13 Home Office Upgrades You Need If You Work Remotely

These upgrades pay for themselves in health, happiness, and productivity.

Illustration by Yin Weihung

Working from home is a dream to most, but it comes with its own challenges. Mentally leaving “home mode” and entering “work mode” can be difficult if you never physically leave your house and your bed is only steps away. How can you actually become inspired to get work done in such cozy conditions?

While it may be easy to flop down on the couch in your sweatpants and decide it’s your new office, curating the space you work from is essential to your productivity and state of mind. As a remote worker, taking the time to thoughtfully choose the right setup is a worthy investment of your time.

To help you get your home office up to par for maximum efficiency, we’ve put together a list of essential upgrades straight from other remote workers who’ve shared the home office additions that have made their work (and life) easier. As an added bonus, we’re also running a home office contest! Keep reading for details on how you can win one of the home office upgrades mentioned.

1. An ergonomic office chair to give your back some love

Photo by Alexandru Acea

Stop me if this sounds familiar – you’re slumped over at your desk, neck craned over, and what was previously an annoying ache in your lower back has turned into something that’s affecting your work and wellbeing. Walking around and stretching only provides temporary relief.

A comfortable ergonomic chair, designed for maximum lumbar support, will help minimize back pain and let you focus. Science backs it up — a 2003 ergonomics study found that employees who were given an ergonomic chair reported fewer negative symptoms throughout the day and a total increase in productivity of 17.7%.

Dmitri Leonov, Co-founder of SaneBox

Day-to-day: I run a company called SaneBox, which is like a an AI assistant for your inbox. Typically I’m either at my desk working, jumping into conference calls, or traveling to events or trade shows.

Office Upgrade: The majority of my workday is spent sitting down, so I need to have a chair that gives the proper posture support. The Herman Miller Aeron Chair is truly the most comfortable office chair I’ve ever owned due to its variety of tilt options and lumbar height adjustments. However, my chair isn’t the only way I avoid back pain – to avoid sitting down for extended periods of time, I use the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management method that encourages 25 minutes of deep work followed by a short break, which I use to walk around or take a quick stretch.

Dmitri’s pick: Herman Miller Aeron Chair, Seating Mind, $499.99

Other Recommendations

2. Quality speakers to bump productive tunes

Photo by Jeff Sheldon

Music can help you relax and get energized. It can also improve your productivity.

According to a study by the University of Miami’s music therapy department, test subjects who listened to music while working were able to complete their tasks with superior quality and speed than the study group without the sweet tunes.

Having a nice bluetooth speaker in your work environment allows you to fill your space with your favorite mood music and wash out any ambient distractions to improve your focus. So cue up a playlist of your ideal mood music (simple chord progressions, instrumentals and catchy rhythms often work best) and check out some of these office-ready speakers.

Maria Pahuja, Founder of Vayas.co

Day-to-Day: I run my own operations consulting business and juggle a lot of different tasks and projects in the course of a single day. The majority of my day is focused on developing strategies and processes for clients so that they can run their businesses more efficiently. It’s very detailed work that involves looking into financial and operational reporting, communication styles, how deliverables are scheduled, produced and delivered. I also come up with in-depth plans on how to adjust these methods to improve on the businesses’ bottom line.

Office Upgrade: I am often looking at several aspects of a client’s business at once and need lots of focus and concentration to understand how it functions on a daily basis so that I can make improvements. Listening to music while I work is a crucial aspect of my home office setup and productivity. Music helps me set the mood and tone of my workday and keeps me serene even when my work is complicated and stressful. I have Sonos Play:1 Speakers setup throughout my house and one in my home office. The first thing I do when I begin my workday is to log into my Sonos app and select music to pair with my mood or pick a playlist I previously created. I’m able to easily call out to my Sonos speaker through Alexa to bypass a song I don’t like or to turn the volume down quickly if a client call comes in. The ease of use of the quality of sound of the music from the speaker is exceptional and a key component of my home office and creating a welcoming work atmosphere.

Maria’s pick: Sonos Play:1 Speakers, Amazon, $149

Recommendations

3. Soft light desk lamp for your optic and mental health

Photo by Tatiana Lapina

Another hallmark of a happy, productive work environment is a simple soft light desk lamp. A soft glow gives your work environment that warm, cozy feeling that may contribute to a mellower and less stressful home office.

Studies have shown that exposure to natural light during the day has positive effects on our mental and physical health, too, so open those blinds and let that light in — your brain will thank you for it. On the flipside, working in dimly lit environments where screens are the main light source strains the eyes, which can lead to fatigue, headaches and blurred vision. 

