More and more of us are working from home at the moment. As an employee, it’s hugely convenient, cutting out hours of commuting and helping us to focus better, with no boss peering over our shoulder. It’s also convenient for employers, freeing up expensive office space, and ensuring we’re always on time for work (I mean, you can’t blame public transport delays any more, can you?). And it’s even helping to slow the spread of coronavirus and keeping us safe from infection, whether we’re self-isolating on our own initiative or because we’ve been told to.
So what’s not to like? Well unfortunately, there can be a few downsides. Interruptions from loved ones can be just as damaging to productivity as those from fellow workers. Being stuck indoors all day can make us flabby and dull. And some of the conveniences of the office environment that usually go noticed can suddenly become sorely missed.
So to make home working a happier experience, we’ve put together a toolkit that will accentuate the positive sides, and minimise the negative ones. Read on to find out what you need to make your home office a scene of domestic bliss.
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1. Noise-cancelling headphones
If you live with others, and especially if you have children, it’s near-impossible to maintain the silent environment you often need at work. Even if you have a separate home office, and everyone’s under strict instructions not to disturb you, there’s always going to be some background hubbub that’s annoyingly distracting.
That’s why noise cancelling headphones can be the best investment you ever make. The top of the range models use clever tech known as active noise-cancellation (ANC), which picks up low-frequency noise and neutralises it before it reaches your ears, by generating a counter-sound that essentially cancels it out. And that can make a real difference to your productivity when your kids are kicking off, or your flatmates are practising their karaoke. Read our guide to the best noise cancelling headphones to learn more.
2. A heater
When you’re sat still at home for long periods of time, not budging from your laptop, it can get surprisingly cold, especially if your home office is in a shed or similar out-building. So it’s definitely worth investing in a decent heater.
It’s worth taking time consider which model is best for your particular needs, as there are many different types available, including fan, halogen and oil-filled. Not to mention that many of the latest modern heaters can also act as a cooler and purify your air into the bargain. Our best heater guide explains everything you need to know to make the right choice for your specific environment and workflow.
3. A laptop stand
Once you go from using your laptop sporadically to all day long, it can quickly start to overheat and slow down. A decent laptop stand, however, will keep it properly aired and operating more efficiently, from morning through to night.
Plus there’s another good reason to use a laptop stand: to save your body from the ravages of a long working day. These devices will hold your screen at the optimal height and angle for your line of vision, helping to prevent your back and neck from overarching. Rather than slouched over your computer, you’ll be sitting with perfect posture, without even thinking about it.
In short, you’ll be protecting both your body and your laptop, so it’s really a slam dunk for anyone working at home. Learn more in our guide to the best laptop stands.
4. An office chair
While we’re on the subject of protecting your spine, you’re really storing up problems if you spend all day sitting on a standard household chair or, worse still, on the bed or sofa. So if you’re going to be spending any amount of time working from home, a decent office chair is a very necessary investment.
There’s a huge range of quality chairs on the market right now, to suit every body shape and every budget. However, very cheap chairs can be something of a false economy, while very expensive ones are usually more about design aesthetics than actual function; so we’d advise seeking out a mid-range solution. Check out our guide to the best office chairs to help you hone in on your choice.
5. A standing desk
However high quality your office chair is, you still may develop back and neck problems over the years if you spend the majority of your waking hours sat down. For this reason, standing desks have become increasingly popular over the years.
While it may sound counterintuitive, standing up at work really can be good for your posture, circulation and spinal health, whether you do this for part of the working day or the whole time you’re at your computer. Read our guide to the best standing desks to learn more, and find out which model is best for your needs.
6. A yoga app
Optimising your home office is one element of preventing back and neck pain, but it’s also important to commit to a regular exercise routine to keep your body fit, flexible and toned. One of the best forms of exercise for home workers is yoga, as it can be done anywhere, at any time, with no equipment necessary, little chance of injury, and with well-established benefits for both mental and physical health.
New to yoga and need some guidance? Our yoga workout for beginners is a great place to get started. It’s also worth downloading an app to lead you through your yoga routines, teach you new poses and keep you on track. Our guide to the best yoga apps brings them all together in one place to help you choose the right one.
7. A 4K monitor
If you work in a field where you need a decent, high-resolution screen, such as art, architecture, graphic design, web design, game design, animation or VFX, then it’s a great time to buy a new monitor, because even high-end 4K models have really come down in price lately.
That said, there are 4K monitors, and there are 4K monitors. Some are best for gaming, some for professional work, and still others for all-purpose use. The amount of choice can be quite staggering, so to help you find the best model for your needs, we’ve put together a guide to the best 4K monitors for 2020, looking at everything from refresh rates to adaptive-sync capabilities.
8. A decent coffee maker
It’s great to be able to skip the commute every morning by working from home. But going straight from bed to desk in one fell swoop can make it challenging to get your head in gear for work from the word go. A quality cup of coffee can provide the stimulation you need to get cracking, and so for many, a decent coffee maker is an essential part of any home-working toolkit.
Everyone likes their brew in a different way, though, so it’s worth doing a bit of research to ensure the machine you buy will provide the kind of caffeine injection that will work for you. Our guide to the best coffee maker will help set you straight.
9. A VPN
One of the most invisible benefits of working in the office is the stringent effort your company will have put into securing your network and all your digital communications, both internal and external. Working from home means you won’t have any such protection, so it’s vital to safeguard your privacy and sensitive data by installing a VPN (virtual private network).
VPNs are relatively easy to set up and cheap to operate, and there are even free services available, so you have no reason to install one. Our guides to the best VPN services and the best free VPN services will tell you all you need to know.
10. A home printer
We like to think that we can work completely digitally these days, and for the most part we can. But annoyingly, there’s always something that needs printing out, whether it’s a contract to sign, a receipt for your expenses claim, or an event ticket that has to be presented on paper. So even in 2020, every home office still needs a home printer.
There’s been somewhat of a revolution in home printers in recent years, and so if you haven’t bought one in a while, be prepared to be taken aback. For instance, it’s nice when a model offers wireless printing, but be aware that may mean ONLY wireless printing; there’s no way to create a wired connection. Also, do you need scanning and/or photocopying? Most models offer this, but not all. To find out more about the latest printer tech, and our selection of the best models on the market right now, check out our best printer guide.