Even though offices are re-opening, the world remains friendly to remote work. Many employers are establishing hybrid schedules, letting staffers operate out of their homes a few days a week. Other people are remaining in (home) place entirely. So the home office is likely here to stay in some form or another, and making it work efficiently for you is more important than ever.
Time to go beyond the basics. Here are some home office essentials: Gear that greatly enhances the remote work experience, no matter what your home office set-up is.
At this point, just about everyone knows about smart speakers that play music on voice command. But there’s a lot more that these devices — Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa — can do. Thanks to their AI software, they can act as your personal secretary.
Just connect one with the accounts (calendars, etc.) you use to track your day and it’ll pull the information right from there, alerting you as to your agenda, upcoming appointments, and so on. When you’re trying to balance multiple projects and juggle meetings, having a smart assistant right there next to you — containing all engagements, both personal and professional, in one place — is more handy than you might imagine.
It’s even better if you acquire a virtual assistant that includes a display, because then you can see everything that is on your daily agenda at a glance (otherwise, the assistant “reads aloud” your schedule to you) . No matter what you choose, you’re best picking a smart assistant that plays well with your existing computer ecosystem.
A docking station is a great choice for turning any desk or table into a full-blown workstation. A small box with a series of ports, a hub (as it’s also known) serves as a central place to connect all the cables from your different devices. Just plug in your laptop or tablet and you’ll be able to use a multitude of peripherals — mouse and keyboard, printer, back-up storage, even multiple monitors — that are also plugged into it. Not only do you have everything in one place, you’re getting a neater, safer space too — no cables criss-crossing each other — and all your devices are constantly charged.
Speaking of monitors, if you’re working from home, you’re going to want a nice, big one. No matter what you’re working with, being able to see it clearly is essential — and far more ergonomically sound than staring down at a laptop or tablet screen. Having a monitor helps to limit distractions and improve focus — not to mention, saves your eyesight. Any laptop can be plugged into a freestanding monitor (you may need a converter cable, especially if you have a Mac).
If you have your own computer, but work on a laptop from your company, invest in a monitor that has dual HDMI ports. You plug both devices into the monitor, so you can switch the view between your personal computer and the work computer. Or, you can set it up in an extended-screen view, allowing you to move different tasks or documents to different screens.
Video conferencing camera
We all know that video conversations/meetings/conferences have become a major part of the work day. You might as well get a good camera for it, and there are some high-quality webcams out there now for staying connected with your coworkers. (This is especially important if you do invest in a big standalone monitor: Unlike laptops, most desktop models do not come with cameras.)
Most webcams can clip right onto your monitor or come with their own stand so you can set them up anywhere. Something simple with a high-quality lens capable of broadcasting in 1080p is a great start, but you might want to look for a camera with a built-in light that will help to illuminate your image and capture your good side.
If you really want to get advanced, there are even webcams that can track you with motion sensors so you can get up, move around and talk without needing to adjust the camera. It’s surprisingly handy for presentations. And to ensure you’re both seen and heard clearly, you may want to snag some external speakers to boost the audio experience, too.
Uninterruptible power supply
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a backup battery power source that can keep you going even when the electricity cuts out. Like a surge protector on steroids, it keeps your connected equipment running in the event of a blackout, brownout, voltage sag, or voltage leap (fluctuations are more common than you think). It also helps protect devices from frying or crashing.
The standby variety of UPS is the most basic, springing into action if there’s a power failure; more advanced line interactive systems will adjust the voltage and smooth out bad blips and sounds.
It might seem like a last resort, in-case-of-emergency-type device, but it is surprisingly helpful and reassuring for folks working at home. It’s especially important if your set-up tests the limits of your house’s electrical capabilities, since your system probably wasn’t built for a home office setup, with you constantly using additional electronic equipment.
Wireless charging pad
When you’re working at home, all of a sudden you’re aware of just how many things you have that need to stay charged in order for you to function: Your phone, your smart watch, your laptop, all of your accessories. A wireless charging pad makes it way easier, not to mention tidier. Just set your devices on them (assuming those devices have wireless charging capabilities, that is) and watch them fill up to full battery right in front of you.
You can even get a wireless charging mouse pad and keep your mouse full of juice while you’re using it. If you’ve ever had to charge an Apple Magic Mouse before, you know just how convenient that sounds.
Desk elliptical machine
This one isn’t perhaps essential strictly in the work sense, but it can be vital in the health sense. A home-office set-up doesn’t require much walking, and staying sedentary isn’t great for the legs or back.
That’s where a desk elliptical machine — technically, an under-desk elliptical machine — comes in handy. It’s a little device with two small foot pedals that slips right in front of your feet, so you can pump away as you work. Many are small enough to fit under the lowest desk, but be sure to set it up properly so you maintain good posture and don’t put undue stress on knees or joints. Just think: the ability to keep moving even when you aren’t going anywhere.