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If you’re working from home, you’re going to need tools to make your place feel more like an office. It’s easy to lose focus if you don’t create the right work space.
For Shirley Lam, the founder and owner of the pet lifestyle site, Perro & Me, it’s all about building a little bit of structure. Lam, who runs the thriving online business out of her house in Vancouver, says it’s important to get in the mindset that you’re going to work. “Set your daily schedule in your calendar and stick to it as you would at the office,” she says. “And get dressed for work — do your hair, put on makeup and look office-appropriate, even if it’s just your home office.”
Another tip: “Set up a dedicated spot as your work space so that you can take breaks and walk away from it,” Lam says. A bonus: “if you need to FaceTime with your client or vendor, you’re now well-dressed and have a tidy ‘office background’ ready-to-go.”
We’ve rounded up the most important tech accessories that will make your home office feel like an actual place of business. I’ve tested many of these products myself and as someone who lives in a New York City apartment, where space is limited, I can confidently attest that these picks will work even if you live in a cramped space.
Whether you’re a freelancer or self-quarantining, here’s what to get to keep you organized, focused, and ready to tackle your daily to-do list from the confines (and comforts) of home.
1. A Bluetooth Keyboard
Cable clutter was one of my most frequent distractions, which is I why I recommend that everyone gets a Bluetooth keyboard. There are no dongles to connect to your computer or batteries to keep track of — this keyboard is rechargeable via MicroUSB.
I’ve used Anker’s keyboards for years because they’re extremely reliable. I’ve never experienced any delay between when I hit a key, and when it appears on screen, or other types of flakiness. Most importantly, the keys feel really nice to type on; there’s enough key travel to create a satisfying feeling while writing, even for extended periods of time.
What we like: this wireless keyboard is about one-third smaller than a traditional computer keyboard, and it’s easy to install, as it’s compatible with virtually all operating systems and devices.
2. A Bluetooth Mouse
The perfect complement to Anker’s bluetooth keyboard is Logitech’s Bluetooth mouse — it’s so good I’ve bought three of them, so I never have to use a computer without one. The mouse is fairly small, and feels really smooth on a mousepad or desk.
The scroll wheel has a nice clicky feeling that keeps me from scrolling too fast, which is a feature I didn’t know I needed until I experienced it. But this mouse’s key feature is its versatility.
By installing Logitech’s app (available for Mac and Windows), you can customize its six buttons — left click, right click, Windows, scroll wheel left, scroll wheel right, scroll wheel down — to run different actions. These actions vary based on your operating system, but I have mine set to move between web pages, or show all of my open windows to help me find the screen I need.
These little timesavers have added up over the past couple of years, and I rely on them to streamline the way I work. If you put a few minutes into unlocking this mouse’s full potential, you’ll never want to go back to wired mice again.
3. A Wireless All-in-One Printer
We live in a wireless world, but it’s still convenient to have a printer at home. We’ve chosen this all-in-one model from HP because it’s fast and fully featured. The printer can print up to 22 pages per minute — single or double sided — and has a tray that holds 250 sheets of paper, so you won’t have to refill it often.
You can connect the printer to your computer with a USB cable (included), but it can also be connected to your Wi-Fi network for wireless printing. Once it’s set up, you’ll be able to print from your phone, tablet, or computer from anywhere on your network without having to download an app.
The term “all-in-one” means that this printer is also a copy machine and scanner, so you can easily duplicate or digitize photos or documents. You may not use your printer every day, but having it around when someone sends you an important contract or form, will save you the stress of going out to a copy shop or library.
4. A Large, High-Resolution Monitor
Plugging your computer into an external monitor is one of the best ways to improve your productivity because it significantly expands your digital workspace.
Monoprice’s 27-Inch CrystalPro display has a maximum resolution of 4K, so text, images, and videos will look extremely clear. It also supports HDR (high dynamic range), a video technology that makes colors look more accurate. This monitor has a large screen, but its thin bezels (rims) and minimalist stand allow it to take up less space on your desk than similarly sized displays.
In terms of ergonomics, Monoprice’s CrystalPro checks all the right boxes: It can be tilted forward or backward, rotated 90-degrees, and raised and lowered. The monitor’s flexibility ensures you’ll be able to find the right position to avoid neck strain, and change it often if you do feel a pain. Finally, this display has two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort input, so you can hook it up to your computer with space left over for a game console.
5. A Monitor Stand With a Built-In Hub
Satechi’s monitor stand pulls double duty, and has become an invaluable part of my home office setup. It lifts my computer monitor an inch and a half off my desk, which makes it more comfortable to view, and it has an array of ports, so I’m not constantly plugging and unplugging accessories from my computer.
Its built-in hub connects to a computer using a built-in cable, and can be plugged into a USB-C or USB-A port. Once it’s connected, the hub gives you three USB-A ports, one USB-C port, an SD Card slot, MicroSD card slot, and a headphone jack. These ports all face towards you, so you can quickly connect a flash drive or memory card at any time.
Many of these ports have vanished from modern laptops, which makes the hub in this stand more of a necessity than a nice-to-have.
