I’ve been working remotely for almost a year now. And I’m not going to lie—it’s been tough.
Early on, I felt like I was floundering. I wasn’t prepared for all the distractions that working from home entailed, so I fell into all the traps:
- The “I’ll just watch one episode of my show first” trap
- The “I’ll sleep in just this once” trap
- The “I’ll treat myself to a wine with lunch” trap
- The “I’ll have a nap at lunchtime and work later tonight” trap
- The “I should run my errands now because efficiency” trap
Now that I’ve fallen into a more predictable routine, and I’m actually getting my work done on a daily basis, I’ve figured out a few things.
- If it’s not acceptable in the office, it’s not acceptable in the home office
- Wine is not an acceptable coffee substitute
- There are 11 items that make my work life better
And it means that I have 11 Must-Have home office items to share with you. Here they are.
1. Good Quality Headphones
I struggle to work and listen to songs or podcasts at the same time. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to one study, listening to songs with lyrics destroys your productivity.
But a little white noise or a 3-hour Disney piano medley keeps my work-brain firing and my focus laser-sharp for longer. If you’re struggling to concentrate on that financial report for more than 15 minutes at a time, invest in better headphones and some tried-and-true focus music.
Pick up a set of Bluetooth headphones with built-in microphones for video conferencing on the fly. You’ll still need to find a quiet space for your meeting (since your team will all hear your background noise) but your voice will come across much clearer for everyone who tunes in.
2. A Calendar
This may seem counter-intuitive in my effort to embrace the digital world. But seriously, nothing beats a basic paper calendar for efficiency and productivity. It sits on the wall right in front of me, I scribble all my scheduled Zoom calls on it, I make notes on it, and I use it to track follow-up for my teams.
Plus, it’s a lot easier to look at that bright calendar hanging on the wall when I’ve got a colleague on the phone trying to schedule a meeting. No switching between apps and hoping I don’t accidentally drop the call.
3. A Laptop Stand
Full disclosure: these aren’t cute. They’re intrusive when you’re not actually sitting a laptop on them and even though the white one I ordered on Amazon technically matches my white and wood aesthetic—this thing stands out.
But what it lacks in beauty and streamlining, it makes up for in pure functionality. I can adjust my laptop to the right height for me, and eliminate back and neck strain. My posture has improved, which has a flow-on effect for my concentration, circulation, and how much better I feel at the end of the day.
Also, y’know, it stops my laptop from overheating and burning my lap.
If you work in a lot of different spots around your home, consider a portable laptop desk instead. It’s similar to a stand, except it comes on a fully height adjustable stand with wheels so you can use it on the couch, in bed, or almost anywhere else.
4. A Coffee Maker
I am comfortable enough with you guys to admit that I am obsessed with my daily cup (or 3 cups) of joe. If you’re not a coffee lover then kudos to you—and sorry for the dud tip. But for my fellow java junkies, having a coffee maker at home can transform the remote working experience into something magical.
A French Press and some quality ground beans can be all the motivation I need to kickstart my workday.
5. A Smart Mug
Coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers tune in—a smart mug is for everyone. This nifty little gadget keeps your hot drinks hot for longer, meaning you spend less time pouring cold cups of tea down the drain after you’ve been obsessing over missing figures for 3 hours.
Me and my friends are true blue members of the coffee clique. We buy fancy gadgets like the Ember, despite the whopping (and TBH, unreasonable) pricetag. If you can’t get spousal approval for one of those, a mug warmer does the same job for less than a quarter of the price.
I’m not a green-thumbed person. Maybe you are. Fortunately, there is a plant out there for everyone. Easy-care greenery—like the gorgeous, glossy ZZ plant or the tall and willowy Sansevieria—thrives on neglect, and help keep your workspace healthy by improving the air quality.
Greenery in your work environment is also shown in studies to reduce stress and anxiety, and elevate mindfulness—all of which help improve concentration and make it easier for us to focus on the task at hand.
ZZ plants are one of the best air purifiers around. Peace lilies require slightly more TLC, but are approved by NASA to clear your air and battle mold.
7. Pretty Stationery
I’m not encouraging blatant consumerist abandon, but a pretty pen and some highlighters can go a long way to making you feel more organized and in-control in your home office.
Specific colors are linked to our various moods and emotional states. Red is linked to passion and motivation, yellow to happiness, and blue to calm. Select stationery that you like to look at, and be mindful of how it makes you feel.
8. A Window To Write On
Sketching out your To Do list is a breeze if you’ve got a whiteboard marker and an easily accessed window. Use it like a whiteboard to jot down inspiring quotes or brainstorm ideas, and wipe it down at the end of the day for the ultimate satisfaction.
No windows you can write on? You can buy a Glassboard with wheels for a mobile, transparent version of a whiteboard.
9. Mindfulness Apps
One of my (many, many) struggles with working remotely early on was time management. I’d take a “quick break” to catch up on my Netflix feed, hours would go by, and I’d end up frantically trying to close out my workload at 1:30 in the morning. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I will—the results were horrendous.
Blurring the lines between work and home can impact our mental wellness, too. If we’re struggling to create definition between personal and professional, mindfulness can help.
A mindfulness app can guide you through quick meditation practices, and bring multiple benefits to your daily routine:
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved focus
- Increased self-esteem
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased engagement
- Decreased risk of burnout—a recognized mental illness
Here’s a list of my top 3 mindfulness apps. Try them out, or explore the many other options being offered for free (or super-cheap) for iOS and Android devices.
- Headspace: guided meditation sessions and the soothing vocals of Andy Puddicombe (seriously, his voice is the audio equivalent of a back rub).
- Buddhify: 14 meditation options, including sessions you can follow while you eat, exercise, go to sleep, or while you work. It’s also got the best looking UI.
- Ten Percent Happier: It kind of speaks for itself, really. Ten Percent Happier has the added bonus of gratitude journalling and an uplifting social media functionality.
10. A Remote Desktop
There’s going to come a time when your laptop loses its mind. No matter what you do, some software, somewhere, is going to die. And when it does, you need to be ready.
Here’s where a remote desktop solution comes in. It gives someone—either your office IT guru or an independent technician—access to your desktop so they can find the problem.
Especially now, when everything out there *gestures wildly* is so unpredictable, it pays to make sure you’re covered for every eventuality.
I like TeamViewer because it’s fast, simple, and responsive, but SplashTop and RDC are also hailed as reliable, secure remote desktop solutions.
11. Home Fragrance
Smell is our strongest sense, and it has been clinically proven to influence activity in our brains—especially the areas of our brains related to emotions and learning. And scents can also improve focus, performance, and health.
- Essential oils often have anti-bacterial properties to keep germs at bay—like tea tree oil, peppermint, basil, and pine.
- Essential oils can relax us—like chamomile, lavender, and jasmine.
- Essential oils can stimulate our focus—like grapefruit, lemon, and rosemary.
Simply invest in a little oil diffuser or candle, or dab a few drops of essential oil on a pillow or wheatbag.
There you have it—my 11 must have home office items. These keep me focused and smiling, even on my most stressful days, and help me to create a productive, positive work environment from my own home.
If you struggle to find focus when you’re working out of your bedroom, just remember that you’re not alone. Get comfortable, get coffee, and get to creating a new and inspired remote office today.