How to Choose Your Work at Home ComputerHome > How to Set up Your Home Office >
Last updated: February 8, 2021
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I love technology. Every new piece of innovation that is released from the tech world genuinely excites me. I’m a Trekkie, and easily recognize how the technological creativity of Star Trek has inspired the ingenuity that produces the devices that help to run our world. Mobile phones and tablets are some of the obvious takeaways. And of course, advanced technology is what makes work at home jobs possible. As technical know-how and imagination continue to progress, I believe that the option to work at home will become a more common opportunity in our workforce.
When considering your work at home office setup, your technological capability can help or hinder you. As we move further into the 21st century, electronics become out-of-date faster and faster. That new phone that you only purchased a month ago could have a new version coming out within less than a year.
New computer models and software are released in the same way. Luckily, companies that hire work at home employees realize that the average person is not able to purchase every new piece of high-tech equipment that comes on the market. However, most companies do have minimum requirements for the computer that you use to service their customers or complete assignments.
Here are some features and requirements to consider when choosing your work at home office computer.
Desktop or Laptop?
A desktop computer will always be sufficient for a work at home job, as long as meets certain requirements. However, few work at home companies specifically require their workers to use a desktop computer. Many of the latest laptop models perform as well as and, many times, better than desktop computers.
As this new century moves along, desktops are becoming less common because laptops require less space and are mobile, making them a more convenient option. However, some types of laptops cannot be considered for remote work. Some models of Chromebooks, 2-in-1s, and tablets will not meet the needs of the average customer service or administrative support position. Also, any desktop or laptop computer that possesses less than any of the specifications listed below will not likely be sufficient for most work at home jobs.
Operating System (OS)
There are 4 common operating systems from which to choose when considering your work at home office computer: Windows, macOS (Apple), Chrome OS, and Linux.
The Windows OS is the most common of the four and, by far, the more preferred operating system among companies that hire work at home workers. Some companies will allow Apple computers, those with macOS. You may also find a few companies that allow their workers to use computers with the Linux OS or Chromebooks which use the Chrome OS from Google. However, much of the software that businesses of all types need to use in their daily operations tend to be primarily designed to work with Windows.
Operating System (OS) version
At this point in time, I believe I can safely say that no company that employs work at home workers allows any operating system older than Windows 7 to be used by their employees. As of January 14, 2020, Windows is no longer providing updates or support for Windows 7. So even companies that were once allowing workers to use Windows 7 are now encouraging workers to upgrade to the Windows 10 OS or purchase a Windows 10 computer. Therefore, if you have a computer with Windows Vista or XP, you will need to upgrade to a new computer before being eligible for any work at home jobs.
While Windows is very diligent about providing public updates regarding support for its products, information for Apple products may require a bit of research at the Apple Security Updates page.
Chrome OS is found only on Chromebook computers. However, Chromebooks are made and sold by major computer manufacturers like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, and others. Available updates and update status for Chrome OS can be found in Google Support.
Linux OS is quite different from the operating systems I have already discussed, and this includes the process for updating it. More information is available at Linux.com.
Processor speed or Central Processing Unit (CPU) speed
How fast your computer processes commands and functions can also affect your eligibility for a work at home job. Many recent computer models are being released with speeds of 3.0 GHz or more. I have yet to work any remote job that did not require me to have multiple open browser windows, tabs and software programs, including VOIP which is used a lot for customer service phone support positions. I can say that anything slower than a 2.5 GHz processor will slow down the level of performance needed to maintain a work at home position.
The two main manufacturers of processors are Intel and AMD. I am not qualified enough to tell you which of the two is the better brand. I am able to say that you will likely be happy with either brand. However, for most work at home jobs, your computer’s processor would need 2 or more cores (dual-core, quad-core, or more) to handle multiple software programs operating at the same time. For Intel, that would be an i5 or higher. For AMD, look for computers with an AMD A9 processor or above.
Because of the general nature of remote positions, any files that a company must share with its employees are usually stored in cloud programs like Google Drive or Dropbox. Keeping files in a cloud is not just more convenient, but keeps employees’ own hard drive space free for their own documents and photos. Therefore, most work at home jobs rarely require potential job candidates to have a great deal of internal storage available on their computers as a requirement for employment.
RAM or Random Access Memory
RAM, also just known as “memory”, holds temporary data for your computer and allows for faster processing. RAM is what lets you have multiple tabs or multiple programs open at once without pages and programs freezing or “not responding.”
As I stated above regarding processor speed, I have yet to work any remote job that did not require multiple browser windows, tabs, and software programs to be open at once, including VOIP, which is used for most customer service phone support positions. I would recommend 6GB of memory as the absolute minimum to ensure your job performance is not affected by insufficient memory.
