10 Work-From-Home Essentials To Make Your Home Office Setup More Pleasant And Productive

by Barron Cuadro  |  in Lifestyle

Find yourself suddenly working from home? Looking for the ideal setup for your home office? Here are some of my favorite products and accessories, plus a few thoughts and pointers, if you suddenly find yourself having to work from home.

So, needless to say, these are very weird times.

If you happen to be reading this in the distant future, right now as I type this, the entire world is dealing with / trying to stay sane and healthy because of a coronavirus pandemic.

While I can’t offer much in terms of useful, life-saving medical advice (other than wash your hands, practice social distancing, stay home, etc.) what I CAN offer is a bit of reprieve if you’re a newly-minted work-from-homer trying to slap together a decent home office setup.

You work from home? Welcome to the club.

Many of us are working from home—probably indefinitely, since we don’t know how long this pandemic will last—and unfortunately, the proverbial show must go on! 

And those of us who have the ability to work from home will have to carry on… in a much more distracting environment.

You might have kids, pets, a laundry list of stuff to fix around the house, actual laundry… it goes on and on.

I’ve been working from home for almost ten years now, and during that time I’ve gotten better and more efficient at it.

And even though I now have a studio in Brooklyn, I keep most of these things at my apartment so my at-home office setup is still conducive to getting work done when I don’t feel like going into the studio.

Whether you have a fully-functional home office with a door that closes (lucky), or you work in bed (where I’m writing this post right now), here are a few things I believe will make your transition to longer-term WFH much easier.

Note: Some of these products may be shipping slower or out of stock when you click through. Just keep checking back; because of the state of the universe right now, everything’s a bit off… but I predict online ordering will stabilize over the next few weeks.

A height-adjustable, ergonomic desk chair

Let’s start with the obvious. Assuming you have room in your space, a solid desk chair makes all the difference when you’re working long hours. If I were setting up a home office, this would be the one thing I’d invest in.

Ideally you want something that’s ergonomic, with the ability to adjust its height so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor and your arms parallel to the desk (any weird angles for extended periods can be uncomfortable  / damaging).

comfortable office chair

At my studio, I have the Ikea Alefjall chair. Apart from aesthetics, which I love, the leather is soft but the chair pads themselves are really sturdy and supportive. Plus there’s tilt and height adjustment, as well as seat depth adjustment.

Also, the casters have these pressure-sensitive brakes, which prevent the chair from rolling away when you get up. Looking forward to seeing the patina on this thing develop over the years.

Based on preliminary research, my grail pick (from an ergonomic perspective) would be the Embody chair by Herman Miller or the Steelcase Gesture.

They’re also quite the investment so do your research if you’re planning on buying either of those to make sure it’s what you need.

Delicious coffee and a great mug

My favorite insulated travel mug is the Zojirushi. It keeps my coffee hot all day; it’s insane. If I want to nurse a cup, I’ll use this mug, even at home.

zojirushi insulated coffee mug and stumptown coffee beans

Otherwise, I prefer a basic, thick-walled diner mug. You know the kind I’m talking about? I think Denny’s and IHOP used to have these mugs back in the day.

Surprisingly I don’t see this style around all that often, so when I visit a coffee shop or café I love, and they happen to sell their diner-style mugs, I buy one.

I love coffee. I drink a lot of it, and yes, I drink it black.

But, dirty little secret, I usually brew up some Kirkland Signature Colombian coffee (Costco’s house brand) and to me, it’s great.

If I’m buying non-Kirkland coffee, one of my favorite go-to roasters is Stumptown.

A laptop stand to avoid neck pain

A well-made laptop stand not only looks good, but elevates your screen to eye level.

This helps your entire body be better aligned since your neck isn’t craned downwards for hours. It also allows for better airflow to your computer’s undercarriage.

twelve south curve laptop stand

Note that you’ll need an external mouse and keyboard as well (more on that later), but if this is your longer-term work situation, you’d be better off with them anyway.

By the way, you can find many versions out there, but TwelveSouth‘s laptop stand (pictured above) is my preferred choice from an aesthetics and build standpoint.

Rain Design has another option that I’ve tried and been happy with in the past.

And if you have a bit of patience, GroveMade designs beautiful handmade laptop stands and laptop lifts from solid wood, which are part of its desk shelf system (I recommend this if you have a home office or dedicated desk setup at home).

They’re also now selling home office bundles, which are a beautiful addition to any WFH setup.

An Incredible Scented Candle

A great scent can really transform your space. It can motivate you, put you in a better mood, and help you to concentrate.

Sydney Hale Co Tobacco and Sandalwood candle

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to the scents they like and don’t like. I encourage you to find a candle with a fragrance you love and make it a part of your work-from-home setup.

