, I have to unplug it every time.
  • The desk I purchased is actually foldable, so it actually moves around a bit and isn’t the most stable.
  • I wish the Logitech MX vertical had explicit DPI settings, rather than a UI-friendly meter.

What about you?

What home office updates have you made that you are happiest with? Let us know in the comments.

3 Comments

  1. I think the most “important” pandemic related IT purchase that I’ve made is a TESmart KVM switch. I’ve gone through myriads of IOMega switches, and they all seem to die without warning. The TESmart switch is a push button unit that has held up so far. I’ve got one 31″ monitor which I use for work and my gaming/recording rig this switch makes it really convenient to switch between systems.

    (now if I can just get zoom to recognize my PreSonus Audiobox drivers)

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