Posted: 12/17/20 | December 17th, 2020
The pandemic has made working from home a permanent fixture of our lives. What once just techies and bloggers did, now accountants and all kinds of office workers do.
When the pandemic subsides, I think many will go back to the office. However, working from home is here to stay and I suspect a lot of people will continue to work from home. Not only is it cheaper for businesses but it means more flexibility, time with family, and less commuting. I think a lot of companies are realizing they don’t need huge corporate offices to have successful employees.
In the future, I suspect there will be some all-hands meetings and some rented space for those who want to go into an office, but for everyone else, the future of work looks increasingly remote.
While I love working from home, it does have its challenges. Being productive and finding that elusive work-life balance can be tricky. It’s a constant battle – but one that can easily be accomplished with a few helpful gadgets.
To help my fellow remote workers stay on task this holiday season, I’ve created this work-from-home gift guide for you or the remote worker in your life.
1. Ergonomic Office Chair
Everyone who works online or in an office knows that back pain and bad posture are constant threats — spending hours at a computer takes its toll on your back. I know, lumbar support isn’t sexy, but invest in a good ergonomic desk chair with lower back support, a padded seat, and padded armrests. You’ll thank me later!
2. Standing Desk
Like your office chair, a solid desk will go a long way in making your work more enjoyable and physically comfortable. A standing desk gives you the option to sit or stand, allowing you to take some of the pressure off your back throughout the day. While they aren’t cheap, they are a worthwhile investment for anyone who plans on working from home and needs a dedicated, flexible workspace.
3. Standing Mat
If you have a standing desk, make sure you get a padded mat to stand on as well. This will keep your feet from getting sore and help with your posture. A basic piece of carpet will help if you’re on a budget, though a proper padded mat will work wonders for your back and feet.
4. Laptop Stand
Regardless of what kind of desk you’re working on, consider purchasing a laptop stand if you’re using a laptop every day for work. This will reduce neck pain and strain and help improve your posture, since you’ll be looking straight ahead instead of downward toward your laptop. They’re super affordable and make a huge difference in how your work impacts your body. I can’t recommend them enough!
5. External Keyboard & Mouse
Working on a laptop keyboard and trackpad can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Not only that but it’s just not a comfortable setup for an optimized workflow. Instead, invest in a Bluetooth keyboard and wireless mouse. They will improve your workflow and keep your wrists and hands from getting repetitive strain injuries.
6. Noise-Canceling Headphones
From screaming kids to barking dogs to traffic outside, there are a lot of distractions at home that can derail your productivity. To help you stay on track (and stay sane), invest in a good pair of headphones. Wireless Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are widely popular from my go-to brand. They are comfortable and rechargeable, and do an amazing job at removing background noise. (If you’re on a budget, consider the QuietComfort 25 instead.)
7. Laptop Bed Tray
Should you be working (or watching Netflix) in bed? Probably not. Will it happen anyway? Probably. Make life easy on yourself and purchase a basic laptop tray you can use when in bed or on the couch. While not 100% necessary, it’s one of those bonus items that just make life easier whenever you feel like using your laptop outside of your office.
8. External Monitor
While we’re all used to the smaller screens of a laptop, sometimes having a larger screen can help — especially if you’re working on your computer day in and day out. An external monitor can hook up to your laptop and give you a larger screen to work with, helping both your vision and your posture in the process (it’s also much more enjoyable for watching Netflix). A 27″ monitor offers you twice as much space as your standard laptop without breaking the bank.
9. MacBook Pro
If you need a new laptop to work from home, the new MacBook Pro is faster than ever. Apple’s new M1 chip has really kicked their laptops up a notch. While I like the MacBook Air better for travel (it’s lighter and does everything I need), the new Pro is also super light and powerful. It’s a reliable choice for anyone looking for a new laptop for the home office.
10. External Hard Drive
Nothing is more devastating for those who work online than losing your data. While I also keep a digital backup of my files in the cloud, having a physical backup of your hard drive is a no-brainer. After all, you’re just one spilled cup of coffee away from losing everything! Buy an external hard drive and get into the habit of backing up your device every week. That way, if something happens to your laptop, you won’t have to start from scratch.
