Updated February 22, 2020
If you plan to provide customer service or technical support in your work at home job, a headset may only be second to your computer as your most important work tool. Customer service probably makes up the biggest industry among remote jobs. And phone support makes the most common position in customer service.
Because the typical phone support worker experiences back-to-back calls during their shifts, a common house phone would not work well or efficiently for answering customer calls. Also, a work at home customer service agent needs to have their hands free to type on their keyboard or maneuver their mouse. Therefore, phone support positions require workers to have a headset with an attached microphone that allows them to hear as well speak to their customers.
A customer service phone support position was my first work at home job. When I was hired, I already had a computer. So the very first piece of equipment that I invested in was a work at home headset. I did research on the features and specifications that were available for headsets and found more than I expected.
There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a headset. The average customer service support position will have some specific conditions for it but you essentially get to choose yours based on your own preferences. So let’s discuss work at home headsets so that you are able to select one that best suits your particular position and needs.
Work at home headsets fall into two sets of categories. Both sets of categories classify headsets according to the make up of their earpieces. I have not encountered a work at home job listing that stated how a headset should look. Therefore, the headset you choose will fit your own preferences. So let’s discuss the categories so that you are able to select one that best suits your particular position.
On a job posting for a work at home phone support position, the employer usually indicates what type of telephone system that the company uses. Either the company requires its workers to take calls through a landline or they will use a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system that is accessed by computer. The main feature of a headset is how it connects in order to be used. There are a few available options.
Some customer service phone support positions require employees to have a landline phone to take customer calls. This means you must use a corded phone or dial pad that is actually plugged into a phone jack in the wall or into a phone modem. With this type of set up, your headset would be plugged directly into the phone exactly like a conventional phone’s handset that you hold to your ear.
Telephone headsets are often sold in combination with a corded phone or dial pad. However, many are sold individually and can be used with some business phones or even conventional corded phones.
Telephone headsets commonly use an RJ-9 connector to be plugged into a phone. Therefore, cordless phones cannot be used for these types of jobs, nor are they recommended. Landline phones that have been specially designed for commercial call center use may require a different connector. So always verify that your phone and headset are compatible with each other if they are not purchased as a combo.
Many, and likely most, phone support positions allow you to take calls through a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) connection, which means you receive the calls through your computer. A headset can be connected to a computer in a few different ways.
The connection preferred by employers will always be a wired one. A wired connection usually ensures the strongest possible and most dependable signal between your headset and computer.
Therefore, the best headset for taking calls through a VOIP connection is a wired or corded USB headset. A wired headset will provide a clear sound for you and for your customers.
Wired 3.5 mm jack(s)
An alternative to a wired USB headset is a wired one with a 3.5mm connector (or two 3.5mm connectors). I have never seen this type of headset indicated on a job posting, but it could possibly work just fine in a phone support position. However, the sound would not likely be as clear as that from a wired USB headset.
In some cases, an employer may require you to have a headset for taking landline calls as well as a USB headset for online training and meetings. To avoid having to purchase multiple headsets, some models come with interchangeable “quick disconnect” cords. Each cord has a different connector end – one with an RJ9 connector for plugging into a phone and the other with a USB connector for plugging into a computer. The other end of each cord connects to the one that is attached to the headset, giving you different connection options with a single headset. In addition to giving you connection options, quick disconnect cords allow you to quickly detach the connection and walk away from your desk without having to remove your headset or unplug from your phone or computer.
A remote customer service support job will require that your headset be hardwired to your computer or phone. However, if your work at home position does not involve phone work and you could still benefit from the freedom of a headset, a wireless unit might be a good fit. A wireless headset allows a user to be mobile in their home office or even around their home. You would be able to take client calls while making a snack in the kitchen or doing the laundry.
Wireless headsets are available that can be used with landline phones, computers, and mobile phones and devices. They use wireless USB signals or Bluetooth signals or the same signal as used by cordless phones. Unlike wired headsets, wireless units have to be charged. They give you the advantage of not having to be chained to your desk for the purpose of taking calls. However, these types of headsets would not likely be dependable for a long shift of back-to-back calls.
Will that be 1 or 2?
Outside of the connection types for a headset, there are two other standard categories for headsets. Each type of headset is either in the monaural category, which means the headset is single-sided with one earpiece or it is in the binaural category, which means it is double-sided with two earpieces.
A monaural, or single-sided, headset generally operates in the same way that a conventional telephone would where you would hear the caller in only one ear. But instead of attempting to hold the phone’s handset to your ear with your shoulder so that your hands can be free, a one-sided headset does the work for you. Monaural headsets give you the benefit of being able to answer calls while also being able to hear all that is happening in your surroundings.
A binaural, or double-sided, headset helps to ensure that you don’t miss what your customers are saying by allowing you to receive sound in both ears. Many headsets in this category boast a noise-canceling feature that blocks out or dampens any noise around you. This design encourages higher productivity by cutting down on nearby distractions allowing you to focus better on your work.
Are you covered?
Headsets are further categorized by how they fit on your head and how their earpieces fit on your ears. Technology and innovation have provided a number of choices here. First, let’s discuss the way in which earpieces fit. There are actually several ways an earpiece can fit your ear: around-the-ear, on-ear, and in-ear.
