The number of people working from home at least part of the time is on the up - thanks to the web, and video calling, and all the technology we rely on these days. That flexibility comes with a lot of benefits, but it also means you need a solid space to work in at home.
If you're looking for the right kind of gear to boost your productivity at home and make your home office a calming yet serious working environment then we've got you covered: here are the essential bits of kit you should consider investing in for your working space.
Header image: Norbert Levajsics/Unsplash
1. Laptop, desktop or all-in-one
Very few lines of work can run without a computer these days, so you're going to need to kit yourself out with a laptop, desktop or all-in-one computer.
The benefit of a laptop is you can take it anywhere with you – on the train, to a client's office, to the beach – but on the other hand a desktop or an all-in-one will give you more power, more screen space, and probably save you from a bit of neck ache too. If business really is booming then you might want to consider getting both a desktop and a laptop.
Windows 10 and macOS High Sierra are both very polished operating systems, so stick with the one you know best and that runs the applications you need.
2. External monitor
Whether you've opted for a laptop, desktop or all-in-one as your main computer, think about investing in a separate monitor too - most computers of any form factor, running any OS, will be able to run a second screen, but double-check anyway.
You'd be surprised at just how much of a difference another screen makes to your productivity: you can write up a report while referring to a website, keep an eye on fluctuating prices while filling out a spreadsheet, refer to a brochure on one screen while designing your own on another, and so on and so on.
This is an especially useful investment if you've just got a laptop, because it gives you a lot more space to work with, whatever you've got up on the display.
3. Desk lamp
Let there be light – hiding away in a dingy corner of a room is no way to work, so make sure everything you're doing is properly illuminated to save straining your eyes (and to avoid and unnecessary mistakes).
You've got a whole range of choices here of course and the good news is you don't need to spend very much at all to get something decent. This is one purchase it might be worth going out to get, so you can check out for yourself how lamps look and their respective sizes, in addition to how well they light up a room.
If you really want to push the boat out maybe go for some smart lighting you can put on a timer, or change the colour of to suit your mood (or workload level).
4. Office chair
You're going to be spending a lot of time sitting down (unless you opt for a standing desk – see below), so it's worth spending some cash to make sure the experience is as comfortable and as healthy for you as possible.
You don't have to spend thousands of pounds (or dollars) to ensure you've got something that's right for you but this is one of those areas where increasing your budget can make a big difference in the long term. If you can, try out a selection of chairs in a high street store – you don't really know how a chair feels until you try it.
Look for good back support, arm rests (if you want them) and plenty of flexibility in terms of positioning and tilting. And of course check out reviews before you buy, so you know your chair is going to last.
5. Standing desk
Sitting down for long periods of time isn't particularly good for you, and many people now prefer using a standing desk. Of course as this is your home office you can set it up exactly how you want it to.
If you decide to take the standing desk route, you've got options across a wide range of prices, depending on what you need. Check for how much leeway there is in terms of positioning, and how easy it is to adjust – a lot of desks can switch between standing and sitting positions, so you get the best of both while you're working away. You can even buy an extension for an existing desk.
As with chairs, it's a good idea to go and visit a store or two so you can actually get a feel for what a desk is like and how well the materials work together. If you need storage, make sure it's built in.
6. Printer all-in-one
Even if you're trying to keep your home office setup as paperless as possible, you're still occasionally going to have to print off a form or a letter or a document or too, and that's where a decent printer all-in-one comes in.
Go for the all-in-one option so you can scan documents in as well – put them somewhere like Dropbox or Google Drive and you can save yourself some filing cabinet space. You don't need to spend very much to get a machine that does everything you need it to.
Inkjets are fine but for seriously churning out some pages, without having to buy new cartridges every five minutes, we'd recommend paying a little bit extra cash for a black or colour laser printer.
7. Desk plant
This doesn't really fall under the tech category but we wanted to mention it anyway, because a desk plant can make a big difference to the look and feel of your home office.
The right plant can clean up the air around you and improve your health, according to experts including NASA, while it gives you something else to look at besides your computer screen. Oh and getting up to water a plant or two makes a nice break from work as well.
Have a root around online and you'll find a host of options for your desk plant, all at reasonable prices. Obviously you want something small, tidy and low maintenance, but there's a lot of choice out there even with those restrictions in mind.
- What about software? We put the best office suites to the test