How To Get Employees Back to the Office – The Short Answer
To create an office people want to come back to, start by creating a better workstation. That starts with a better employee experience at the desk. Essentials like extra monitors, ergonomic chairs, and docking stations are more than desk accessories. They are the keys to keeping employees coming in, and staying productive.
Setting the Tone
Getting employees excited about returning to the office has become something of a recurring theme in many business circles. Hundreds of articles have sprung up declaring how easy it is to get people back to the office.
And maybe they’re right. You just need to rethink what the office really is—which almost none of the articles can agree on. Then you need to plan on planning events because the new office needs to be social—something almost all of the articles agree on. And finally, you need to find some time to actually get work done—something the articles rarely consider.
This article isn’t really about that. Maybe your employees are already back in the office, or maybe they’re due back any day. Either way, they’re accustomed to the comforts of working from home.
To keep productivity up you’re going to need to create a desk at least as appealing as the home office they’re leaving behind. This article is about that.
Building on a Budget
Start by determining how much you want to invest in perking up the place. How much should you spend to build a better desk setup? Well, that’s between you and accounting.
When your budget is buttoned up, be sure to spend it on what matters most. We’ll break down a few options for building an enticing desk from the cheapest option to the dreamiest option.
Working With What You Have - The Affordable Option
You don’t have to spend a fortune to upgrade a desk. Let’s quickly consider how to set up an employee's desk on a budget. If your fleet of laptops is still performing well enough, and the desks themselves are otherwise efficient, consider upgrading the gear you already have.
We did the research, we talked to customers, we even conducted a poll. The absolute minimum requirement for every desk is an extra screen—two is better. The most cost-effective method for adding a screen or two is with a display adapter. They’re a fraction of the cost of a docking station and they’re easy to install.
Be sure to consider who’s using the adapter and what kind of work they’ll be doing. DisplayLink adapters like the Plugable USBC-6950UE Dual Monitor Adapter are great in environments with a fleet of mixed equipment. They work with Mac and Windows (driver installation required), and this one offers HDMI and DisplayPort connections so extending monitors is a snap.
This one even lets you add two screens to computers that might otherwise only support one—like M1 and M2-powered MacBooks. They excel at working in office and productivity apps, but they don’t support playback of HDCP-protected content. This is only an issue if you need to stream from sites like Netflix or Hulu on your extended monitor.
MST adapters like the Plugable USBC-MSTH2 let you add dual 4K HDMI displays through a single USB-C port—no driver needed Because these adapters are MST-based, they use a chip to split the USB-C DisplayPort video signal into two independent streams. This allows them to drive two extended displays natively from the host laptop at 4K 60Hz. They offer a lot of performance for under $40, but they aren’t recommended for use with Mac as they will only support a single extended display. The second display will be mirrored.
Buy the Plugable USB 3.0 and USB-C 4K DisplayPort and HDMI Dual Monitor Adapter with Ethernet
List Price: $119.00
Buy the Plugable USB-C Dual 4K HDMI MST Display Adapter
List Price: $39.95
Let’s Dock About It - The Middle of the Road Option
But if you find yourself butting up against a bigger budget, you might be ready to consider designing your desks around a docking station. And when it comes to docking stations, there’s a lot to consider. It boils down to how many ports and how many screens you need.
As with any desk makeover, and to the best of your budget’s ability, be sure to match the docking station to the workstation. When setting up a hybrid or hoteling environment. Look for something that works with as many computers as possible. Consider a DisplayLink dock like the Plugable UD-6950Z for solid overall performance with Mac and PC. The included USB-A and USB-C cords make connecting to any host a snap. Your IT department can even preconfigure them with Display Presettings to make things easier for your team.
If you want to create a workstation that your employees prefer to the one they left at home, it’s time to consider a triple display setup. If all laptops support USB-C (with video and charging), start with the Plugable UD-ULTC4K. It offers 100W charging and lets you extend your display across as many as three 4K 60Hz screens—HDMI, DisplayPort, or a mix of both. It also has 13 ports in total so even after you plug in every peripheral possible, there’s still a spot to charge your phone.
Buy the Plugable Dual 4K Display HDMI or DisplayPort Universal Docking Station
List Price: $149.00
Buy the Plugable USB-C Triple 4K Display Docking Station
List Price: $279.00
You’ll Need a Bigger Desk – The Most Expensive, but Not by That Much Option
Budget be damned, you’re building a desk here. And every good desk deserves four screens. For the record, when we say this option isn’t that much more expensive, we’re only referring to the docking station. What you connect to it is between you and accounting.
If you want the absolute best in power and performance, you want to consider a Thunderbolt docking station. Be sure to ensure the dock is Thunderbolt Certified, and not just Thunderbolt compatible (that’s how they get you).
The best hardware for getting employees back to the office is the Plugable TBT4-UDZ. This Thunderbolt 4 dock extends across up to four screens, each up to 4K 60Hz. It also provides 16x ports to power productivity, and 100W charging all connected through a single Thunderbolt 4 cable. And as enticing as four screens might be, the TBT4-UDZ also works wonderfully with a triple or dual display setup.
Depending on the model of the Windows or Mac system being used to connect to the dock, the maximum number of displays can vary. Be sure to reference the compatibility details or this KB article for detailed clarity so that you can find the right match for your laptop fleet.
Buy the Plugable Thunderbolt™ 4 & USB4 Quad Display Docking Station with 98W Charging
List Price: $299.00
Get Back to Work
Whatever path you pick when setting up your workstation, be sure the desk matches the work. The docks and adapters mentioned here will work for a lot of environments, but not necessarily in yours.
Now that you know what you're looking for, take a gander at this Docking Station Finder Tool. Just tell it what you’re looking for and it’ll show what you need. You can also email us at email@example.com with any questions.