An in-ear fit is what you find with earbuds that are placed within the opening of the ear. Earbuds can be wired or wireless. However, neither design is great for customer service phone support or even basic business communication because the mic is not located in an optimal position for speaking.
Around-the-ear / Over-the-ear
The around-the-ear fit is more common to USB gaming headsets. It is also called over-the-ear. These headsets are primarily binaural, or double-sided. The earpieces surround the entire ear with soft padding that seals against the wearer’s head and blocks out most external noise. They are usually heftier in size and weight but come in ergonomic designs that provide comfort. Although they are designed for gamers, around-the-ear headsets work perfectly fine with work at home phone support jobs, and some are even superior to those designed specifically for call centers.
The on-ear fit is the most common among work at home headsets. They have padded earpieces that are set on the wearer’s ear instead of around or in it. Therefore, by contrast, these types of headsets tend to be smaller and lighter than around-the-ear headsets. However, a wearer can experience discomfort from pressure on the ear. Choosing a headset with thicker padding helps with this. On-ear headsets usually have thin, metal or plastic headbands that are not always as durable as those found on around-the-ear headsets and must be handled with care.
How your headset fits your head affects your comfort level more so than the earpiece. Your design choices are over-the-head, behind-the-head, and over-the-ear via ear hooks or loops.
Over-the-ear / On-the-ear
Although over-the-ear and on-the-ear are terms that describe types of earpieces for work at home headsets, they also describe a type of headset designed to be secured to your ear by a “hook” that goes over the back of your ear. This style is usually single-sided but there are double-sided models. It is designed to be lighter and less clunky than other styles. It is also easier to remove if you have to leave your desk often.
Behind the head
Maybe you don’t want your headset to affect your hairstyle or perhaps you often wear a hat. A behind-the-head headset might be a better fit for you. You get a similar fit to that of an over-the-head headset but without it disturbing your hairstyle or headwear. When wearing the headset, the headband is positioned behind your neck.
The over-the-head style is the more conventional and more common design for work at home headsets. Over-the-head headsets, whether single-sided or double-sided, fit your head more securely. Adjustability is also a key feature allowing you to get just the right fit.
Depending on the type of remote job you have, there may be some days where you plan to be on back-to-back calls and need your dependable over-the-head headset. And there may be some days where you may be performing more administrative tasks that don’t require you to be on many calls at all. On those days, an over-the-ear headset may be enough. You can get both of these options with a convertible headset.
Convertible headsets are 2-in-1 or even 3-in-1 units that allow you to use a lighter over-the-ear headset or put on its over-the-head or behind-the-neck attachment for a different fit, giving you the ability to use the styles interchangeably.
When considering either of these types of headset, you will also be presented with different types of microphones. Customers need to be able to hear you clearly. Therefore, microphone quality can affect your job performance. The most common required feature for a headset microphone is noise-canceling. This means that the microphone, also called a boom, focuses on the wearer’s voice, making it clearer, and cancels out background noise.
Voice-tube is another type of microphone. It looks like a thin clear plastic straw. Voice-tube microphones are not usually noise-canceling. Therefore, your environment should be very quiet if you choose a headset of this type.
More Features to Consider
The following additional headset features could provide you with extra benefits:
Quick Disconnect – A quick disconnect cord attaches the headset to a phone or computer and can be quickly separated, allowing the user to leave their desk without having to remove the headset or unplug from their device.
On-device volume control – Many headsets come with a volume control module built into the headset and usually located on the cord. It allows you to control the volume of the sound coming into the earpieces as well as the microphone volume. You are able to mute your microphone as well.
Ease of setup – Sometimes USB headsets come with software that must be uploaded to the computer in which it will be used. Many times though, the drivers needed to operate your headset will be automatically downloaded from the internet when you first plug it into your computer.
Ear Cushioning – There are two basic types of cushions used on the earpieces of headsets: foam and leatherette. Of the two, leatherette cushioning provides more comfort.
Cord length – A long cord gives you the flexibility to move around your office while on calls, if necessary.
Note: Headsets are not usually indicated for use for the right or left side of the head. A headset microphone should have the ability to rotate roughly 180 degrees to accommodate your placement preference. If you don’t like the microphone on one side of your head, just flip it around to place it on the other side.
So next to your computer, a headset can be your second most important tool in your work at home office, especially if you provide customer service phone support. Depending on your employer’s telephone system, you could need either a headset to connect to a landline phone or a USB headset to connect and take calls through your computer. And it is always recommended to use a corded headset.
When considering preferences and comfort, you can choose from a number of options and features:
- Single-sided or double-sided headsets
- Wearing styles: over-the-ear, behind-the-head, or over-the-head headsets or even a combination of these
- Microphones: Noise-canceling(boom) or voice-tube
- Quick disconnect capability
- On-device volume control
- Foam or leatherette ear cushions
Choosing a headset for your work at home career is much like choosing a pair of shoes. Personal preferences and price are important, but so are comfort and quality. This is a piece of equipment that you will wear for hours at a time. Therefore, make sure to choose a headset that is dependable and comfortable.
–Do you prefer one ear or two? Did I miss any other features? Share in the comment area!
Check out my reviews of my USB headsets!