Introduction: Work-from-home Setup for Multiple Computers
In this Instructable, I'll show you my work from home setup which allows for a work computer (laptop or desktop) to be interfaced with your home computer monitor, keyboard and mouse, while allowing you your 'home' computer workstation. This setup is not seamless and is designed not to be; it allows for one to install and remove your work computer in such as way as to 'come in' to work and 'leave' work at the end of the day. When I swap the USB cable and put the work laptop in the drawer, that's my workday.
This Instructable uses the desk from my instructable on an economical green screen which I use for Zoom social networking, video gaming, and home office tasks. This $25 desk has been a great purchase as it now contains advanced cable management for networking, power, and audio, while hiding everything off the ground to allow for vacuuming and cleanliness.
- Dedicated Home Office Space e.g. Desk, Table, etc. with good ergonomics
- Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse (USB Keyboard/Mouse, If Monitor has USB ports built in, all the better.
- Home PC (Any OS, Make, Model)
- Work PC (Any OS, Make, Model, though Laptop is preferred. USB-C support is recommended)
- 'Work PC Storage' (E.g. Monitor Riser, Drawer, Backpack if hybrid working)
- USB-C Docking Station with USB, Video (HDMI, DVI-D, Displayport, VGA)
- Optional- USB Male-Female cable extender
- Optional- USB Hub
- Optional- Speakers with 'Aux In' Port
- Optional- 3.5 mm Male-Male Extension
- Optional- 3.5 mm Male-Female Extension
- Optional- 3.5 mm wired headphones (e.g. Astro A50, Apple Earbuds, etc.)
- Zip Ties / Labels for Cable Management
Step 1: Design Your User Layout / My Layout
The Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse are your central 'hub' for your home / work PC operations. Your Monitor should have multiple inputs that let you switch between 'home' and 'work'. Your Keyboard and mouse are tied to a single USB cable, which you MANUALLY switch between home and work. This is the 'going to work action in the morning- you set up your work laptop, plug in the USB cable for keyboard mouse, and switch the monitor input. At the end of the day, you MANUALLY plug the keyboard/ mouse USB cable into your home computer, switch the input to home, then store the laptop, either in the space below the monitor riser, a drawer, or a backpack.
My example uses a Dell S2817Q 4K Monitor with 2 HDMI ports, Display Port, and Mini Display Port, as well as a built-in powered USB hub. (I have a Corsair K95 Keyboard with a Logitech G502 mouse plugged into it, going to two USB ports [one data, one power] that plug into the monitor hub. The USB cable from my monitor is my 'one cable', which also has a Logitech 1080P webcam plugged into it that switches between work PC and home PC when moving the keyboard and mouse.
My home PC is on the floor below the desk, so I use a USB extender run up next to the monitor, where I've also placed my work Laptop's USB-C docking station (see image). This is where I switch the USB cable for the end of the day. I don't notice any lag while gaming on my home PC, and having a full mechanical keyboard is miles better than the laptop keyboard I have for work, especially in my job as a writer.
My work PC plugs into a docking station which I've placed just below the monitor on top of a monitor riser. This allows for easy access to the USB-C hookup, hiding cables, and switching the monitor USB cable from the home to work setup. There's also a front mounted USB port that often becomes a phone charger, as well as a 3.5mm jack.
For Audio, I use on-ear headphones (Astro A50 Gaming Headphones) for most of my work meetings, which give me better audio during Teams, Zoom and Webex meetings. I enjoy these since not only do they sound great, they're highly modular and customizable / repairable. I've swapped the ear pads on these once since I've bought them. If in video meetings, I use the trusty Apple Ear buds- ridiculously expensive, but they're pretty resilient to going through the wash. My home PC using an old pair of Logitech speakers (great round audio), so I've used a splitter to split the home PC output both speakers and a headphone extension port that's mounted to the left of my keyboard and mouse. This keeps the hardwire cable out of my hand's way while gaming (I'm a righty) while still letting me just unplug the 3.5mm Jack and move it to my work computer if it's needed.
The philosophy for this setup is work-home separation. I could easily route everything through a 4K Ready KVM switch, or use a USB-C hub for both my home and work PC. By doing these mechanical things, I sign into work in the morning, and sign out in the afternoon.
Step 2: Work Setup
I use Lenovo and Dell laptops for my work, which has a USB hub that is plugged into the dock. I enjoy a dual-monitor setup, though my 4K monitor functions as 4 1080p monitors (2 x 2 1080p). The monitor screen I use as a 'broadcast' monitor, since not all people have 4K screens of their own. When using Zoom, WebEx, Teams, I'll do a screen-share on the laptop screen and keep my meeting notes on the 4K Screen above. Always remember to keep your text a bit larger when screen-sharing so people can see.
You'll note on the right speaker, there's an 'aux in' 3.5mm port, which I can run if attending team meetings, large attendance meetings, etc. This is deliberate, since audio issues are always prevalent in meetings with people of different technical experience.
At the end of the day, I sign out of the laptop, power down, and if WFH the next day, slip it into the drawer below the monitor (mine- Target, Wood Monitor Stand with Drawer - ThresholdDCPI 081-08-0526) or wipe it down with antiseptic and place it in my work backpack.
Step 3: Cable Management
The cabling behind the monitor uses the cable management in the Dell monitor stand, but it is organized to pass thorough a 1.5" hole in the desk to the desktop below. It's tied together for easy cleaning with compressed air. while the monitor, speakers & docking station can be easily removed for cleaning the desk of dust and inevitable coffee stains (despite coasters).
The docking station has a power cable so I never have to plug anything other than the USB-C cable into the laptop. This is wired into the outlet strip under the desk (Tripp-LIte IB8RM). I keep a second laptop charger in my backpack, in case I need to pop into meetings while on the road.
I'm lucky to have an ergonomic setup available with this desk, using a Steelcase Criterion Chair (Refurbished), a keyboard drawer with mouse pad (Steelcase, part of the $25 desk, no idea part number), and with the 28" monitor on a riser, a good sightline to the writing I do which keeps my neck and back from slumping. The other aspect of the WFH setup is a camera cover, never leaving a camera uncovered on the laptop or desktop.
It's a 'peace of mind' thing, but it's another mechanical aspect I have to do to turn on the camera- deliberate movements for navigating in virtual meetings.
Step 4: Build Your Own!
General guidance for building your own WFH setup
- Work with what you have for your home apparatus
- Consult with your work IT staff- usually have advanced knowledge of things to use
- Take advantage of ergonomics resources
- Keep cabling to a minimum
- Read the manuals for your devices- you'll see the inputs and outputs available to you.
- Try new things and find a reliable solution for YOU.
Best of luck, stay safe!