Comfort and efficiency are the key to your work from home experience as you navigate through managing work and your personal life under one roof. Unlike a traditional office, you’ll be spending much more time in your home office so having the proper work from home essentials can improve your work experience that you may never want to return to the office!
Customizing your setup and ensuring you are the most comfortable you can be is not only important from a time management or organizational perspective, but mental health and ergonomics as well!
In this blog post I provide many different items to consider in your office and the thought process behind them, you may be surprised at some of the items – I know I was as I was learning how to optimize my own personal home office!
The main driver of working from home, your laptop is the essential mainstay of everything that needs to be done. From video conferencing your teammates on Zoom, to watching that next episode of the newest Netflix series, your laptop is key to your work from home lifestyle.
Everyone’s use cases are different, from those who need to do heavy video editing to those who only create simple PowerPoint presentations, picking the right laptop is one of the most important decisions you can make. You will be working with your laptop for a majority of your day – why not ensure it’s something that fits your preferences perfectly? Here are some questions to consider:
- Portability: will you bring your laptop around or leave it at your desk?
- Computing power: does having top of-the-line specs matter to you or do you need it to simply run an internet browser like Google Chrome?
- Gaming: will you use your laptop for pleasure as well? Graphics may matter
- Special use cases: video editing, computational math or even architecture design – do you have a special need that specific laptops can address?
Check out this curated post on the best work from home laptops for any work from home professional!
Your working space is at the very center of everything that you do, with that lies your work desk. While the laptop may be the brains of the operation, your work desk is the skeleton.
Don’t forget, you’ll be spending a greater part of your day around your desk which could cause various health risks. Ensuring you have the right desk that fits you comfortably for your own personal situation can mean the difference between being efficient and having further health problems down the road.
Considerations such as:
- Eye level of your monitors
- Sitting and standing postures
- Arm & wrist resting position while you are work
Should be considered. Certain desks, like stand-up or adjustable desks, allow you to customize the height and position of your position. This solves many of the problems you may encounter and allows you to constantly change your sitting posture, a critical requirement for maintaining proper posture and spine health.
Check out this curated posted on the best L shaped gaming desks. The aesthetic design of these desks is attractive for any user!
As you continue to work from home, the amount of time you spend on your chair becomes increasingly closer to the time you spend on your bed. We all understand the important investment of proper bedding and pillows – chairs are just as important if you have 8 hour workdays!
Due to the extended periods of time, we are fixated on our chairs, you could argue your desk chair is in some cases more important than your work desk. This is evident by the numerous ergonomic features found on many chairs – they can make or break your working experience.
If you have an adjustable desk, then combining that with the many ergonomic features of some chairs will go a long way to ensuring you have a comfortable working experience. Things to consider are the following:
- Your height to the height of the chair. Can your feet rest flat on the floor?
- Armrest and chair height adjustments for comfort
- Being able to spin and wheels to move around
- Back support
- The curvature of your back relative to the chair
- Your chair height/size relative to your work desk
Check out this budget-friendly curated post for the best work from home chairs under $200. Every chair has been screened to ensure it contains the crucial ergonomic features for a chair.
Ergonomically, using your laptop’s keyboard is a horrible idea while on a desk. Either your monitor will be too low or you have wrist problems using your keyboard. The damage to your wrist (e.g. carpal tunnel) can easily be mitigated by having an independent keyboard!
