9 Essentials For a Great Work-From-Home Day in 2021

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I’ve been working from home for 2.5 years and have gone through a lot of duds when it comes to office equipment, which is why I’m so excited when purchases actually improve my workstation, whether that’s comfort or productivity, I’m all over it! So I’ve compiled this list of what I consider to be the best home office equipment in terms of value (price and quality) to hopefully save someone out there the hassle of the returns or sunk money that I experienced. Price may not be an issue if your company is footing the bill, but if you’re starting a new business or as a freelancer and pinching your pennies, most items on this list were purchased for under $100 when I purchased them (you know how Amazon is with price fluctuations). 

I have found these tools to be absolutely essential for me to spend my days working remotely in comfort.

1. Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard

Repetitive stress injury (RSI) from working on a computer is a concern for adults, but now even teenagers are experiencing RSI as computer and phone usage increases (1).

This combination of this ergonomic keyboard and the mouse below has basically eliminated my wrist pain and swelling. I know that because every time I use my laptop as a laptop instead of docked at my workstation, my wrists complain terribly. 

Although I prefer wired peripherals, the wireless Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business is the only ergonomic keyboard that I was able to find with the chiclet-style keys. I did consider Wirecutter’s recommendation for a fully split keyboard, but I didn’t want to gamble so much money since I haven’t used a mechanical keyboard in a long time.

2. Evoluent Ergonomic Mouse

I’ve been using some version of the Evoluent VM4S VerticalMouse 4 Ergonomic Mouse since my employer bought me my first one back in 2009. We had an ergonomic consultant who always recommended this to everyone, so I asked for one too. It was a game changer. When I left that job, I was so sad to leave the mouse behind that I bought one for myself and brought it to every job after that. I’ve tried other types of the handshake-style mouse, but this is the best one for my small hand.

This mouse also has customizable buttons that you can program to do a whole bunch of actions, which I highly recommend utilizing if you find yourself repeating the same action (like if you copy+paste a lot). I only have 3 minor complaints about this mouse.

  1. I don’t like that you have to download a separate driver, but that makes sense if you want to program all the buttons.
  2. It has an obnoxious number of lights on it. The newer version linked above only has one small light on it, but the other version has the entire logo lit on the back of the mouse. Excessive.
  3. You don’t get to choose the color, but that’s not a deal-breaker.

The great news is that the company has excellent customer service if you ever have a problem.

The Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse is an excellent option, but only if you don’t have small hands like me. I really wanted to make it work since it’s so much cheaper than Evoluent products, but it just didn’t fit me. I use the newer Evoluent VMDS Vertical Mouse D Ergonomic Mouse version pictured above, but I don’t think the difference is significant enough to justify the cost, if that’s a factor.

There’s a bit of a learning curve with a mouse that’s upright, but the hardest part for me was retraining my fingers to click the correct buttons.

3. Single or Dual Monitor Mount

Having your monitor at the correct height is super important for your neck and back health (2). At my last job, I thought my desk was set up pretty well because of the aforementioned ergonomic peripherals. Back then, I had chronic neck pain, but I assumed it was from stress. When the company hired an ergonomic consultant, he came in and lifted my monitor to the proper height. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my neck pain resolved overnight. I knew having your monitor too high was bad for your neck, so I kept mine low—too low. 

This section is a bit cheat-ish because I have 2 that I recommend, depending on your needs.

I was really skeptical about this monitor mount for 17–27” monitors because it’s so inexpensive, but the build quality is great for the price. Completely out of character for me, I actually used this off-label and in direct opposition to the manufacturer’s instructions for a few months until I changed up my workstation. I’m not recommending you ignore the warnings like I did, but setting it up backwards was the only way I could get my workstation to operate the way I wanted at the time.

In any case, it’s one of the cheapest monitor mounts out there (I bought it for under $30), and it’s a great price. Just be careful when you open it: It’s spring-loaded, so keep your face out of the way when you remove all the packaging!

For a dual monitor and tablet/laptop mount like I have, I unfortunately can’t recommend the same mount I’m using since it’s no longer available on Amazon. But my husband likes this WALI Dual LCD Monitor Fully Adjustable Desk Mount Stand that fits two monitors up to 27″, and I use the WALI VESA Mount Bracket Adapter Monitor Arm Mounting Kit for my tablet on a single mount, though I only use the bottom bracket for my small 13″ tablet.

4. Oversized Gaming Mouse Pad

I use a mousepad that is big enough to fit my keyboard and mouse for a few reasons. This protects my forearms from the sharp-ish edge of the desk when I’m tired or lazy and end up resting or leaning forward on my arms. It is more comfortable and smoother than typing on the desk alone. The pad has plenty of real estate so I don’t have to pick up and move the mouse when it meets the edge like with a traditional mouse pad.

I have a Maker Mat on my work desk that is a luxurious 5mm thick; unfortunately, they don’t seem to be in production anymore. When I was searching for a similarly over-sized mouse pad for my writing desk, I found this Abstract Watercolor Japanese Art Illustration Mouse Pad by Nasdalgias that’s 3mm thick, and I really like it.

It’s not as thick as my Maker Mat, but that helps me remember to sit up straight since it’s not as comfortable to lean on.

According to the listing, it’s machine washable (air dry), and although I haven’t tried that yet, it’s good to know that’s an option when needed. In fact, when I first posted about this mousepad, I was concerned about my cats getting something disgusting on it or discoloration from frequent contact with my skin, but so far, I haven’t needed to wash it.

