Since we're all in quarantine now, many of us have to work our day job from home. However, not only do we have work from home, we have to do it while losing as little productivity as possible. We've been thrust into a new environment, and since it looks like we'll be in this for a little while, we need the right tools to make sure we can be at our best. I've compiled a list of my top 10 essentials, in order of necessity, including the products that I personally use in my workspace (all are linked throughout the article). Without further ado, let's get into the list:
Keyboard & Mouse
It's no surprise that a monitor is #1 on this list of WFH essentials, since it's what we look at the entire time we're working (except for our phones, of course). With the amount of multitasking that work requires, a laptop monitor by itself is just not enough. Adding a large monitor, or two smaller monitors, to your workspace can help you become more productive, simply because you can see more at once. You can be responding to an email on one screen while crunching numbers in Excel on the other, for example. You could also be ultra-productive and use your actual laptop screen as a 3rd monitor, if needed. Even if you feel that a laptop screen is sufficient for the work you do, you'll do your eyes a favor by spreading it over a larger screen.
Instead of two screens, I opted to go with an ultra-wide monitor for primarily two reasons: 1) it's basically 2 screens without a break in the middle, and 2) the extra screen real estate looks pretty cool. The monitor I use is the LG 29UM59-A UltraWide Monitor which, at the time of purchase, was $219.99. I would have opted for the 34" version (which costs a decent chunk more), but my desk was too small to fit it. To add to the cool factor, I scrapped the monitor's stand and bought this monitor arm ($59.95) instead to give my screen full flexibility and make it look like it's floating in mid-air. Safe to say that I will never go back to solely using my laptop for work again.
2. Keyboard & Mouse
A good keyboard/mouse combo is crucial, because that's what you're using to actually do your work. Also, keeping them wireless will give your workspace the clean look it deserves. Personally, I didn't want to shell out a bunch of cash for this, because from my observations, the typing experience of a keyboard doesn't significantly improve with an increase in its price. My keyboard needed to be wireless and have 1) short key travel, 2) a number pad, and 3) a dark color to match my theme, so I decided to get the Seenda Keyboard and Mouse Combo ($36.99). It's wireless, feels great to type on, and the gray/black combo gives it that Apple Magic Keyboard look - you know, like the one that costs $149. I don't use the mouse that came with it, however.
My mouse of choice is the Razer Mamba Wireless Mouse ($45) , and I'll be honest, I bought this solely because it lights up. It's a gamer mouse, but is subdued enough to still look professional. I like that I can change the color on it to anything I want, and it still works well as a productivity mouse. For a true productivity mouse, however, I would get the Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99), which is the holy grail of computer mice (if only it could light up).
3. Desk Chair
Comfort is key when it comes to your workspace - you're already working hard, so give your body the proper comfort that it needs. This means a chair with proper support for your back and neck, and the ability to make adjustments as needed. Of course, it doesn't hurt for it to look good too. Office chairs can be incredibly expensive, often times upwards of $500, which was way out of my budget. I decided to take a gamble and ordered this chair from Target (the grey version is sold out as of now), to replace the tiny chair I had been using since college. I think it looks clean, and it's comfortable enough to keep my back from hurting during a long workday.
4. Blue-light Glasses
This one is surrounded by a bit of controversy, because there are a plethora of conflicting reports about whether or not blue-light glasses are worth it. Some people say that they help reduce headaches and general fatigue, whereas other people say that there are no additional benefits to using blue-light glasses. If you're not familiar with this category of glasses, they essentially contain a special coating on the lenses that filter out blue-light waves from computer screens, phone screens, etc. Blue light can be harsh on your eyes and also interfere with your Circadian rhythm, keeping you up at night and costing you valuable rest. Regardless of what certain reports say, I can only speak to my own experience, which has been superb. Felix Gray makes the best quality blue-light glasses, but at a more affordable price, these MVMT Rex Crystal Everscroll ($65) glasses do a fantastic job (you can check out our review of them here). I've noticed a decrease in eye fatigue, burning, and general exhaustion by wearing these during the workday. MVMT has tons of different styles and sizes, so they have an option for almost all tastes. For those with prescription needs, both Felix Gray and Warby Parker offer blue-light filtering options.