Keyboards come in many shapes and sizes, with some very basic ones like the ones you found in your schools’ library to top-of-the-line ones used by gamers. Both have their advantages; learning how they could benefit you beyond just typing will better prepare you to choose the right keyboard. Here are some considerations:
- Wired or wireless: wires may be messy but having not to deal with batteries or Bluetooth settings may be worth it to some
- Angle and curvature: some keyboards are shaped differently and may force you to hold your hands in different angles; it may or may not be comfortable for you
- Keyboard switches: ever notice how some keyboards are more loud and “clacky”? The actual buttons you press have different types and many people swear by a certain type. The cheapest options found on many keyboards are the silicones, scissors are another type that are generally very close to the keyboard, flat, and quiet, and finally mechanical keys are the loud, clicky ones found on many gamer keyboards. Each type has its own benefits
- Button layouts: Notice how certain keys such as delete, PgUp (Page Up), PrtScn (Print Screen) are in different positions depending on the keyboard? If you use any of these buttons often, be mindful of where they are
- Quality of Life: Buttons that control volume, display brightness, or even allow you to customize its functionality are many features that keyboards have to make your life easier
Check out this budget-friendly post for gaming keyboard and mice. While gaming isn’t on top of mind for work from home, they include quality of life features like programmable keyboard keys and mouse buttons to speed up your workflow!
Monitors drastically improve your productivity, saving you tons of time by allowing you to multitask and work with multiple programs at once. Constantly switching between tabs, programs, and windows on a single screen can easily become tedious and may lead to errors.
By having more than one monitor, you’re able to split and organize your tabs and programs more efficiently. Imagine you’re coding and you need to reference Stack Overflow, two screens allow you to do this seamlessly. Not a coder? How about watching an educational video on cooking a dish and writing notes on Microsoft Word? Much easier to do with 2 monitors.
Once you’ve experienced two monitors, you won’t be able to go back.
Here are some considerations when choosing a monitor:
- Type of sockets (e.g. HDMI, USB): they should match what your laptop uses or you may need to consider purchasing additional gadgets like USB hubs
- Size of monitor: depending on how you use your monitor, sometimes having a smaller monitor may be better
- Position adjustments: some monitors allow you to rotate it in any direction, while others allow you to move the screen up or down; allowing for perfect positioning
- Panel technology: monitors have different types such as TN, IPS, and VA that may be of consideration if image quality and contrast matter in your line of work as viewing certain images may look different from one monitor to another
- Resolution: For many, a 1920 x 1080 experience is more than adequate. For others, you may need to work on a much higher resolution
- Gaming considerations: For those looking to use their monitor outside of work, then refresh rates and response times are critical to your gaming experience
Looking to game or work with the newest HDMI 2.1 monitors in the market with 4K resolutions and 144 Hz? I go over several options for you to consider here.
Chances are, you’re going to be listening and communicating with others at one point while working from home. Whether it’s on a conference call or playing video games, headsets are an important part of the overall experience you’ll have at home.
You could save money by using your laptop’s built-in microphone, however its quality is left to be desired. In addition, anyone in your room would be able to hear your conversation. If you’re in a public space or sharing with roommates who may be loud, headsets will help you concentrate better as well. Here are some things to take into consideration when purchasing a headset:
- Call quality: does perfect sound quality matter to you? Perhaps not in a conference call but while your listening to your music or even gaming
- Noise cancellation: if other sources of noise easily break your concentration, then eliminating noise is a crucial part of your preferences. External noises could include roommates, outside noises or pets.
- Comfort: While your headset may have all the bells and whistles, if it isn’t comfortable, then you’ll be more concentrated on your comfort than your task at hand. They’ll be sitting on your head for extended periods.
- Style: are you looking for a discrete black colored headset that doesn’t stick out or maybe something fits your personal style?
- Range: if you’re looking to move around often, like say chores or cook food while listening to meetings or music, then having a robust headset with superior wireless settings is key
Unlike desktop computers, laptops are rather limited in the ports they provide. What if some of your devices use an older USB port and your laptop only has more modern USB-c ports? If you have monitors, chances are your laptop may not have the necessary HDMI ports to plug them in. This is where USB hubs come in handy as you can connect several devices to your laptop. Here are some of the many ports you may consider:
- Older USB A
- Newer USB C
- HDMI: plugging your monitor to your laptop
- Ethernet cables: ensuring you get the fastest wired speeds
- SD cards
Keep in mind if you are using two monitors, you may need 2 HDMI slots. This could require buying two different USB hubs.