Some work at home jobs will only require 4GB of RAM at a minimum. However, I believe a faster processor would be needed to offset such a limited memory capacity. Therefore, you could have an okay performance with at least a 2.5 GHz processor and only 4 GB of RAM.
Dial-up internet service is pretty much forbidden among work at home jobs. I have seen some companies that allow DSL. However, Cable internet, or Broadband, is the fastest, most reliable, and most preferred by work at home companies of the three.
Measured in megabits per second (Mbps), the rate at which your home’s internet downloads data – your internet speed – is one of the major requirements considered for work at home jobs.
This requirement tends to vary as different work at home companies require different internet speeds. If you have broadband from any of the cable providers, though, your speed is likely more than sufficient. Dial-up and DSL speeds may not be fast enough. Just in case, you can test your internet speed at http://www.speedtest.net/ to make sure that you meet a company’s requirements.
As I discussed in my post, How to Choose a Computer Monitor for your Work at Home Office, size matters because many work at home jobs require their employees to have multiple windows, tabs, and programs open and accessible at one time. Having plenty of room on your screen allows you to be able to see all, or at least, most of these windows at one time. Having that ability cuts down toggling between windows and programs during a call, which cuts down on the amount of time of each call (call talk time is a super important metric/measurement for customer service jobs).
While it is not a common requirement in work at home job listings, I have seen a few that have specific computer monitor size requirements for workers. When a remote job listing includes this requirement, a larger monitor size is usually required, such as 22 inches or more.
Also discussed in my post, How to Choose a Computer Monitor for your Work at Home Office, your computer monitor’s resolution is important because a company’s website, database, and the programs needed to perform your work are sometimes designed to be viewed with a specific resolution.
Currently, the standard computer screen resolution is 1366×768 and is sufficient for viewing almost anything. However, consider a higher resolution, such as 1600×900 or 1920×1080 (Full HD), since they offer viewing in much better detail.
The type and number of ports available on your computer is not a common specification requirement found in work at home job listings. There are two types of ports that are usually necessary for remote positions, though: USB and Ethernet.
Primarily, work at home companies that provide phone support by VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) will require that at least one dedicated USB port is available for your USB headset. However, as I point out below regarding wired computer peripherals, USB ports must be available for a mouse and keyboard.
Being directly wired or connected to the internet is another general standard in remote positions. The connection is made possible by using an Ethernet cable plugged into the Ethernet port, or the RJ45 port, of your computer and one of those on your router.
Bonus: If your work at home job requires you to maintain a dual monitor setup, or maybe such a setup is your personal preference, you will need a port for the monitor. Depending on the monitor, either a VGA port or HDMI port will be necessary.
Remote customer service and administrative jobs require that all computer accessories and peripherals used by their employees, like your mouse, keyboard, and headset, be hardwired to your computer. Wireless peripherals are never recommended because the battery supply can run out in the middle of a shift, or worse, during a call with a customer. Also, wireless signals, whether USB or Bluetooth, are not considered to be 100% reliable.
As of my last update of this post, I own 3 laptops. They are all made by Lenovo. I liked the first two so much that I bought another one! The first 2 look practically the same from the outside. But you know what they say about outside looks!
I purchased them each a year apart. The first one is a very nice machine for tasks performed by the average person or college student, such as document creation web surfing, and email. As a graduate student, I used it to create many documents and perform tons of online research. I also used it to watch online videos, play CDs and DVDs. However, until recently, my second Lenovo was the only one that I use for my work at home job.
Lenovo#2, my Lenovo IdeaPad Z570, is able to do everything that the original laptop can, only faster. Its 2.5 GHz processor loads web pages and software much faster than the 2.2 GHz processor in Lenovo #1. I’m also able to have multiple browser windows and tabs open at one time on the second laptop due to its 6 GB of RAM compared to the only 4GB in Lenovo #1. My first laptop tends to choke when more than one browser or multiple software are open at one time. Pages freeze and its general performance slows down. I would be very wary of trusting it to perform as needed while I’m working my job.
Lenovo 3, my newer Lenovo IdeaPad L340 leaves both of the older laptops in the dust with a processor that reaches up to 3.3 GHz and 8GB of RAM. I am also enjoying a resolution of 1920×1080 resolution.
Your work at home computer is the most important part of your home office setup, even more so than your desk or chair. After all, it is the tool that allows you to work at home. Therefore, serious consideration is needed when choosing your computer for performing your job or running your business.
- If you are in the market for a computer for your work at home office or just making sure that the one you already have measures up, make sure you have the following:
- The correct and up-to-date operating system
- A processor that is powerful and fast enough for the tasks you will need to perform
- Enough RAM to run all of your employer’s programs
- Fast internet
- The appropriate monitor size and resolution
- The necessary amount of ports
- Wired peripherals
Does your current computer meet these requirements? What other types of required features have you seen in work at home job listings? Share in the comments below.