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Docking station alternatives: Don't let the chip shortage affect your return to the office

Startech
(Image credit: Mike Moore)

From your new car purchase to your latest smartphone upgrade, we’ve all been affected in some way by the global semiconductor shortage wreaking havoc on consumer goods and tech devices. The exact cause of the shortage may vary depending on who you ask, but generally, it’s the result of a domino effect set off by the Covid-19 pandemic, causing global lockdowns, a rise in demand for consumer electronics, and a shipping container shortage. Add on to that trade disputes, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. But, while the cause may be complex, the result is simple – we can’t get our hands on the tech products we need.

One product, in particular, this chip shortage is affecting is laptop docking stations. These chips play an integral role in every dock sold on the market today, and inventory is quickly shrinking industry-wide. We know from speaking with our customers, that IT pros are feeling the impact of this shortage already. As many of us prepare to return to the office, companies are finding unique ways to make the most out of their existing office space, creating safe and socially distanced hot desks that rely on the integration of a dock. Docks are also an effective tool to enable the growing trend of hybrid working, allowing the employees to easily work from home or the office as needed. The only problem is, experts are expecting the chip shortage to last until 2023.

While some organizations may have the time to wait in limbo for docking station backorders to be filled, the majority of us can’t keep our return to work plans on hold. If you’re struggling to get your hands on a dock, it may be time to get inventive and create your own docking station alternative solutions, using IT accessories in stock and available on the market today. Through a combination of just three connectivity accessories, you can create productive and flexible workstations that support your hybrid work environment without relying on docks.

Accessory 1: Multiport Adapter

Start your workstation off with a multiport adapter. These small but powerful tech accessories work similarly to a docking station while offering the added benefits of portability and flexibility. They can provide you access to a 4K display, keep your laptop charged, and offer you additional USB ports, or even an SD card slot, all while remaining compact and designed for convenient travel. Building your workstation around a multiport adapter gives you the option to work from home, or in the office, without losing any of the productivity benefits of your workstation.

Accessory 2: Display Adapter

While a multiport adapter offers access to a single external display, some users may not be able to sacrifice the productivity benefits of multiple monitors. If a single external display isn’t enough for your busy day, connecting a USB display adapter to your multiport adapter is a simple solution to help you create a multimonitor workstation. With such a wide variety of display adapters available on the market today, finding one to suit your monitors is easy. Whether you’re working with HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, DVI, 4K, or 8K, you can fully customize your display accessories to best fit your workstation.

Accessory 3: External USB Hub

We all know that as laptops get thinner, port options become few and far between. Obviously, if you’re using a docking station, through a single cable you’re instantly multiplying your laptop port options. Attaching an external USB hub to your multiport adapter will offer you all of the extra ports you need to connect your mouse, keyboard, USB Flash Drive, or even charge your mobile device. Your workstation requirements may vary depending on where you’re working but having the option to add more USB ports can help you optimize your time and stay focused on your work, rather than rearranging your workstation connections.

As organizations prepare to return to the office, we know employee safety and flexibility will be a high concern. While the global semiconductor shortage may be complicating your reopening plans and impacting your access to specific technology tools, it doesn’t need to leave your team at a standstill. Through a combination of just three connectivity accessories, you can easily create workstations that support your new hybrid work environment, offering the productivity your team depends on, and the flexibility they need to work at home or in the office. These three simple accessories will improve the productivity of employees and allow them to create the workstation they feel fits them best, in the environment they feel most comfortable working in. 

None of us truly know how long the semiconductor shortage will last, or what products it will affect next. So rather than wait and hope for the best, it’s time to get creative and find innovative connectivity accessories that enhance the benefits of the new hybrid workplace.

Kevin Luff is Chief Product Strategy Officer at StarTech.com