Seven Home Office Essentials

Before the pandemic, I worked from home, but I could also go to a local co-working space or a coffee shop for a change of scenery.    Now, there’s no such escape.  So over the past few months, I’ve been improving and hacking my office space to address new issues and increase comfort and productivity.

One. A Great Office Chair. My previous office chair was purchased for appearances.  Our current circumstances require more lumbar support.  This Alera Elusion II Chair comes highly recommended.  It has incredible lumbar support and a very supportive seat structure.  Need even more support?  A friend bought this gaming chair designed for long-term sitting.

If you don’t want to replace you current chair, you can add a memory foam seat cushion set to give you better support.

Two. A Light Kit. Looking your best on a Zoom call requires good lighting.  The LumeCube attaches to your monitor or laptop to light up your face and give you that good Oprah lighting.  They also make a LumeCube Panel Light for those who are on camera for much of their day.

If you’re looking for something more affordable, this clip on ring light is a decent option.  Several people have purchased ring lights on tripods or ring lights that clip on to your desk.  But having a bit more light can really improve the quality of the video.

Three. A Bit of Greenery. I’m not a person who likes to garden or who likes to have a lot of plants around.  But when you’re spending so much time in your office, a plant can really lift the space.   Terrain has a wide selection of plants that are perfect for the home office, from a pink lemon tree to aloe vera.  Terrain also has a lot of lovely pots and planters, as does Etsy.

Four. A Splitter. Every day, I have the same problem.  By 3:00PM, my AirPods are drained of juice and I need to switch to my wired set, but my phone also needs to charge.  So every afternoon, I’m balancing the need to charge my devices with my need for phone call privacy.

Then, I discovered this iPhone Mini Splitter.  For $10, I can charge my phone (with my 6ft’ charging cable from Amazon) and plug in my headphones.  Hallelujah.

Five. The Good Pens. Everyone has a favorite pen.  Maybe you got it for free, maybe you bought it, maybe you found it randomly in a drawer, but that pen becomes the ‘good’ pen.  And using your favorite pen is one of life’s small pleasures.

My favorite pens are the Paper Mate Felt Tip pens.  Known on Capitol Hill as signing pens, I adore the smooth writing and the bold colors.  I also use a number of fine mechanical pencils when I’m writing something that I actually need to be able to read later.

Six. A Great Notebook. I take a lot of notes during the day, and having a nice notebook to write them in brings a bit of joy.  My favorite notepads for daily to-dos and small notes are these Russell + Hazel notepads.  For a splash of color, these Moglea linen notebooks are so chic.  And I recently gave this day-to-day planner as an intern gift because the colors were so beautiful.

Seven. A Monitor or Laptop Riser. Lifting your monitor off of your desk has benefits for your posture and for your appearance on Zoom.  On the posture front, lifting the monitor can reduce neck and shoulder pain by eliminating the need to look down.  On the appearance front, lifting the monitor centers you in the frame and keeps your co-workers and clients from looking up your nose during calls.

For laptops, angled stands are popular, but I hate typing at an angle and I refuse to buy a bluetooth keyboard.  It’s a personal preference.  I like this Vaydeer stand because it lifts it enough to be useful but not so much that I can’t type comfortably.  For something lower profile, this foldable riser actually attaches to your laptop and uses its origami-like structure to work as a stand.

Do you have any home office must-have items?  What’s helping you make the most of your office space during this time?

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  1. E says:

    Thank you! I’ve been on the hunt for a better Zoom light. Just what I was looking for.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  2. Diane says:

    I just stocked up on my favorite pens, Staples Sonix Gel Retractable pens in assorted colors. Somehow colored gel pens make writing tasks more enjoyable!

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  3. Rachel says:

    If you’re using a laptop, I highly recommend getting an external monitor. It helps all the things – eye strain, posture, appearance on video calls, etc. You can find a basic one for a very affordable price right now; I just got a used 21” on eBay for less than $50 including shipping. It’s been a game changer.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
    • H says:

      100% agree

      July 9, 2020/Reply
  4. Meg says:

    I didn’t have a desk or any workspace in my apartment before all of this, so I’ve also been slowly carving out an office space. The biggest game changers was a second monitor. I got a portable one, which basically looks like a giant tablet. I love it because I can stash it away when I don’t want my desk space, which is just in the corner of my living room, to scream office. And if we can ever travel again it’ll be handy for that.

    I’m also really glad that I brought my keyboard and mouse home from the office back in March. I never thought I minded typing on a laptop keyboard, but with full time work from home with no end in sight, the real keyboard makes a big difference.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  5. Nadine says:

    FYI I purchased that clip-on ring light for my laptop, and it made very little difference. I ended up re-arranging my furniture to take advantage of natural light instead.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
    • Anonymous says:

      This is what I am doing now, too. I am keenly aware, though, that starting September I will need to find another solution for the winter.

      July 8, 2020/Reply
      • Nadine says:

        That is an excellent point that I hadn’t even considered. I’m moving in September, so I’ll need to take that into account as part of my new office setup.

        July 8, 2020/Reply
        • Anonymous says:

          I’m here to serve.

          July 9, 2020/Reply
  6. Andrea says:

    If anyone is searching for that special pen, I highly recommend the Foray Stylemark fine-tip pen! Every time I lend one out, I lose it.

