Work From Home Essentials (2020)

Here's what you need to make working from home feel just right.
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Working from home can be wonderful! Many now swear by a work-from-home professional life and can't imagine suiting up for the office any time soon.

What we gain when we work from home, of course, is our commute time back and the comfort of having our own things. And pajama working...sure! If we have kids, then we get to spend some time with them throughout the day when we take a break from our remote workspaces.

What we miss when we work from home, however, is the human connection that you get from being in daily contact with your coworkers. We miss being in a buzzing office full of life and energy, which can sometimes drive new ideas around the coffee machine. We also miss some of the office essentials that a company sets up for us, like an ergonomic desk chair, a powerful computer, and a setup that's customized for your work.

Don't get us wrong. We're not arguing that we should all return to the office anytime soon, but we are going to encourage you to make sure your own workspaces are as comfortable and conducive to your work as possible. I mean, you're spending eight hours a day there, right?

Let's make sure you have the work from home essentials that you need to make working from home the best experience it can be. (It's still work. We can't change that!)

This is also a great list of ideas if you're looking to buy a gift for someone you know that works from home.

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Two words: back health.

We've known for a long time the importance of having an ergonomic chair that supports your back properly during those long periods of sitting. A good ergonomic chair provides the proper lumbar support for your back, which helps you maintain a correct posture throughout the day.

Many studies have shown that having an ergonomic chair can actually improve both your physical and mental health. This makes sense, as a good chair will help you to stay pain-free and happy throughout the day.

Look for a chair that's fully adjustable to make sure you're sitting at the proper height for your desk and at the correct angle.

Other considerations

  • Lumbar support
  • Neck support (to support a fully leaned-back postition)
  • Adjustable armrests (to keep your shoulders from having to shrug while you type)
  • Ability to lean to back

You'll also want to make sure that your work-from-home setup has you sitting at the correct height and at the correct distances. Here's a great diagram of a proper work-from-home setup:

Proper Posture for Computer Use

We recommend

Ergonomic chairs can be quite expensive, (many cost between $1000-5000) making them out of most people's price-range. We recommend this Nouhaus Ergo3D Ergonomic Office Chair at just over $300. It has all the features mentioned above, as well as quality construction so your investment should last a long time.

Your particular employer may already have a remote-working app that they use. But if you're with a small company or group, you should definitely recommend some kind of remote productivity tool, such as Slack or Basecamp.

We also highly recommend that you invest in a great password manager like 1Password, not only to keep track of your professional passwords—but also to keep track of your personal passwords. With 1Password, for example, you can share passwords for the various work software tools you use with your teammates easily!

Why not add a little music to your work life? Just be careful what kind of music you listen to. Studies on background music in the work environment have shown that music with lyrics reduces our mental performance at work, while instrumental music could boost our productivity.

Productivity Dos and Don'ts

  • Don't listen to podcasts.
  • Don't watch TV or Youtube shows or have them in the background.
  • Do play music like classical and jazz.
  • Do listen to music that makes you happy!

Setup

Speaker? Headphones? How you choose to set up your music will depend on a variety of factors, like:

  • Are there other people in the house while you work? (Headphones)
  • Does your job require you to be in constant meetings? (Headphones)
  • None of the above true? (Speaker)

Headphones

If you feel like you need a pair of headphones because you don't want to disturb other people in the house or you want to keep from being disturbed, then we recommend either some in-ear buds like AirPods or over-ear headphones like Beats Solo3s.

Speaker

Just want a good speaker to play your playlists throughout the day? The Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker has been the gold standard for Bluetooth speakers for years now—and for good reason. It combines great Bose sound and a compact all-in-one speaker at a low price. (If free sounds more up your alley, then we have a guide on how to get a free Google Home mini.

Steaming service

Unless your setup is a record player and records (if so, good for you!), then you're probably going to be streaming your music from either Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora. We can even show you how to get Spotify Premium for free.

Another alternative would be to use something like a Raspberry Pi to stream music.

It's a desk. You'll want one. If you think there's nothing to consider, however, then you'd be wrong. The kind of desk you buy should be influenced by your needs and sense of style.

Considerations

  • Do you need a lot of drawers to keep your files, papers, and things? Then something like this OneSpace desk with lots of shelves and drawers should do the trick.

  • Do want something that's budget-friendly while still having everything you need? The Amazon Basics desk has two shelves, is well-made, and is only $64.99.

  • Just need a horizontal piece of wood? Or something that matches a non-office decor? We like this Cubi Cubi computer desk that comes in a variety of wood finishes to match your decor.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the desktop vs. laptop dilemma.