The important thing is that I smile every time I see the lovely design, which fits perfectly with the tone of my space. I’ve also found that it’s really nice to use when I’m journaling or writing in my Hobonichi Techo Cousin.

5. Headphones

Good headphones are definitely important if you have an officemate but like to listen to music or you’re on video and phone calls a lot. I’m on video calls at least 20% of my work week, but I wear glasses, which means many headphones press the ear pieces uncomfortably against my ears/head. And I don’t know if my ear holes are too small or what, but earbuds just don’t work for me.

I bought these over-the-ear headphones called Cloud II Gaming Headset by HyperX. I especially like them because they’re comfortable even with my glasses, even if I’m on calls for 4 consecutive hours. As an added bonus, they can be connected to the audio jack or a USB port, which came in very handy when the audio jack on my computer randomly stopped working in the middle of my day. That does mean you have multiple points that could disconnect, but they’re easy enough to check, and so far, I haven’t had any issue.

My husband has the newer HyperX Cloud Alpha version that are not as comfortable, which is why I specifically recommend this version. 

6. A Chair That Works For You

If you’re worried about your knees or the positions of the Soul Seat below simply don’t appeal to you, I recommend Capisco Chair by HÅG.

I thought I needed the foot ring to make it more comfortable since I am 5’1″, but I should have known better since I don’t like sitting at bar stools. I bought the shorter lift and have the chair low to the ground like a normal chair.

It’s much more comfortable this way for me than sitting at standing height. I definitely stand less than I did when it was at standing height, but the chair is great quality and comfortable. As an added bonus, I found that hooking both of my arms behind the chair’s back provides a great chest-opening stretch!

When I first saw the Soul Seat, I couldn’t stop thinking about sitting in those positions while I worked and how much more comfortable I’d be sitting in a chair designed to sit in the positions I choose naturally rather than uncomfortably fidgeting in a normal office chair.

Unfortunately, I used the Soul Seat for about 6 weeks, and my knees started complaining. I really liked the chair and wanted to use it, but I was also sitting in these positions at my Japanese-inspired floor desk setup for several hours after work, and I think that was too much on my knees. I was sad to return the chair, but customer service was excellent, and I had no issues getting a refund. I still recommend the chair because the quality was great, and I would have kept it if my body could handle it.

If you’re interested, check out Soul Seat and use my discount coupon code for 15% off your purchase: VERSETILITY

7. Sit-Stand Desk

The SKARSTA desk from IKEA is an inexpensive sit-stand option if you’re paying out of pocket. I got lucky a few years ago and purchased mine for less than half the retail price, but I’d still buy it new after having it for over 3 years. I have the hand-crank model, which people seem to complain about, but I’m only 5’1″ so I don’t have to crank it too high. If I were taller, I might consider the electric version instead.

I didn’t like the standard white IKEA look, and after brainstorming a lot of different ways to add a little flair — paint, oilcloth, vinyl decals, stickers, etc — I dressed up the edges with some washi tape. It’s inexpensive and easy to apply. As an aside, the tape didn’t start peeling until over 2 years later, but it’s quick to reapply, and I can easily switch up the design if I ever want to freshen up the look.

Ta-da! Washi tape with the traditional Japanese seigaiha pattern along the edges of my desk

8. Cable management

This 1″ split wire tubing is my preferred method of cable management. I like that it hides everything from sight and keeps everything together. The tubing is split along the entire length, so you can exit wires and cables at any point needed if the wire is too short or is going in a different direction. These come in a variety of colors, but I chose white to blend better with my walls.

To make sure I can identify which plug goes to which device, I label the brick or cable with my label maker.

9. Adequate backlighting

One of the most important changes I made to make 40 hours per week at the computer more comfortable is adequate backlighting on my monitor. We use the Philips Hue Play set, but you can use LED track lighting for the same purpose.

These lights have really helped with my eye fatigue, and since they are color-changing LEDs, I get to choose how cool or warm the lights are, and I can also fine-tune the brightness so it’s exactly at the right level for my monitors and room lighting.

Bonus: CranioCradle

The Kiss Life CranioCradle Home Therapy Traction Pillow isn’t like the other items on this list in that it’s not directly related to working from home. But it is an amazing device that was recommended to me by a physical therapist and myofascial release practitioner. I don’t know about you, but I hold a lot of stress and tension in my neck and shoulders. This little bit of foam has relieved me of many headaches and neck pains.

When I’m really on top of my self-care routine, I use it every night for at least 5 minutes as directed, and it works wonders for my neck and shoulders, and even for keeping my chest open. When I want to get a really good treatment, I use 2 units for the specialized positions.

Closing thoughts

I’ve tried so much office equipment over the many years I’ve been working in the office environment, and these are the ones I stick with. They add up to a fair bit of money, but for me, investing in my health for quality equipment has been well worth it — and much cheaper than paying for it in back or neck pain and monthly trips to the osteopath or chiropractor for treatment!

Everyone’s body is different, so what works for me may not work for you. Always check with your doctor if you have health concerns or questions about what equipment would be best for your health.


References

  1. John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). Repetitive Stress Injuries.
  2. Grand Valley State University. (2018, April). Computer Monitor. Office Ergonomics.
Teena Merlan