Artyom Pervukhim, Infrastructure Engineer at Doist

Day-to-Day: For me, working remotely includes a mix of doing my job from coffee shops and from my home. I’ve gradually designed a home office that allows me to be the most productive, whether that’s solving interesting engineer problems or meetings with team members.

Office Upgrade: Lighting is important to avoid eye strain and can also set a great mood to get into work mode. I’m very happy with Xiaomi Mi LED Desk Lamp, which was initially recommended by one of my team members. It has wifi capabilities, but I only use the brightness and color temperature adjustments to match Night Shift macOS mode.

Artyom’s Pick: Xiaomi Mi LED Desk Lamp

Recommendations

4. A smart assistant to save you precious time

Photo by Linus Rogge

If there’s one thing that will serve up a giant red flag to potential clients and customers, it’s missing meetings, calls, or deadlines. It can be stressful to stay on top of all the little things while also trying to get important things done. That’s why offices have administrative assistants and executives have personal assistants.

Luckily, it’s 2019, and smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant can help you set appointments, book recurring meetings, make to-do lists, set up calls, or even define words and look up facts on a whim. Got a call coming up? Your digital assistant will remind you. Think of something important to do while in the midst of another task? Simply ask your smart assistant device to take note for later and remind you in a few hours. 

Omar Samuels, Customer Support Specialist at Doist

Day-to-dayWorking from my home office is the perfect balance of productivity and comfort. I’ve been able to create an environment that allows me to concentrate, whether I’m working to solve user problems or writing in-app copy for our apps. I’m able to move seamlessly from work-time to family-time and often go smoothly from a deep session of intense focus to picking up my son, Sam, from school and then back to deep work again with minimal effort largely through the magic of automation.

Office UpgradeI’m all in on Google Assistant as my Smart Assistant. I use it, primarily through Google Home devices to take care of and automate a ton of things, many that help me to be more productive/comfortable in my home office. It controls my smart plugs that can be used to do everything from switching on particular lights, security cameras or my personal favorite… automating the interval that my Air Wick and Glade fragrances switch on (great scents help me to work). I also use it in conjunction with smart IR blasters to control and automate some of my appliances that don’t have built-in Assistant support. For example, at some point in the work day I have to run out to pick up my son from school, during that time my office Loft tends to get really hot, so it’s really awesome to have Google Assistant turn monitors on/off and my personal favorite, turn back on the A/C unit and start cooling down the office before I get there based on geo-location triggers, so it removes that waiting time for the office to cool back down.  Google Assistant also has provides the functionality that allows me to say something like “Bring on the day” and have it Switch on the computer, monitors, start the A/C, play the news and then flick on my morning playlist and to give me a specific musical vibe to flow to.

Omar’s Pick: Google Assistant

Recommendations

5. A yoga/stretching mat to counteract hours hunched over the computer 

Photo by rawpixel

Like most of the knowledge workforce, you’re bound to a desk and a computer. Unfortunately, the seated position isn’t the healthiest, but you’re required to put in your 8+ hours. One of the best things you can do to combat poor posture and the sedentary desk life is getting an office yoga mat.

Many companies such as GM, Google, Apple and Forbes recognize the value of yoga and offer classes as part of their corporate wellness initiatives. Yoga’s benefits to the body are plentiful – it increases energy and focus, improves posture, relieves stress, and reduces joint and back pain. If you’re new to yoga, you can find several beginner classes and videos to guide you during your desk break. And since you work from home, there’s no one to give you weird looks as you down dog and lizard your way to better health. 

Caitlin Sullivan, Self-employed User Researcher & Service Designer

Day-to-Day: I provide companies with user research and service design support, serving clients in Stockholm and Berlin. My days require sitting at a desk, but also carrying out in-person user research. I switch between long-term, strategic planning with product design leaders, and being very present in the user research sessions I moderate. I manage clients and much of my research remotely – relying on remote testing and video chat tools. I work from my living room-turned-office in Berlin.

Office Upgrade: I value health and athleticism as much as a job well done, so frequent movement – despite desk-bound work – is crucial. The joy of working remotely from home is that I can build in a yoga session easily on any given day. My yoga mat is always rolled out, right beside the desk, so there’s no excuse to skip 10 minutes of stretching after a client call, or a 30-minute vinyasa flow before lunch. It’s the one thing I make sure I do on a daily basis, for both physical and mental well-being, and it keeps me sane after a stressful client discussion or when research participants don’t show up. It’s even one of the reasons I’m still working from home, instead of renting a coworking space!