These are two of my favorites: I love Voluspa’s Casa Pacifica, perfect for the spring and summer (or whenever you want to feel like it’s spring / summer). And Sydney Hale’s Tobacco and Sandalwood is one of my favorite candles I burn year-round.

An essential oil diffuser to keep you calm

Another option, if candle fragrances are not your thing, is an essential oil diffuser.

vitruvi essential oil diffuser

Essentially, these diffusers allow you to breathe in and absorb the oils by dispersing them into the air.

Essential oils can have a calming and pleasing effect, and the scent is generally much softer. Basically it’s aromatherapy, in your home (or on your desk). You can read more about them here.

The oil diffuser from Muji is a good option. This one from Asakuki looks promising, is affordable, and has thousands of positive reviews on Amazon. And the one from Vitruvi is your more luxe option.

A notebook, pen, & to-do pad to write stuff down

When my Todoist or Notes app on my laptop just won’t do, I keep a notebook and pen next to me.

It helps when I need to jot random ideas down that don’t fit neatly into any of my Todoist categories, or if I need to draw something out freehand (like a mindmap or flow chart for a digital product I’m working on).

leuchtturm 1917 dotted notebook and pilot g2 pen

My personal preference is this notebook from Leuchtturm 1917. It has a dot grid, which is perfect for writing as well as sketching out ideas.

And I have a bunch of Pilot G-2 ballpoint pens; to me, they write the smoothest and most consistent out of all the budget pens I’ve tried.

I also love keeping Post-its around, which I use to write down my daily tasks.

Sometimes a to-do app can feel overwhelming because you can see, at a glance, all the things you need to do.

I use Post-its to write down my specific tasks that I need to do TODAY, right now, and typically I limit them to 3 big tasks or 5 medium-ish tasks, knowing that if I just complete these things today, it would be a successful and productive day.

I have to-do-specific pads as well, which can be fun to use and check off as you go through tasks.

Noise-cancelling headphones to block out the world

I swear by my headphones when working from home. My wife (sorta) knows that when I have headphones on, I’m plugged in and to not distract me, no matter how cute the corgi she found on Instagram is.

beats studio 3 headphones

Even when I’m working alone, I like wearing headphones because you really do get that sense of “plugging in” and shutting off the outside world.

Noise-canceling over-ear headphones are best, in my opinion. I’ve used my Beats Studio3 headphones for years and they’re great.

I’ve been trying out the Status on-ear headphones the past few months and they’re pretty good, but out of the two, I still prefer the over-ear style.

And of course I have my AirPods. I haven’t tried the AirPods Pro yet but I’ve heard noise cancellation on those are solid.

My Spotify Habits

By the way, I listen to a lot of jazz or piano / classical in the mornings when I’m slowly easing into work, then switch to something like bossa nova or hip hop / jazz instrumentals after lunch.

And in the late afternoon and evening, especially if I’m doing more mindless tasks or design work, I switch to hip hop or reggaeton (which my wife has been getting me into lately).

A second monitor, wireless mouse, and keyboard (if it fits in your workspace)

If you work off a laptop, having an external monitor and wireless mouse + keyboard can be a game changer for your home office setup.

the perfect home office setup with an external monitor wireless keyboard and mouse

It allows you to utilize a laptop stand for the ergonomic benefits (plus, obviously, two monitors are better than one), and just makes your at-home work setup feel and operate like a legit workstation you might have at the office.

Or at least, come closer to what you have at the office.

Personally, I’m waiting for my old Apple Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard to die and when they do, I’m thinking of switching to the Logitech set pictured above ☝?

Massage things, to keep the blood flowing

I like to take breaks every 30 mins or so, or whenever I’m stuck on an idea or feeling super distracted.

I get up to stretch and walk around, and if I’m feeling tight, I like to use a foam roller to loosen up my back and get the blood flowing in my legs.

triggerpoint foam roller and massage ball

If you go to the gym regularly, you’ve probably seen or used these. I suggest getting a small one for your home as well. They’re great!

I also have a foam massage ball I use to loosen up any muscles that feel tight. I sometimes roll it back and forth at the arch of my foot, or I sit on it off to one side to hit my glute muscle.

Of course it’s important to get up regularly anyway, so hopefully you’re not feeling too tight from sitting so long, but I know it can happen.

Plants to brighten your day

I love having greenery around me. I also don’t want to spend a bunch of time taking care of plants, so Kate and I make sure to find plants that are easy to maintain and don’t need a lot of water.

sansevieria snake plant and succulents

This is a solid article if you’re a houseplant beginner, by the way. And really, who wants to work in a home office without greenery? Gotta bring some of those nature vibes indoors.

My go-tos are sansevierias (snake plants) and succulents.

Ready to work from home?

Hopefully these suggestions for your home office setup are helpful and keep you comfortable and productive, whether you’re working from home for the first time, or you’ve been doing so for years.

Got any other products you love that aren’t included on this list? Tweet me.