November 10, 2016

The Workspace Series: PaulT00's Setup

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Welcome to the Workspace Series—glimpses into the offices, desks, and other work and play environments of our Forum members and the TOM BIHN crew.

Forum name: PaulT00

What do you do? (If it's your professional workspace, what's your job; if it's your hobby workspace, what's your hobby?)

I'm a developer/support person, working on a bespoke software package that runs the back office for a large media company. Since late 2009, I've been working from home 90% of the time and this is my home office.

What sorts of things went into the planning of your workspace?

It's very much the result of evolution, rather than a lot of upfront planning. It's also a bit of a man-cave....

I used to work in an office in central London, staying in London during the week and coming home on weekends; eventually, a manager a couple of levels up worked out that I could probably do what I do while working from home—given a suitable PC, fast internet connection, etc.

I started out sharing space in our loft room with my partner, who was then self-employed and also working from home, but it pretty soon became apparent that we had very different—and completely incompatible!—working styles. So I relocated to what was then a bedroom, at the very back of the house and almost as far away from the loft office as it's possible to get without leaving the building... and with two doors between us to keep the noise out! I still go to the London office every couple of weeks, which is where my Aeronaut 30 comes in handy.

Originally the workspace was jury-rigged in one side of a guest bedroom / library / storeroom, improvised from what was available. The glass desktop started out life as the toughened glass side panel of a decommissioned shower cubicle, balanced across a small desk we already had and another piece of furniture which has long since been thrown out.

Elements have been swapped out and upgraded slowly ever since—pretty much the only constant is change. Well... change and the bookcases, which originally came from a bookshop I worked in 30 years ago! One day I'm planning to gut the space and revamp it completely, but the upheaval involved probably means it will be a while.


What are some of the important items/tools in or aspects of your workspace?

Major requirements are that the room has to be quiet, with plenty of light. There's a decent sound system if I want music, but to really concentrate I usually need peace and quiet. Open-plan offices filled with people talking on the phone all day are my personal vision of never-get-anything-done purgatory!

There are also lots of pixels of screen real-estate—one of my guiding principles has been "one can never have too many pixels." The main work PC is a Lenovo in a docking station, driving 4 screens. I have my main workspace on the biggest screen, a secondary workspace on the second biggest screen, email on one of the smaller ones, and IM on another.

I often collaborate with colleagues over Skype or similar, with documents open on one screen and software development tools on the main workspace. This setup is good for doing technical reviews too, when I need to crosscheck several things against each other and can have lots of windows visible all at the same time.

If that isn't enough screen space, there's also my Macbook, which has an HD external monitor, Bluetooth keyboard, and wireless mouse. I can work from anywhere with an internet connection, on a laptop screen if I have to—but it's a lot easier and quicker to do things on a multiple screen setup.

Both machines have webcams and can do video conferencing if required. They're both set up so that I can just "talk at the screen" when on a call. Anyone who's never worked from home would probably be surprised at how much effort it can take just staying connected with the rest of the team and maintaining a connection so that you don't start to feel isolated. I spend a lot of time on Skype, Lync, Jabber videoconferencing or the plain old telephone. If anyone tells you that working from home is a bed of roses, remind them that roses have thorns!

I like to spread out, so enough desk space is a must. The current secondary desk is a motorised sit/stand model, so I can stand up and move around during the day. It also helps with a chronic back problem. The next change I make is probably going to be swapping the work screens onto the sit/stand desk and the Macbook onto the fixed desk. The ordinary looking office chair is actually an orthopedic model with completely customizable lumbar support—worth every penny for the pain it's prevented over the years.


Regular supplies of tea (some sort of Assam or English Breakfast blend, with goats' milk) are required, and are also appreciated by my office cat, Bailey. If I leave a mug unattended, my concentration is likely to be be suddenly disturbed by the sound of lapping as Bailey starts slurping the cold tea!

The window faces south, over the small garden at the back of the house, which provides plenty of light and a view of the outside world. Also quite a lot of warmth in summer, which the cats appreciate very much when sitting on the windowsill toasting themselves gently. When the world is grey and dark in winter, I rely on the lightbox on the desk: an hour or so a day with 10,000 lux of artificial light keeps the demons of Seasonal Affective Disorder away and helps me to function like a real human being between the months of October and March. Without it, I would just want to curl up in bed and hibernate until spring.

Finally, and perhaps somewhat controversially, my Pomodoro timer is a lemon!


Kaz - November 19, 2019

Thank you for sharing! Reading your detailed descriptions was like popping in for a visit. I loved learning how you’ve organised your work space and your working arrangements …. and how your TB gear sits amongst the various tools that facilitate them.

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