Caitlin’s Pick: Liforme Yoga Mat, Amazon, $149.95

Recommendations

6. An ergonomic keyboard to give your wrists a break

Photo by Amy Hirschi

After a focused work session, the last thing you want to deal with is wrist and hand strain from craning your hands onto a keyboard. Don’t put up with it either — the more you do, the higher your risk is of being diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Going the ergonomic way can reduce wrist strain, increase comfort, and keep you focused on the task at hand.

In fact, a study by ChevronTexaco found that after implementing ergonomic office accessories, 44% of the study’s participants lowered their risk levels and it proved to be beneficial for productivity and morale.  

Willian Molinari, Backend Engineer at Doist

Day-to-day: I work remotely at Doist from São Paulo, Brazil as a Software Engineer on our Integrations team. It’s my role to improve Todoist and Twist’s APIs. I split my days between deep and shallow work, a concept from Cal Newport’s Book Deep Work. For me, deep work includes code reviews, coding, snippets, support, and writing. On the other hand, shallow work might include conference travel planning and reading and responding in Twist. I write monthly breakdowns of my time over on my blog.

Office Upgrade: I use the Kinesis Advantage keyboard. While it’s not mobile, it’s the best ergonomic keyboard I have ever used. When I changed keyboards and keyboard layout (from QWERTY to COLEMAK) and did some training, I went from 75WPM to around 90WPM. I believe the keyboard was the main reason for that, the layout just helps to get more comfortable while typing.

Willian’s Pick: Kinesis Advantage keyboard – $349.00

Recommendations

7. A desk you love because you’re going to spend a lot of time with it

Photo by Iswanto Arif

If day after day you’re experiencing back aches from sitting at your desk all day, it’s time for a change. Standing desks are growing in popularity and for good reason! While sitting all day can put you at risk toward diabetes and weight gain, standing does the opposite.

Gillian Singletary, Self-Employed Copywriter

Day-to-Day: I’m a freelance digital copywriter and spend my days writing web copy and marketing materials for clients as well as marketing my own business. This involves an ungodly amount of typing as well as client calls, meetings with my virtual assistant, and a whole lot of email.

Office Upgrade: My entire job is on my computer so having a comfortable, well-organized place to write is essential. Having worked from home for close to a decade, my current desk is by far the best one I’ve had – it’s the Adjustable Standing Desk from the Container Store. It’s small enough that it doesn’t dominate my workspace and it easily moves up and down so I can stand and sit (the only way to avoid back pain for me). I try to stand most mornings because it helps me to stay focused and build momentum for an overall more productive day.

Gillian’s pick: Adjustable Standing Desk, Container Store, $299.99

Recommendations

8. A whiteboard for analog creativity

Photo by Patrick Perkins

For all the modern wonders of the computer, we’re very limited to its mode of function: the keyboard and monitor. Many people work on computers that are between 13” and 23” in monitor size, leaving little room for much else than a maxed out spreadsheet or document. This is where the analog can be your saving grace!

Incorporating a whiteboard into your work environment gives you a fun alternative for scratchwork and brainstorming ideas that need space to conceptualize. Writing outlines, storyboards, goals, and mantras on whiteboards can be a huge boon for productivity.

Andrea Preziotti, Corporate Ghostwriter, Modern Vintage Ink, LLC

Day-to-Day: As a corporate ghostwriter, I craft and develop content for individual thought leaders and small to mid-sized businesses. My day to day involves meeting with clients to discuss their content marketing strategy and flesh out ideas for writing assignments. Most people don’t understand how to leverage their expertise and knowledge as a marketing tool. While executives at larger corporations have a dedicated marketing writer, soloists and smaller companies are left to do it on their own. That’s where my services provide the most value.

Office Upgrade: Most of the foundational work is done on my Mac — video conferencing, research, writing, etc., but I find that storyboarding an article, or using mindmapping to sort out ideas is invaluable. I don’t have room for a whiteboard in my home office, so I painted a chalkboard on a door instead. It’s been a lifesaver. There’s nothing quite like taking the chalk to the wall and mapping out concepts and ideas for a story arc or campaign. I love how the action itself injects a sense of play into my workday and workspace. The expanse of the board allows me to make visual connections between ideas and words that is virtually impossible on a 13” screen.  

Andrea’s pick: Chalkboard Brush-On in Black, Rust-Oleum, $15.51

Recommendations:

9. Plants to boost your mood

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Plants are more than just pretty decorations. Studies show that being around plants is good for your health — they filter the air and their presence is therapeutic. Plants brighten up and add color to otherwise sterile indoor spaces. Plants help us better manage stress and refocus our energy, and psychologists have found that bringing some flora into a workspace can increase productivity by up to 15 percent.