    I found them based on another comment on CHS so I thought I’d pay it forward 😉

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  7. Jo says:

    I previously worked remotely 2 to 3 days per week, so I already had a decent home office set-up, so the biggest upgrade for me has been an ergonomic mouse! I was using my company-issued mouse that was shaped like a pill because it was… fine. When COVID hit we were granted an allowance for home office materials so I bought a Logitech M720 Triathlon mouse and WOW. I didn’t even realize that my wrists were sore every day until I switched. It made a huge difference and I highly recommend getting something ergonomic if you’re like me and typing/mousing all day long.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  8. Crystal says:

    I upgraded to a 31.5″ curved monitor and it’s an enormous improvement. It was a bit more expensive ($200 on sale), but it’s much more space-effective and aesthetic than two bulky monitors on an arm or riser.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
    • StepH S says:

      Same – best investment ever, and you can clamshell your laptop if you have an external webcam for zoom calls!

      July 8, 2020/Reply
  9. KAyla says:

    For those still looking at desks, cruise FB marketplace or Craigslist for a console table. Back in March we set up a home office in the guest room, and my husband and I would switch off with it. We finally realized we have to have a second full set up. We grabbed a great solid wood World Market console table for a super reasonable price off Marketplace this weekend. It fits perfectly in our dining room and later on, we won’t be stuck with two desks that scream “office!”

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  10. Elz says:

    Great ideas in the post and comments. Stocking up on WFH improvements now! Thanks everyone!

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  11. E says:

    Noise cancelling headphones with a noise cancelling microphone (mine are the Bose 700) were my WFH splurge. Really makes a difference with background noise. I too replicated my favorite pens (uniball vision fine point in blue (or fun colors)) and my white steno pads for note taking.

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  12. ReBecca says:

    I don’t work from home (I’m in healthcare) but a patient recently gave me the nicest plant (a take on a bonzai tree) in a beautiful ceramic pot and the card said it was from https://dandyfarmer.com/
    I’m enjoying it very much in my work office and it would be perfect in a home office!

    July 8, 2020/Reply
  13. Jesse Baldwin-Philippi says:

    So, I get migraines from bright lights–like when restaurants use exposed lightbulbs and one is right behind the person I’m eating with. I also have terrible light in my apt, and a job that now requires making decent recorded videos. Does anyone who’s used any of these various ring/cube lights have any insight into if they are super bright spots (prob bad for me) or diffuse enough to probably not cause issues? Thank you!

    July 9, 2020/Reply
  14. Shelley Obrien says:

    Terrain website and blog. Wow! Thank you for sharing.

    July 9, 2020/Reply
  15. Kelly says:

    I finally “splurged” and bought an actual desk when we went back to working from home. With my husband also working at home, one desk and a folding table just wasn’t cutting it. I found a great folding desk on Amazon for less than $100 – perfect for whenever this is all over and I don’t want a desk to be sitting in the bedroom anymore.

    July 9, 2020/Reply
    • Kim says:

      Which Amazon folding desk did you get? I’ve been looking at a few in that price range, but I’ve been hesitating on purchasing one – mostly because I’m not sure which one is the best option!

      July 10, 2020/Reply
  16. SG says:

    YES to the monitor & laptop riser! I’ll add an external keyboard and mouse! They’re not super expensive, and they’ll last through multiple laptops. If you’re using your laptop as a second monitor, there’s no way that using it as a keyboard too is close to ergonomically correct. I figured that one out painfully after a few weeks of headaches from the bad posture/ergonomics of working without the riser + keyboard and mouse.

    July 9, 2020/Reply
  17. HW says:

    Belle, have you actually bought and used that chair? If so, what are your thoughts?

    July 10, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Bought mid-back one and gave it to the husband. I loved it, but he needed it more. So I ordered the high back and am waiting on delivery.

      July 10, 2020/Reply
    • Anonymous says:

      I went through three chairs from Amazon before finding one that worked. Pay attention to the seat. I had not realized that the first one I ordered had a seat that was a cushion molded with a place for each thigh, but since it did not fit me properly, it hit me in an uncomfortable place. The second one had a seat that was flat, but it was made of mesh and was strung so taught that it hurt after an hour or so. Like Goldilocks, the third one worked; cushion (not taught mesh) and flat (not molded).

      Other considerations: adjustable arms and ability to tilt.

      Finally, consider office owl rubber chair caster wheels (to protect wood floors). Super easy to replace the wheels that come with the chair.

      July 10, 2020/Reply
  18. traines says:

    anyone have a suggestion for a desk for someone short? I’m 5’0 my current card table set up is killing me.

    July 10, 2020/Reply
  19. kathleen says:

    Thanks so much for this post Abra! When we first went into lockdown I dealt with my home office chair straightaway, because it was glaringly obvious, but everything else I just thought “good enough”. This post inspired me to re-evaluate everything and I love my new setup (laptop stand, proper keyboard and ergonomic mouse). I thought it would take time to get used to but it only took about a day, showing how good it is. I can’t believe I put up with the old one for so long.

    July 31, 2020/Reply
  20. Lauren H says:

    I know this is an older post so you may not see this, but I was searching your blog to remind myself what home office content you’ve already posted.

    My company just announced our new office (or lack thereof – largely WFH or hybrid) structure, and I’m now (over a year into the pandemic!) looking to purchase home office pieces with longevity rather than the things I purchased early on to help ‘get through’. I’d love to see a post on this! Desks, chairs, the whole set up! A suggestion for a post that I know I would appreciate!

    April 20, 2021/Reply