Note: If you want a monitor stand without a hub, we recommend this one from AmazonBasics, which can raise your display 4.25 inches off your desk, and costs just $21.99.
6. Smart Lightbulbs
Creating the right ambiance in a room is highly conducive to getting work done, which is why I invested in a set of Philips’ Hue lightbulbs. The smart bulbs connect to my WiFi network, and are controllable from my phone. The lights in my office don’t have a dimmer switch, but I can make these bulbs brighter or darker with one swipe. I use an iPhone, but Philips has an app for Android users, too.
There are many types of Philips Hue bulbs, but I recommend the White Ambiance for your home office. You can’t turn these bulbs crazy colors, but you can change their warmth to make it easier on your eyes. The amber color has made working late into the night a lot easier.
7. A Set of Bookshelf Speakers
Many people need to listen to music to work; I’m one of them, which is why I like Edifier’s R2000DB desktop speakers, and recommend them to anyone who works remotely. They have a modern, classy look that’ll make your home office look more professional, but more importantly, they sound great.
They have a five-inch bass driver and one-inch tweeter, which create a surprising amount of depth, and EQ controls on the back help you dial in the sound based on your preferences. They have two sets of line=in ports, an optical out port, and Bluetooth support, so you can stream music to them wirelessly.
Speakers in a home office can seem like a hotbed for distraction, but I’ve found listening to music I’m familiar with to help me keep focused. There’s just enough stimulation to keep me from looking for something else to look at or do, but not enough to splinter my attention from the task at hand.
Plus, once I’m done working, I’ve got a great pair of speakers to listen to.
Note: Edifier’s R1280 speakers don’t have the same level of audio fidelity or the connectivity options as the pair I use, but they’re a great choice for $99.99.
8. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
If you’re new to working from home, any sound you’re not used to can catch your attention. Speakers are a great way to drown them out, but if you live with someone, or don’t want to disturb the neighbors, it’s worth picking up a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
My recommendation is Shure’s AONIC 50 headphones, which are the best-sounding pair I’ve ever tested. They use large, 50mm drivers that Shure spent years researching, and are tuned to optimize audio quality. Over-ear headphones are a lot bigger and heavier than earbuds, but the AONIC 50s have enough padding on the ear cups and around the band that I never really noticed.
You can activate the headphones’ noise cancellation by flipping a switch on the right ear cup, and adjust its sensitivity inside Shure’s PLAY app (iOS and Android). There are two levels of noise cancellation: normal and max, and 11 levels of “transparency,” which allows you to specify how many outside sounds you’d like filtered into the headphones through its microphones.
Transparency mode is worth tweaking if you wear these headphones outside, where it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings, but using the noise cancellation modes is a better choice for your home office. If you get distracted every time someone closes a door or the floor creeks, these headphones can make a big difference.
9. A Powerful WiFi Router
If you’re working from home, it means your entire day relies on a strong internet connection. I’ve had the opportunity to try several modern routers, but Linksys’ Velop MX5 has consistently come out on top.
The tall, white router connects to the cable modem from your ISP (internet service provider), and creates a strong wireless network that extends up to 3,000 sq. ft. (feet). The router supports Wi-Fi 6, the latest version of the wireless standard that’s faster, farther reaching, and more secure. Most tech isn’t built with Wi-Fi 6 yet, but all of your current devices will connect seamlessly.
I’m recommending this router because of its rock-solid dependability, and its ease of use. I’ve never experienced any slowdown, even when over a dozen devices were connected and being actively used. Keep in mind the speeds you get will depend on the plan you’ve selected with your ISP — a fast router cannot improve a slow connection. Setting up the router took about five minutes in Linksys’ app (iOS and Android), which can also be used to diagnose Wi-Fi problems, see which devices are on your network, or set per-device parental controls.
10. An HD Webcam
A good webcam is the key to coming off well on a video call, and this one from AUKEY covers all the right bases. It can record and stream video in 1080P (Full HD), so the people you’re communicating with will see you clearly, and its built-in microphones can pick up stereo sound while automatically reducing background noise.
The webcam can be folded over the front of your laptop’s display, or propped up on a tripod if you’d like to get your computer’s screen out of the way. It connects to your machine via a USB-A cable attached to the webcam itself, so you don’t have to worry about losing it. AUKEY’s webcam is compatible with both MacOS and Windows, works with every major video conferencing service, and doesn’t require any additional software to run.
11. A Dedicated Microphone
Razer’s Seiren X USB Microphone is a worth addition to your home office if any part of your job requires talking to other people. Like a webcam, a dedicated microphone will allow the people you’re speaking with to hear you a lot more clearly than they would have through the one built into your computer. This one uses a supercardioid pickup pattern, which Razer says picks up sound from a tighter angle, while blocking out most other sounds.
This microphone is only 8.43-inches tall, and rests on a stand that can be bent to angle the mic up toward your mouth. It has a mute button and volume knob on the front that allow you to make audio adjustments on the fly, and a MicroUSB port on the bottom, which allows you to hook it up to a computer. The Seiren X is compatible with both MacOS and Windows, will work with all of your apps, and doesn’t require additional software to run.