According to an article published by Forbes, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and new remote work opportunities will continue to increase through 2023 and beyond. Although many companies out there still chuck the proverbial bird at the pandemic and remote work, studies show that the world is moving on, and remote work is here to stay.
Although many professionals have had to adjust to their work-from-home environments, many still struggle with productivity.
You may have read this article that I published (and updated and re-published) in September 2021 on ensuring your work-from-home habits are actually productive. (In fact, this article on Medium generated over 1,000 views!)
Believe it or not, the comfort of your work-from-home environment greatly impacts your productivity. This article will provide you with some additional tools to help you be more productive and comfortable during your work-from-home day.
13 Must-have Tools to Work from Home
1. External monitor
Having one or two external screens can help you maximize productivity. How? Rather than switching back and forth and in and out of various applications, you can simply move applications between screens for a larger, clearer view and look at multiple applications at once without switching back and forth between applications and windows.
Suggestions: In my work-from-home life, having an external monitor quickly became a must-have for me. I personally highly recommend the Samsung Curved monitor. If you’re used to working on a 13″ inch laptop screen, then having this large, curved monitor will change your world.
2. An external, wireless mouse
The trackpad on your laptop is great, but there’s something to be said about having a mouse at your fingertips. Think of how many times you have to reach for the trackpad to move the cursor on your screen. It might seem silly, but this can add up. A few minutes per day adds up to hours each week. You can do the math.
Suggestions: I recommend the Logitech M510. It is both Mac and Windows compatible and has an ergonomic shape for comfort. The sides of the mouse are made with silicone rubber, so there’s zero resistance while using it.
3. An external, wireless keyboard
The benefits of an external keyboard are similar to an external mouse for the same reasons. You don’t have to lean forward continuously to type. You can simply pull the keyboard toward you. Minimize your cords—and desk space—and go wireless!
Suggestions: I’m a huge fan of the Macally wireless keyboard. It is both Mac and Windows compatible. It is small and lightweight, and the battery life lasts pretty long (even after using it between 10-12 hours per day, five to six days per week). It’s not the most sophisticated or high-tech model on the market, but it definitely gets the job done—and the price is right.
4. A laptop stand
If your primary machine is a laptop, propping it up and angling it to your seated position can make you more comfortable while you work. Additionally, many laptop stands are designed to increase airflow into your machine, keeping it cooler and preventing it from overheating while you work. This will keep your machine running optimally and minimize down or lag time.
Suggestions: I recommend this Ergonomic Laptop stand. It is adjustable, portable, and fits most laptop models and sizes, allowing you to take your work to new heights!
5. External speakers
Again, depending on the nature of your work, this might be a must-have, especially if you do a great deal of video and audio creation and editing. Or if you simply want to jam out to your tunes during the day while you work, external Bluetooth speakers are a great way to heighten your audio experience while you work.
Suggestions: I highly recommend the JBL Bluetooth speaker. You can connect to it from any Bluetooth device, including your phone, tablet, or laptop and within seconds. Don’t be fooled by its size; this speaker has excellent sound quality.
6. A comfortable office chair
I recently had to get rid of my large, leather La-Z-Boy office chair and replaced it with a smaller and more basic office chair. Big mistake. If you take away anything from this article, it’s this: Make the investment in a good office chair. Trust me on this one. Your body will thank you for it, especially as you age. And again, the more comfortable and enjoyable you make your workspace, the more productive you will be.
Suggestions: I had the Executive La-Z-Boy office chair for nearly seven years before finally getting rid of it (due to feline destruction). It’s large, comfortable, and looks professional.
7. A notebook, notepad, or journal
For those of us who are still traditional, analog system people, a notebook, notepad, or journal on your desk to quickly jot down notes, reminders, and ideas is still an effective tool.
However, the project manager in me will tell you that if you and your colleagues or team use a digital or web-based task management system, don’t allow your notebook to take that place.
Suggestions: Of course, everyone has their own preferences. I prefer large, lined notebooks like the Giant Notebook. Whether that is a smaller notebook or notepad that is easy to transport, or a bullet journal, or even a journal with blank pages, use what works best for you.
8. A calendar or whiteboard
This is highly recommended, especially if you are a visual person. This gives you a handy, tangible tool to make notes on or quickly glance at when making notes on specific upcoming dates or a safe place to keep important bills, notices, or mailers that need your attention.
Suggestions: For me, the bigger, the better. I have a large dry-erase, magnetic calendar whiteboard mounted on the wall in my home office. It works great. I love filling in the dates each month and making notes next to important dates I need to remember. I also note my biggest goals and milestones that I need to focus on each week.
I also positioned the whiteboard perfectly so that it appears in my background during my Zoom meetings with clients. In fact, this professional appearance has actually won new clients.
9. Wireless headphones
This is another must-have, especially if you spend a lot of time on the phone or Zoom. There’s something to be said about being able to get up and refill your coffee cup or water bottle or switch the laundry while listening to or participating in a conversation.
Suggestions: Apple Air Pods are an excellent choice (and, no, not solely because I am an avid Apple user). Air Pods top the list regarding audio quality, convenience, ease of use, and flexibility.
10. Desktop organization
Put pens, pencils, highlighters, rules, sticky notes, and any other office supplies you frequently need within reach. I’m all for a clear desktop as much as possible, but having the things you frequently need right within your reach saves countless minutes from reaching into nearby drawers or cubbies over the course of a work day.
Suggestions: You don’t have to buy anything over the top here. A basic desktop organizer of any kind will do, so long as it fits your needs and your current space.
11. Climate control
Depending on the time of year, season, and your geographical area, this could be an electric space heater, gas fireplace, a sweater or throw blanket, or an air conditioner or fan. The point here is to have a way to control the climate in your workspace. There’s nothing worse than trying to focus and work when you are freezing cold or sweating bullets.
Suggestions: If you are equipped to do so, I highly recommend the Ecobee smart thermostat. You can install the Ecobee app on your phone or mobile device, allowing you to see the current temperature in your workspace, and then turn the thermostat up or down according to your needs without getting up or disrupting your productivity. Ecobee also comes with energy-saving features, allowing you to keep home energy costs as low as possible while you work from home.
The Ecobee Premium smart thermostat model is also compatible with Apple HomeKit and Alexa, so you can tell Alexa to turn the temperature in your workspace up or down without disrupting your work.
The Ecobee isn’t cheap—especially if you have multiple zones in your home—but well worth the investment. Some states offer rebate programs for qualifying households that invest in energy-saving utilities, and that might include WiFi-powered smart thermostats.
12. Printer / copier / scanner
Arguably a “must-have” tool, depending on the nature of your work, this might not be as much of a requirement as it was a decade ago. However, it still comes in handy from time to time, even in our digitally-driven era. If possible, having an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner machine that does it all is preferable, not to mention a space-saver.
Suggestions: The good news is because the demand for an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner is significantly less than it was a decade ago, you can find a decent one today, and for a decent price. I highly recommend the PIXMA model by Canon.
13. Cleaning supplies
I don’t know about you, but after a full workweek of drinking coffee, eating meals, cat visits, and just touching everything, my workspace can get pretty gross. I keep hand sanitizer (yes, even while working from home), Clorox wipes, and tissues right at the ready to wipe down all surface areas. No illness here!
Suggestions: If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can purchase and order items in bulk. Cleaning supplies are a great way to take advantage of this, including tissues, Clorox wipes, paper towels, and so on.
Of course, your work-from-home environment and workplace setup greatly depend on the nature of your work. However, investing in the things and tools you need for a productive work environment should be a priority.