Worried about being a plant-killer? Don’t be! Plenty of plants are known to be especially resilient and low-maintenance. For example, succulents are a solid place to start creating your very own indoor garden. The plants below are easy to care for and hard to kill:

Rastislav Vaško, Head of Android at Doist

Day-to-day: I lead the development of our Android apps at Doist. I’ve worked from home at the company for almost five years now and have learned a lot about what makes for an effective at-home set-up. I aim for minimal distractions and a peaceful environment where I can be the most productive including interviewing candidates, reviewing test projects, and working on our upcoming releases. I also go to a café to work from at least three times per week around lunch for about two hours. That’s when I usually feel my productivity going down, so the change of environment helps. It’s also nice to have some social contact!

Office Upgrade: Office plants definitely help to cultivate a calm and peaceful environment, with the added benefit of air filtration! I have a Viola and a Peace lily close to my desk. Both are pretty and easy to take care of. I feel even better about the Peace lily ever since I read about a NASA Clean Air Study, which apparently concluded that it’s a good choice for cleaning the air.

Rasto’s Pick: Peace Lily Plant

Recommendations

10. A reliable wireless router because your livelihood depends on it

Photo by Misha Feshchak

One of the most frustrating things when working from home is dealing with a faulty internet connection. It prevents you from doing your job and spotty wifi can wreak havoc on video calls. An essential piece of any productive working space is, without question, a reliable and fast wireless router you can count on.

Alexandra White, Documentation Editor at Joyent

Day-to-day: I write and edit technical documentation for a cloud service provider. This includes creating getting started guides, working with engineers to write audience-based content for advanced developers and understanding problems they face with our technology. My role also includes writing standards for what technical education should look like and developing a user-friendly documentation website. I have a daily stand-up every morning and various other meetings with my stakeholders.

Office Upgrade: My work relies on GitHub and it’s essential that I can quickly connect to the web, as well as upload and download materials, so I rely on having a quality internet service provider. But the rest of the battle comes from having a powerful router. I use a dual band router with a WiFi extender to make sure I can access the web anywhere in my apartment. It’s in an older building where despite being a smaller space there are some limits as to how far the wifi can go based on what’s in the walls. The extender helps bring the dual-band router into every space without needing to switch networks when I sit at my desk in my office or at my kitchen table.

Alexandra’s Pick (WiFi Router): NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Amazon, $118.42

Alexandra’s Pick (WiFi Extender): TP-Link AC750 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender, Amazon, $28.66

Recommendations

11. A super-fast computer because time spent waiting to load adds up

Photo by Domenico Loia

The feeling of using a brand new computer when you’ve been chained to a 2013 MacBook Pro for what seems like eternity is unlike any other. Suddenly, pages are loading at lightning speed, your fingers are flying, and you’re crossing off tasks like there’s no tomorrow.

Is it time to relive that amazing feeling once again? If you’re in the market for a new laptop, take into account the daily demands of your job. Are you a graphic designer who needs to run several large programs at one time? Are you a programmer who needs code compiled quickly? Maybe you’re a writer who needs fast browsers to research topics and use email. Consider these factors before you decide on the right upgrade for you.

Anna Han, Design Lead at Nectar Sleep

Day-to-day: I am the lead designer for a home furnishings company that started in the bedroom with mattresses. Over the course of a few months, we’ve moved to an array of different home furnishings under the same umbrella, with more to launch by end of the year. My day to day varies. I do everything from UI/UX work to print collateral, to packaging for furniture to marketing materials and event design. My deadlines are often pretty tight as they tend to be at a fast-paced startup which means that it’s imperative for my computer to keep up. I’m often running several heavy applications at once between Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Sketch and Figma and often working simultaneously between them as I import and export from one to work in the other. A slow computer means that I am wasting valuable time. I work remotely full time so having a machine that has both incredible speed as well as something that’s mobile enough for me to bring to work at a coffee shop with a large enough screen to be able to view full-sized mockups is ideal.

Office Upgrade: I have a 13 inch MacBook Pro (2018) and I think the machine itself is incredible. If I could upgrade, I would upgrade to a 15 inch for more screen real estate on-the-go when I’m working not from my home office and away from my external monitor. I would also upgrade to 36GB of memory for maximum speed and efficiency to handle all the programs I have running at once.