Desktop

On the one hand, maybe you want a desktop computer set up in a single room to keep your work life separate from your home life. If you need that, then that's just fine. You could even have a laptop that you use for personal use while keeping your desktop for work only. The Dell Inspiron Series is always a great name in Window's PCs and should be powerful enough to handle most work-related tasks.

Laptop

The argument for a laptop is pretty simple. Laptops allow to you be mobile with your work? Maybe you want to work in the kitchen for a few hours? Maybe you want to go to a cafe? With a laptop, you can even take your work to a park, as long as there is WiFi. And most laptops are powerful enough to handle the workload of most jobs. One of the most intuitive and mobile laptops available is the Macbook Air.

Home office

If you have an office space, then you're lucky! An office with a door you can close creates a dedicated space for your work that lets everyone in the household know that you're working. Just outfit with some of the accessories we list in this guide, and you're good to go!

No home office

Create a space

Maybe you don't have the extra room and space for a home office. No worries! Set aside a dedicated space in your house that you will use as your main workspace. You might even let the others in your household know that you will be using this space for work.

Get mobile

You also have the freedom to move from room to room, chair to chair, and table to table. Take advantage of that by changing your work environment throughout the day in your house. A good lap desk can really help you when working in different places in your home. Or better yet—get outside! Many parks have WiFi now, and you can find a picnic table on which to work. And of course, there's the classic of working at a coffee shop or a cafe.

Two dogs lying down

Speaking of distractions. A pet is a great one. Not only will they keep you company throughout the day, but, if you have a dog, then you can take a nice health break during the day to take it out for a walk!

Do you know what one of the leading cause of diseases are as we age? Poor household air quality—at least according to the World Health Organization. But you can take actionable steps toward improving that right now.

Houseplants

The easiest and most aesthetically pleasing is to invest in some houseplants that are shown to improve the indoor air quality. Here are a few that you can buy:

indoor houseplants to help air quality

Air purifiers

Conversely, you can invest in a household air purifier for your home office and bedroom. There is a whole range of air purifiers out there that may suit your needs, but you should pay particularly close attention to the maximum square footage for which the purifier remains effective.

Another nifty option is this Wynd Air Purifier that fits right on your desk!

Need that extra buzz to get you going? Or maybe you just enjoy sipping on something throughout the day? Believe it or not—even drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea will help to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

Coffee maker

There's a library full of literature and opinions out there about the best kinds of coffee to make. We ourselves have made many guides detailing our choices. French Press? Pour-over? Light roast or dark roast? Or maybe just a good drip-maker like this Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew? Experiment to find something you enjoy!

Tea kettle

We recommend an electric tea kettle if you're someone who drinks a lot of tea. It heats up fast and is easy to clean. It also doesn't make a lot of noise, if you find yourself using it often throughout the day.

The key here is to get an all-in-one! You'll likely need to scan and print out certain documents for your employer—no matter how paper-free they claim to be.

If you will be printing all the time, it might be worth it to invest in a laserjet printer, which will handle the load much more quickly. For most people, however, a more budget-friendly option—like this HP Envy All-in-one—should do just fine.

Our life has become a series of plugs and outlets and gadgets! It helps to keep them organized. You're going to have a lot of plugs now that you're working from home, so make sure to get a decent power strip that's fire retardant and has surge protection.

We also recommend getting a power strip with built-in usb slots, so you can easily charge things like your phone or wireless mouse.

The most underrated gift you'll ever buy someone who works at home! There's almost no world where an all-purpose desktop organizer will not be useful for cleaning up a clutter of folders, papers, and pens.

Depending on the kind of work you do, your specific needs may vary. But a general all-purpose organizer is likely to be useful in almost any industry.

Hydration. Hydration. Hydration.

Unless you have someone repeating that over and over to you throughout the day, then you'll want some way to remember to stay hydrated. Believe us when we say that staying hydrated will, not only help your overall health but also help you to stay energized throughout the day.

Here's a cute glass bottle from HydroMATE that encourages you to drink certain amounts of water at various intervals throughout the day. It's a neat way to keep track of your hydration.

Don't tell your boss we suggested this!

Everyone feels stressed out on the job sometimes. It's good to have some way to relieve that stress or distract yourself for a moment or two to relax.

Exercise

The best distraction is to have an exercise routine you perform that helps relieve your stress. Maybe a yoga pose? Or some pushups and situps? Maybe a short walk around the block? Your body and health will thank you for this distraction!

Novelty

How about something in your office that you can turn to when things look bleak? Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Guy is sure to make you smile. Or shoot a few hoops with an indoor over-the-door basketball hoop. Or you can even build a Nintendo Switch arcade cabinet for next to your desk!

Whatever you do get, make sure it relieves your stress.