Desk mats, while not as common as in offices, are much more common in households. Other than for stylish reasons, there are many practical uses of desk mats that could significantly improve your work from home experience. Here are some of the benefits:
- Protection: Protect your desk from scratches and other wear and tear from your keyboard
- Grip: Allows to stabilize your various devices if your table is rather slippery
- Mouse Performance: Better precision when using your mouse
- Comfort: Softer on your wrists while typing
- Substitutes as a mouse pad
Speaker quality is one of the least important aspects when people decide on a new work from home laptop which is fair; most laptop speakers are often overlooked by manufacturers. To make up for this, having independent, external speakers can greatly improve your sound experience. It may not be simply used for simple conference calls but things like surround sound for watching videos or even wireless to bring with you to listen to podcasts in other rooms. Some things to consider when choosing speakers include the following:
- Wired or wireless connection: the first thing you should probably ask yourself. Do you want to reduce the amount of wires you have? What about having portable speakers so you can listen to a meeting while in a different room?
- Audio performance: does having perfect-pitch sound quality matter to you? What about clean vocals, bass or treble?
- Connection type: are you comfortable using bluetooth or would you prefer having a USB connection?
- Extra features: are you an audiophile looking to control the bass or treble? Or do you want to connect to multiple devices at once such as your laptop and smartphone?
To maximize your comfort levels even further, having a throw or a blanket of sorts to cover yourself may get you even more comfortable in your chair. Many already wrap themselves in a blanket throughout the house, the same applies to your work from home desk. Comfort is the game here and since it’s your own personal “work office”, you have all the power to make it as comfortable as you wish.
Air quality may be a concern for many. Traditional offices may have a central air filtration system, your home may not. If air quality isn’t a problem, then consider the humidity of your home. During winters it may get unbearably dry in some climates that it may cause sore throats or dry skin. Humidifiers or air purifiers can help alleviate or mitigate some of these discomforting environments.
I have a guide on humidifiers that focuses on both skin and plants. Check it out!
Keeping hydrated is important as you’re working away at your desk. While there may not be much physical activity, getting into the groove could easily make you forget how thirsty you are. Having a bottle nearby not only reduces the amount of garbage you may produce by using plastic, but provides you a convenient source of water without the fear of knocking it over and spilling like a cup.
If your working space isn’t optimally laid out in terms of light sources, then having additional external lighting can help you improve how others view you during conference calls. Situations where you may not have access to sunlight can help you illuminate yourself while in a Zoom meeting. Eyestrain or headaches can be concern depending on the glare of your light sources.
There are also other practical, health benefits as well. During winter, many may have a lack of sunlight available so sources of light can help deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I personally deal with this myself so having access to light improves my mood and overall efficiency even during the darkest days.
While we live in a digital age, you’ll eventually run into a situation where you need to deal with physical documents. In many cases, it may not even be work related but personal things such as banking or personal finances. It’s tedious to go find a shop or friend to help you print your documents.
The amount of time you save by having a printer nearby is well justified for its cost.
Printers are rather cheap as it’s the ink that makes up a majority of the cost. Here are some of the things to consider when purchasing a printer:
- Image quality: this may not matter if you’re just printing documents but if you’re printing images, quality could be a major factor
- Size and speed: if you’re seldom printing, then having a simple printer that’s portable would make sense for you. Looking to print a lot? Perhaps a printer that has faster printing speeds can save you time and headaches
- Wireless settings and media handling: do you want to print right from your laptop? What about if you have a USB stick? Ensuring your printer can accept any type of device without overly complicated steps will drastically reduce amount of debugging you need to do
- General ease of use: while having features are great, most work from home users simply just wants a printer to print. Sometimes grabbing the simplest printer is more than enough for most people. You don’t need to make things more complicated than it needs to be