5. Desk Lamp
What's a desk without a desk lamp? Just a really dark, dull desk I suppose. This is an essential for when you're working past sunset as the hard worker that you are. Desk lamps can be more than just a source of light - they can also offer things like charging ports, for example. I bought this TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp ($44.99) which has 4 different light settings, 5 different brightness levels, a timer, and a USB charging port. It has a flexible arm that can also spin, so that I can direct my lighting wherever I need it to be. I also like that the base is large enough to charge a pair of headphones on it. There are so many options out there when it comes to desk lamps - you just have to pick one that fits your vibe and needs.
Headphones are an absolute must, and the thing is, most of you already have a pair of trusty headphones that you use for everyday tasks. Nevertheless, this is an essential part of my workspace that allows me to get in the zone and get stuff done. My headphones of choice are the Google Pixel Buds ($179), and I like them for many reasons (check out a full review of them here). First off is great sound/call quality all around, which is only followed up by their ease of use and battery life. They're basically the Airpods of the Android world, which is fantastic.
7. Desk Pad
I used to wonder why people use desk pads, because it doesn't seem like they add any functionality to your workspace. After using one myself, however, I found that these things are great. They do multiple things for your workspace: 1) they define a space on your desk where you can keep your most used items such as your keyboard and mouse, 2) they act as a mouse pad, 3) they protect your desk from any spills or food, and 4) they add a design element as an accent to your desk. Mine is the Knodel Desk Pad ($16.99) in Navy Blue (31.5" x 15.7"), and it also comes in a variety of aesthetically-pleasing colors. It's actually dual-sided too, with a contrasting color on the other side. It stays in place pretty well, and it's the perfect size to house the items on my desk.
8. Laptop Stand
Laptop stands come in different varieties - some are meant to raise your laptop to align height-wise with your monitor, and others are vertical stands. Given the limited space on my desk, I opted for a vertical laptop stand, which frees up plenty of desk real estate. I mostly keep my laptop closed when it's connected to my monitor, since the monitor is enough screen for me, so I don't have a need to open my laptop at all while it's connected. I use the Omoton Double Laptop Stand ($32.99), which lets me dock both my Surface Laptop and my Surface Pro right next to each other. It's made with solid anodized aluminum and is adjustable to almost any laptop size. There are also single laptop versions, which are a little bit cheaper.
The monitor I use does not have built-in speakers, so if yours does then you can skip right over this one. Of course, to hear the audio from my computer, I needed computer speakers. I wanted something with a small footprint that had decent sound quality. It also had to be black to remain consistent with my theme. With that said, my computer speaker of choice is the TaoTronics Gaming Computer Speaker ($49.99). It has loud, clear sound, it can connect via an auxiliary cable or Bluetooth, and it lights up (nowhere near as customizable as the Razer mouse, though). Something about a little bit of RGB light just brings your workspace to life.
10. Cable Management
This one isn't as exciting as the others in the list, but when you have such a great workspace setup, you don't want to ruin it with cables and wires running all over the place. Not only are they annoying, but they just look sloppy. I ran all my wires from the back of my desk and use OHill Cable Clips ($9.99) to strategically place them around my desk. They come with different shapes/sizes and use 3M adhesive, so you know they'll be effective.
Additionally, I use this USB Hub ($9.99) to house everything that I could ever connect to my laptop. It's great for connecting wireless devices, extra chargers, and USB sticks to your laptop all at once, especially if your laptop doesn't have many USB ports.
There you have it - this is everything you need for a perfect WFH setup to optimize your productivity and make the most out of each day. There are plenty of other items that could have been included in this list (drawer organizers, white boards, stationary, etc.), but these 10 essentials really bring your entire workspace together nicely into one harmonious ecosystem. All you have to do now is go out there and make your mark in the world.