For years, futurists have predicted that with the emergence of widely available high-speed internet, large offices would become obsolete and workers would permanently transition to working and collaborating from home.
That future has arrived, if only temporarily. We don’t yet know whether a coronavirus vaccine will prompt a return to crowded cubicles. And, if working from home becomes the norm, we can’t safely say how that shift will affect our society. In theory, working from home offers new freedoms: you can set your alarm clock a little later, avoid the rush hour traffic, eat home-cooked meals for lunch, catch up on housework during the lulls between conference calls, and work from wherever on Earth you’d like.
But do those benefits outweigh the potential pitfalls? The pessimists have plenty of questions without easy answers. Will working from home en masse lead to the collapse of our once-vibrant inner cities? Will work-life balance disintegrate into an endless sea of unread emails? How can we squeeze family time, exercise, and the new season of The Real Housewives of New York into a work-dominated homelife?
Unfortunately, we don’t have any of the answers. These are questions for PHDs and Nobel laureates, not Complex beat writers. What we do have are 29 recommendations for useful and (mostly) affordable gadgets that will make your work from home experience more comfortable. They may even distract you from the fact that we’re living through a slow motion apocalypse.
A New Computer or Laptop
You're going to spend a lot of time in front of your screen this year, and maybe next year as well. And maybe even the year after that. If you're working from home for the long haul, consider upgrading your computer. You don't need a state of the art, high-powered gaming rig or anything. Just a solid system that doesn't lag and doesn't crash five minutes before your next conference call or Zoom class.
Our Recommendation: MacBook Air
An Ergonomic Chair
Public service announcement: your Ikea couch is not a suitable replacement for the fancy desk chair you had at the office. Neither is that floppy La-Z-Boy you dragged out of your parent's basement. All of your mismatched kitchen chairs also suck.
If you plan to work from home for months on end, get an ergonomic desk chair. It's literally an investment in your health. You don't want to end up like the lady in the picture, right??
Our Recommendation: Ticova Ergonomic Office Chair
An Ergonomic Cushion
If you're not comfortable dropping a few hundred bucks (or a few thousand - chairs are apparently very expensive) on a state-of-the-art desk chair, grab an ergonomic cushion instead. It won't look as nice as some Dutch-designed masterpiece, but it will get the job done aaalmost as well.
Our Recommendation: Wondergel Simply Purple Seat Cushion
A Standing Desk
Sitting all day sucks, as we've already mentioned. It even sucks with a fancy ergonomic chair. The best thing for your back is to take a long break, go for a walk, and do some yoga. Or maybe just quit your job.
But when your gig demands 10 hours a day of relentless focus, a standing desk can be a spinal savior. Even better, look for a convertible desk, one that allows you to sit for a few hours, then crank 'er up, get comfortable, and keep working. They're not cheap, but you can't put a price on good lumbar health. Just look how happy the lady in the picture is to be standing!
Our Recommendation: Uplift V2 Commercial
A Desk Pad
Picture this: It's early quarantine. You're still adjusting to working from home. You set up a little workstation at you and your partner's newly-acquired dining room table. You place your laptop, your phone, a mug, and a big bodem of coffee on that beautiful walnut finish.
Cut to thirty minutes later: Your partner notices the coffee pot and mug. They rush over and lift up the bodem. Sure enough, rings are forming. They berate you tirelessly. They strongly consider pushing you off the apartment balcony. Your relationship and your quarantine are in jeopardy.
Don't let that happen to you. A simple waterproof desk pad will protect your surfaces - and relationships - from scratches and liquid damage.
Our Recommendation: Weelth Multifunctional Office Desk Pad
A Laptop Stand
Don't hunch over your laptop. It's bad for your back, it's bad for your neck, and it makes you look like a weird, early 2000s dark web denizen trading snuff films with dudes in Ukraine.
A simple, affordable laptop stand will keep your chin up and back straight, like a proud American.
Our Recommendation: AOOU Cool Desk Laptop Stand
An Extra Monitor
There is a reason hackers in the movies and those dorks on Silicon Valley use two screens. It's not just for looks - a second screen actually makes it way easier to run multiple apps, reference your emails, compare graphs and charts, and watch the NBA playoffs while you're on a Zoom meeting with clients.
Our Recommendation: Samsung 27" SF354
A Keyboard with Wrist Pad
I don't know about you, but my wrists absolutely hate the razor-sharp edges of my 2018 Macbook Air. What was Apple thinking? These things are like steak knives! Really, I've now got permanent 'typing grooves' just below my palms, battle scars from a summer of self-isolation.
Of course, the scars could have easily been avoided. I could've spent $15 bucks on a simple wrist guard or a little more on a fully ergonomic keyboard with built-in wrist protection. That's what you should do.
Our Recommendation: Gimars Memory Foam Set
We're all hopping on a lot of Zoom meetings these days, and there's nothing more frustrating than trying to understand a coworker or client who's mic keeps cutting out. Don't be that coworker or client - invest in a standalone mic for the singular purpose of sounding crystal clear on your next conference call.
Our recommendation: Blue Yeti USB Microphone