Editor’s Note: If a whole new computer isn’t in your budget, try upgrading your RAM and put in a solid-state hard drive if you don’t already have one. This helps even a decade-old MacBook run like (almost) new! Free, open-source extensions like The Great Suspender offers solutions for people who find that Chrome is consuming too much system power.

Recommendations:

  • HP Z Book G4, HP, $2,057.44 – This is truly a mobile powerhouse – it delivers unthrottled performance even with the Intel® Core™ i9 or Intel® Xeon® processors, and NVIDIA® Quadro® graphics running at max performance for long periods of time.
  • Google Pixelbook, Google, Various PricesGreat for use as a laptop or for entertainment. Fold it into a tablet, or stand it up.
  • MacBook Pro, Apple, Various Prices – The classic. Including stunning retina display, Intel 6‑core and quad-core processors, and a Touch Bar for working more productively.

12. A big external monitor to transform the way you get things done

Photo by Nikolay Tarashchenko

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of having what seems like a million tabs open on your computer at all times. Clicking back and forth from webpage to webpage is totally unproductive — not to mention confusing. That’s why a second monitor can pay for itself in time saved on day-to-day tasks. According to a New York Times’ report of a Jon Peddie Research survey, dual monitors have been proven to increase productivity by 20-30 percent.

When choosing a second monitor, make sure you’re picking one with a clear, readable screen (to prevent headaches) and brighter displays (to cut down on glare). Consider a larger monitor to increase your desk real estate and to decrease scrolling.

Sarah Rabideau, Customer Success Manager at Pana

Day-to-day: I work in customer success for a startup which entails a lot of external meetings with our clients to collect feedback on our product and services.  I then work with our product and operations teams to make sure our roadmap aligns with what is most important to our client’s needs. In addition to keeping our clients happy, I provide them with monthly and quarterly reporting to show trends and make recommendations for their travel programs.  

Office Upgrade: My job requires creating extensive excel and internal reporting docs and translating them into client-facing materials.  Having a second screen makes reporting so much easier and saves a ton of time flipping between windows. It’s also helpful on client calls to be able to pull up the clients’ account details and have another screen to create follow-ups and notes in Asana. I spend a decent amount of my time on the road and having a thin, reliable screen means I can take my office with me wherever I go and not have to slow down.

Sarah’s pick: Asus ZenScreen MB16AC, Amazon, $236.34

Recommendations

13. Charging accessories to keep all your devices going 

Photo by Zoltan Tasi

Most of us are carrying around various devices at all times. Smartphone, laptop, tablet, smartwatch…the list can go on. While we’re living such connected lives, it’s important that we make sure all our devices have the battery power to survive the workday. That’s where charging accessories come in — these heroes have multiple ports and quick-charge capabilities to accommodate devices of all stripes. After all, nothing slows your productivity down more abruptly than a dead laptop.

Amna Shamim, Founder/Visibility Consultant at Banida Digital

Day-to-day: I spend my days working from cafes, airports, and sometimes even my desk. I need to know none of my devices will die on me, whether I’m running conference calls on my phone, taking notes on my iPad, or running a website audit on my laptop. I’m often running pretty intense software on my laptop and a call at the same time, so thinking about battery life or where my cables are cannot be a part of my busy, long workdays.

Office Upgrade: I respect the people who can run their work lives on just one device but I am not one of them. I have a MacBook, an iPad, an Apple pencil, a smartwatch, a phone, and an iPod I use every single day, often simultaneously. Being able to plug everything into one charging port ensures I don’t forget to charge anything and can get through my day with minimal risk that any one device dies. And if one does, plugging it back in for a battery pick-me-up is easy.  

Amna’s pick: Anker Quick Charge 3.0 63W 5-Port USB Wall Charger

Recommendations

Make Your Home Office…Well, Yours

Besides being an efficient space to get things done, your home office should be a representation of who you are. Make it your own and add some personality to liven it up. Photos of loved ones, tchotchkes from past travels, or attractive art prints can make your home office your own corner of remote work heaven. Now, the only question is: pants or no pants?

Are there any upgrades we didn’t include that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.


Doist Home Office Contest

We’d love to add some tools to your home office.

The top entry (1) will receive the following prize:

  1. Sonos Play:1 speakers

Two other winners (2) will receive their choice between the following prizes:

  1. Google Home Mini
  2. Amazon Echo Dot

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow us on Twitter (@doist)
  2. Share a photo of your home office (no tidying necessary!) in a tweet with your top tip on staying productive while working from home.
  3. Tag us (@doist) in your tweet and include the hashtag #myremoteoffice.

That’s all! This contest is open internationally. The submission window closes on March 15 at 11:59PM PT. Best of luck!