Of course, the freedom of working from home comes with some tradeoffs — not only the serendipitous socialization, communication, and collaboration that comes from seeing co-workers on a regular basis, but also access to the infrastructure and office supplies and technology of the workplace. Given this shift, manufacturers across the consumer electronics industry are both releasing new products specifically designed for remote work and videoconferencing, but also repackaging existing products with highlights on the work-friendly features. With an eye toward the present and future of work, we’ve put together a list of new home office tech that will make the remote experience more productive, healthful, and enjoyable.
WorkStation: The essential tool for most remote workers is a solid computer. Obviously, this will depend largely on what an employer is willing to provide (or subsidize), but for most folks, the laptop will provide the most flexibility, especially in home environments where the “desk” can change hourly from the kitchen table to the patio to the car. The typical tradeoff in power (versus a desktop computer) is worth it for the flexibility of being able to move about the house to mix up both work environment and posture. Apple’s new MacBook Pros with M1 or M1 Max chips (depending on needs) are great choices, as is the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition for PC users (or the Acer Swift 3 for those on a tighter budget). Pair any of these with an external monitor like the Dell 24-inch Ultrasharp U2415 and you’ll have plenty of space to spread out and get comfy (digitally speaking).
Being Seen: The second-most crucial piece of technology for many is the trusty webcam, a gadget that’s been around for decades but is now getting its time to shine. Logitech has a lineup of webcams for nearly every use case, with the 922 Pro Stream being a solid all-arounder at a good price. Razer’s Kiyo VisionTek’s VTWC40 offers an excellent 1080p picture and a built-in ring light, while the Anker PowerConf C300 has an ultra-wide 115-degree field of view. For a step up, the Plantronics Poly Studio USB 4K video bar uses audio-enhancing and video-tracking algorithms to help meetings go more smoothly — particularly for those who move around a lot, or need a camera to accommodate multiple people in the room.
Audio File: A good, comfortable pair of wireless, noise-canceling headphones are handy for those never-ending Zoom calls. On the high end, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 is a perennial favorite, as is Sennheiser’s Momentum 3; both are over-the-ear models with comfy, snug fits and top-tier noise-canceling tech. For a more low-profile earbud-style, Apple’s AirPods Pro are obviously a popular choice and work particularly seamlessly with Apple products, but there are other options as well, including 1MORE’s Stylish True Wireless, the Bose QuietComfort, Panasonic RZ-S500W, or Earfun Air Pro. For those who prefer speakers to headphones in order to better hear things like kids and doorbells (for better or worse), the Presonus Eris E3.5 and Audioengine A1 are both great options that provide fantastic sound quality while occupying a relatively small footprint on your desk. Those looking to be heard loud and clear by their remote co-workers might want to check out headset options such as the JLab Talk Go, Raycon’s The Work, Cyber Acoustics HS-2000, Jabra Evolve2 75, or the JBuds Work. The Jabra Evolve2 75 is optimized for videoconferencing, with a dedicated Microsoft Teams button to activate that service as well as an LED light that indicates you’re on a call. Meanwhile, the JBuds Work allows one earcup to be removed so you can easily hear those around you, whether you’re working from home or from the office.
Staying Connected: Of course, a strong, stable Internet connection is essential for nearly everyone working remotely. The ability to move about your apartment or house is a great way to break up the workday, and to this end, a mesh network like the Orbi Mesh, Linksys Atlas Max 6E, or TP-Link Deco S4 will let you maintain great connectivity no matter where you are in your home. Likewise, a Wi-Fi 6 router like the TP-Link Archer AX50 or Linksys Hydra Pro 6E will give you the best wireless speeds your ISP is capable of, and Wi-Fi 6 has a broader connectivity range, meaning it might just cover your whole apartment (perhaps with the help of a simple Wi-Fi extender, like the TP-Link N300).
Input: When you spend most of your workday sitting at a computer, it’s nice to use comfortable, reliable input devices that work with you rather than against you. In terms of mice, Logitech once again dominates the market — from their affordable Logitech M720 Triathlon to their higher-end MX Master 3, there’s something for everyone. Keyboards are having something of a renaissance as well, with mechanical keyboards from the likes of Keychron and Das Keyboard 5QS providing the sort of klackity, mechanical keyboard experience that has come back into fashion for its tactile, satisfying feel. For those who prefer (or, for that matter, whose Zoom coworkers prefer) something quieter, the Matias Quiet Pro keyboard is an excellent option with a pleasing key-feel.
Extra Credit: Of course, there’s plenty more that can improve your work-from-home experience. A dual sitting/standing desk like the Autonomous Desk, for instance, is great for getting off your butt; the SmartDesk Connect goes even further, with three 4K UHD monitors, sit/stand functionality, wireless charging, and speakers all built into the desk — and all powered by a user’s laptop. For those looking for less of a lift (har har), minder’s Laptop Tower II stand will elevate your laptop to standing height on any desk, while Twelve South’s Curve Riser handily lifts your monitor to open up some desk space, and looks good doing so. (Purple’s Double Seat Cushion, meanwhile, can help with all that sitting.) A USB hub like the Anker PowerExpand or Cyber Acoustics DS-2000 laptop docking station (or an upgrade choice like OWC Thunderbolt Dock) make plugging into peripherals like webcams, hard drives, and multiple external monitors a breeze, while a fast external SSD like the G-Drive Pro SSD, Kingston XS2000, or the speedy OWC Envoy Pro Elektron SSD will give you more than enough disk space to grow into.
Not everyone will need everything listed here, but most of us can benefit from at least some of these sorts of upgrades. An investment in your home office environment is an investment in both your physical and mental health — and you might even be able to get your employer to pay for it.