11. 3-in-1 Charging Station
This charging station has room to charge a phone, AirPods, and a smartwatch all at the same time. If you’re a die-hard Apple fan and have all the accessories, this charging station is a must, lest you constantly struggle for space to charge your devices. If you don’t need a 3-in-1 charging station, this regular wireless phone charger will do the trick.
12. LED Light with Charging Port
Since you’ll need a light for your desk, you might as well get a light with a built-in USB charger. That way you can charge your phone, Kindle, external battery, or any other accessory easily without having to give up a coveted electrical outlet!
13. Ring Light
If you’re going to be doing a lot of social media videos or Zoom calls, consider investing in a basic ring light. This will ensure that your videos and calls are properly lit, which goes a long way toward improving your video production quality (especially on social media). It’s one of those extra touches that people notice and that set you apart from the competition.
14. Blue-Light Glasses
Over the past year, I’ve seen tons of ads for blue-light glasses. They claim to help prevent eyestrain when staring at a computer screen day in and day out. While the science is still out, our Community Manager Chris bought a pair earlier this year after dealing with eye strain, and they’ve helped him immensely. You can find pairs for as little as $25, making them worth checking out if your eyes are extra tired, dry, and/or strained.
15. VPN (Virtual Private Network)
While many of us use VPNs (virtual private networks) to protect our data while we’re abroad, most of us don’t use them at home — even though we should. Keep your data safe and your browsing habits private by using a VPN. You wouldn’t leave your house or car unlocked all day, so why would you leave your digital doors open? Stay safe by using a VPN.
16. Meditation Mat & Cushion
Make sure you step away from the laptop regularly to rest your brain and your body by purchasing a meditation cushion and mat. Just 10 minutes of sitting a day will work wonders for your state of mind, help you stay refreshed, and lower your stress. Keep them beside your desk so you’re more inclined to use them regularly. Also, download a free meditation timer like Zenso, so you can time your meditation breaks.
17. Yoga Mat
Another helpful tool for stepping away from the laptop and getting your blood flowing is a yoga mat. There are tons of free yoga videos on YouTube for both short and long sessions, making this an easy and affordable way to add more movement into your day. Whether you want to build muscle, burn fat, reduce stress, or improve your flexibility, there’s a free yoga or workout tutorial for you!
18. Art & Maps
While I’m not much of an interior decorator, I do appreciate the effect art, photography, and (especially) maps have on an office space. Most photographers sell prints of their work, and you can find all kinds of cool custom maps and works of art on sites like Etsy. Spend some time browsing for pictures, art, and maps to brighten up your space. It will make all the difference.
Here are some suggested maps and prints to check out:
- Hand-drawn typographic maps from Legal Nomads (Use the code NOMADICMATT to save 10%)
- Travel prints from Erin Outdoors
- Travel prints from Expert Vagabond
- Scratch Map from Landmass
19. Notebook/Travel Planner
If you’re a regular traveler and want a notebook that isn’t just blank pages (like my boring Moleskine) but rather has space for itinerary planning, places to jot notes in the local language, a packing list, and much more (including a map you can fill in as you travel), get an Exploration Journal. They are designed specifically with travelers in mind, so you can take notes and write down stories and reflections during your travels.
20. Reusable Water Bottle
Since you can’t just drink endless amounts of coffee all day (or, in my case, tea), get a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. Dehydration will make you groggy and tired, so treat yourself a LifeStraw. They have built-in filters to ensure your water is clean and safe.
21. Dry-Erase Wall Calendar
For anyone looking to stay organized, a dry-erase calendar is a must. They’re perfect for keeping track important meetings and appointments and give you a quick overview of your entire month at a glance. If you struggle with procrastination or time management, definitely add a calendar to your wish list.
Working from home is only going to grow in the years to come. These items will help you create a comfortable and functional workspace, build better habits, stay healthy, and ensure you’re always doing your best work. Since it looks like it will be many more months before people go back to the office, now is the time to finally take the leap with some of these items if you haven’t already!
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.