Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us had never worked from home. And with the abrupt switch to remote work as offices closed, we had to create our provisional WFH (work-from-home) setups.
Over the next year, some companies discovered that investing in the few necessary elements for WFH setups would be considerably more cost-effective than real estate. And now, some of these setups aren’t provisional but permanent. While some companies are returning to their offices, many remain remote.
But how do we make remote or hybrid work, work? The first step is having the proper home office essentials, so here's our list of what you need for working remotely from home.
How to work from home effectively
When setting up your home office, remember this is still your home. Remote work makes it easy for us to procrastinate throughout the day or to never mentally end our workday. Establishing a strict schedule of when the workday begins and ends is important to maintain a work-life balance and, of course, your mental health.
Let coworkers know that you’ll be closing apps and disabling notifications after a particular hour. If your company works across time zones, set your working hours clearly to avoid being dragged into meetings when you should be at the dinner table — if your team agrees that 6pm is no time for a video call, there's a better chance of it becoming a norm throughout the virtual office.
If leaving the home office setup at quitting time is proving harder than just declaring that you're not working anymore, incorporate rituals into your end-of-day that can serve as the same mind-clearing buffer that commutes once offered. A daily tidy and ceremonious series of tasks like turning off your laptop, monitor, and desk lap will signal that you’re done for the day.
Creating a separate space that’s only for working will also help you switch off. Don’t sit at your desk during your lunch break or when you’re taking personal phone calls. Let this space be for only working.
And no matter how luxe our desk setups are, the monotony of working in the same space every day can drain motivation. If you have work that only requires your laptop for an afternoon, log a few hours at your favorite coffee shop or local library to change things up.
Why you want the best work-from-home setup possible
If you scan the grid of faces attending a video call, it might not seem like people are doing anything particularly strenuous. But that assumption can lead many workers to ignore their bodies altogether.
To meet a deadline, remote workers may sit at their desks for hours, performing repetitive actions that cause lower back and neck pain, eye strain, or carpal tunnel syndrome. The resulting chronic discomfort can eat away at productivity — but that’ll be the least of your problems.
Whether it's for a living room or a work-from-home office, good design should reflect functionality as much as form. Create a space that’s nice to be in, visually and physically. A comfortable desk chair will save you from the added stress of physical strain, an ergonomic mouse will take the strain off your risk, and a monitor can relieve eye strain by letting you read larger fonts all day.
12 work-from-home essentials
Now that you’re convinced you need a comfortable WFH setup, here are the home office essentials you should consider for your workspace:
1. Standing desk
Performing physical activity throughout the day is important — even standing. Sitting all day isn't good for you, so making a habit of getting away from your desk can also break you out of a rut.
While standing desks may not be appropriate for everyone, an adjustable work surface may prevent some of the adverse effects of extended sitting. You might be lucky enough to have a kitchen counter that can double as a standing desk for portions of the day, too.
2. Ergonomic office chair
Having good posture will help you feel comfortable while you're working (and keep away the pangs when you're not). Remember to sit with a straight and not a slouched back to have good posture, which is sometimes difficult to keep in mind when pouring over documents and emails. Buying a chair with good lumbar support can carry the load so you can focus on your work.
3. Mechanical keyboard
At work or play, a keyboard can make all the difference. That's why gamers still prefer mechanical keyboards. These keyboards use springs that return to ready positions as quickly as you pound them. Having a tactile keyboard with good action will help you type as fast as your fingers can move and almost as quickly as you can think. That can mean big savings on time and effort when you have to draft a document. Be sure to invest in an ergonomic design so that your wrists can comfortably rest while you're tapping away.
4. Laptop stand
Many of us use laptops as our only computers, and a MacBook pro is as powerful as most desktops. But, while their mobility is convenient, a laptop screen typically rests well below eye level, which encourages hunching and neck strain while at work. If you're using your laptop as your desktop as often as you're taking it to the coffee shop, getting a laptop stand will keep the screen in a position that ensures better posture.
5. Second computer screen
If you're working with multiple windows simultaneously, navigating across pages, tabs, and apps is a drag. And it can be hard to keep yourself in the zone if you accidentally click on the wrong icon or can’t find a spreadsheet when you need it. It's much easier to occasionally move your eyes to another screen to reference or copy material. It’ll help you focus and track your progress. Plus, if your screen is larger, you can limit strain by zooming in on documents and fine print.
Pro tip: You may also want to try some blue light blocking glasses to cut down on eye fatigue.
6. Desk lamp
A perk of working from home is that you can control the subtler elements of your work environment. You can set the temperature to your liking, almost never worry about any fragrances (unless your “coworker” likes a lavender-vanilla environment), and never need to sit under unforgiving fluorescent lights.
When you're alone in a large living room, it's hard to focus with the whole room lit, but working with dim lights can cause eye strain. A desk lamp lets you concentrate light where you need it, creating mellow moods that are conducive to focusing but bright enough to see.
7. Wi-Fi router
So much depends on the Wi-Fi. It determines whether a video call is a productive use of everyone's time or an interminable mess. And, if you're sending large files that take forever to load, it affects whether your work gets to a coworker or client on time.
Even with operations as simple as word processing, bad Wi-Fi can spoil the seamlessness you want while typing if you're working with cloud documents. Do yourself a favor and invest in a good router and, if you have a larger home, a signal booster to ensure your workspace has reliable coverage.
8. Webcam accessories
Video conferencing may be the only way we engage with our clients and coworkers. But virtual meeting etiquette is the new body language, so if you're hoping to make a good impression with a client or a higher-up, investing in a dedicated webcam and flattering lighting is a good idea.
Rather than fiddling with your laptop's internal camera, place the webcam where it can catch your good side and even come as close as possible to eye contact.
9. Cord organizer
Charging the many generations of Apple devices you use daily can be a trial. How many devices do you have on you right now? Do you know how much battery they have left? Do you know where their chargers are?
Instead of letting every cord you own form a nightmare knot under your desk, invest in some bins that’ll keep your USB minis from your USB micros. Installing cord holders on your desk will let you keep fixtures like your monitor and laptop cord plugged in without getting crossed.
Until everything object has a Bluetooth connection, you’ll need to get an adapter to talk to get your devices to talk to each other. Some Macs only offer Thunderport connection, while some PCs need a custom HDMI input. Make sure you have the tech required to make your devices compatible.
11. Noise-canceling headset
If you have roommates, a partner, or children, being able to tune them out while working and attending conference calls is crucial. And, with Bluetooth capability, they can still come and get you during an emergency, so you can put out any fires while staying tuned in for the CEO's addressing statement. You can also get up to stretch or fill your water bottle without being attached to your computer.
12. A notebook
Staring at screens all day is a drag. And when you're working remotely from home, keeping your work, inter-office communication, and means of procrastination on one device can scramble your thoughts.
Invest in a handsome notebook that you can use as your to-do list or meeting notes. Ticking off tasks as you complete them is much more rewarding than a digital check box.
Make your office yours
It's your office space, but you’ll be sharing one corner with your team, so it's a great way to show, not tell, who you are. And interior design is an excellent way to break the ice.
Setting up a group mood board with MURAL is a great way to brainstorm new ways of making your space pop and collaborate more effectively, better outline and solve problems, and build a pathway to success.
Sign up for a Free Forever account today, invite unlimited guests, and get started quickly and easily with one of our many templates built by experts like IBM and the LUMA Institute.