You can tell a lot about a person based on what they prioritize on their desks. Or, “desks,” for those of us who work from home; on the kitchen counter, the coffee shop down the street, or the nearest hotel lobby.
Last week, we got the chance to see how team member, Software Engineer, and allwhere hire #1 Isaac Swift took hot desking to the next level — all around the world. Click here to read how Isaac kept up with his work from several time zones away during his extended stay abroad.
This week, we’re seeing how an executive lays out his home office and workspace with our Chief Growth Officer, Ben Kessler. A work from home veteran, Ben has been working remotely for over 5 years, and though his set-up has evolved, he’s now found what works best for him and helps him stay at his most productive.
Hi Ben! Please tell us a little bit about you, your background, and what you do here at allwhere.
Hi there! I work remotely and am based in Culver City, CA, but I’m originally from Philly and lived in New York for many years. I am the Chief Marketing & Growth Officer here at allwhere and oversee all things brands, demand and revenue generation within marketing.
Please walk us through your setup! Tell us about where you work, what equipment you use, and why it works for you.
I am lucky to work from my home, which allows me lots of flexibility. I’m able to do things like take calls on walks, check in on my two young daughters, and make myself lunch, because I love to cook!
My office is a multi-purpose room that’s attached to my garage. It functions as an office, gym, storage closet, and laundry room, but with the help of my wife I’ve been able to make it a more than comfortable area for me to work from every day. I especially like that it’s separate from my home, giving me a quiet and somewhat disconnected feel that makes the room feel more like a true office. I have quite a large desk which allows me to spread out but also leave room for my daughter to come and work on art projects, depending on the time of day!
In terms of my setup, I have a large 4K Dell monitor with my M1 MacBook Pro elevated on a stand beside it for that extra desktop space. I use the wireless Apple Keyboard and am one of the strange ones that really enjoys using the Apple Magic Trackpad. I’ve also got a Logitech webcam, Amazon Basics condenser microphone (pro tip: they are surprisingly high quality and affordable) and a key light, both of which are on extendable arms attached to the desk to free up space.
How does your setup differ from the ones you had when working in an office? Is there anything specific that you prefer about your WFH setup?
My setups actually don’t differ too much. I’ve always been interested in curating the “perfect” desk setup that makes me feel my most productive while also showcasing my personality. I definitely feel more inspired when I have my tchotchkes, books, and photos around! I’m a very neat and organized person, too, which bleeds into my setup as well.
What is your favorite hardware part of your setup?
My microphone! Interesting fact — studies have shown that higher quality audio makes the listener think you’re actually smarter. Maybe I’ll invest in a Shure SM7B someday, but for now, my Amazon Basics microphone does the trick.
The microphone has also been getting some good use recently as we’re working on the first season of our podcast — stay tuned…
Very exciting! What is your favorite non-hardware part of your setup?
I love the Apple Reminders app. I use it religiously to plan my tasks both for work and for my personal life. It has all the functionality I need and I really like that I can quickly ask Siri to “remind me to finish that document by 9pm tomorrow,” for example. For me, it just works.
You mentioned that you like showcasing your personality in your home office. What is your favorite non-tech part of your setup?
I have a bookshelf behind my chair and try to keep my favorite books at arm’s length. Flipping through these during my downtime helps me clear up my mind and return re-energized to my work. I also have some family photos and artwork by my daughter that are just off camera.
What would you say are the essentials for someone building out a new WFH setup from scratch?
I think it’s all about desk space and layout. If I don’t have what I need in my immediate space, I feel like distracting myself even in the split second I go to retrieve it. Lots of people work at really small desks, but my biggest advice would be to get as large a desk as you can. Of course, a great height-adjustable monitor and a comfy chair can help, too. But ultimately, working from home makes it very easy to not get up and stretch your legs. The Apple Watch does a good job of reminding me to stand up every once in a while.
What do you think is the best WFH breakfast and lunch? What snacks do you like to have around during the day?
I tend to skip breakfast during the week as it helps with my focus and energy. On the weekends, though, I love cooking breakfast for my family — mostly variations of eggs, pancakes or a Dutch baby. Yum! Mornings during the work week, though, I’m just coffee and water. I’m particular about my coffee and love trying new beans in my Moccamaster.
I cook myself lunch almost every day and it’s usually a variation of a salad or sandwich. I love recipes from What’s Gaby Cooking, Molly Baz, and NYT Cooking.
How do you balance parenting with WFH, and what are your tips for other WFH parents?
My biggest tip for this would be to always be adaptable. One of the biggest challenges of being a working parent is the unpredictability factor. There are some days where both of my daughters are content to play or nap, and I’m able to accomplish all my tasks and meetings for the day uninterrupted. On other days, however, my newborn will start crying as my toddler knocks on my office door, all while I’m meant to be leading a meeting on Zoom.
It’s important to embrace that chaos. If you have to move things around on your calendar, don’t apologize; it’s natural to shift things around. As a leader, I try to set an example for my team by always remaining flexible, empathetic, and understanding, and I know that I can count on them to do the same.
(If you’re interested in learning more about parenting while WFH, read this article I authored for BuiltIn recently.)
Thanks for chatting, Ben! To end: what is your favorite part of WFH?
I think the most valuable part for me is being in control of my life. I can be productive when I’m feeling productive, can spend time with my kids so I don’t miss important moments, and step out to stretch my legs or run an errand when I need to. I miss the serendipity from in-person working, but it can also be a huge distraction, and I try to be good at meeting my team in person at WeWork or other locations, when our work requires it.
Looking to equip your distributed team with everything they need to work from anywhere? With allwhere, HR and IT managers get the help they need to streamline onboarding, full lifecycle asset management (deployment, replacement, retrieval, storage, disposal, and redeployment), and more for hybrid teams. To learn more, book a demo with us here.
Tools for modern work
Subscribe to get a monthly email with all of the articles and guides we've written on how to equip employees to work from anywhere.