If you worked in an office before the pandemic, chances are you walked out one day in March hoping to return in a couple of weeks or, at the very worst, a couple of months. But now, almost nine months later, working remotely seems destined to last at least through the winter — or even longer, given how many companies are publicly musing about pivoting to a remote-first culture. Even though many of us have now had time to adjust to working from home, converting our largely comfort-focused homes into efficient professional workspaces can still pose a challenge. To help, we sought the advice of both professionals who regularly worked from home before COVID-19 and professionals who have successfully converted their new homes into workspaces about the things they need to do so effectively (and combed through our archives for other stuff that new work-from-homers told us they’ve come to rely on for this extended moment.)
A note that while working from home almost certainly requires a computer, wireless router, and modem, for this story, we focused on all the other things you may need, from essentials like desks, chairs, and monitors to less obvious things that our sources say help one stay productive day in and day out. Read on for 59 things that will not only make working from home more productive and enjoyable, but will crucially help to keep burnout at bay, too.
To start, the folks we spoke to say you’ll need a workspace (a.k.a. a dedicated desk or table). “Research like this 2017 Harvard study shows it’s better for your mental health to keep the spaces you sleep, relax, and work in separate,” says product manager Nehemiah Blackburn, who works for his New Hampshire–based tech company remotely from his New York City home five days a week. While “working from your bed and couch may seem convenient and even more comfortable,” finance associate Daniel Kim, whose day job often requires him to continue working once he gets home, admits that, “in the long run, it puts you in the wrong mental state to get meaningful work done.”
If you are lacking a table that can function as a dedicated workspace, Elise Yeo-Donaldson, who works from home for a London–based educational-tech start-up, recommends this desk that she says is both affordable and quite user-friendly. “It’s originally an architecture table, but I use it for normal work with a laptop and notebook,” she says. “I didn’t expect how useful being able to change the angle of the desk would be, and the glass top is incredibly easy to clean.”
Three editors at the Verge told us they rely on this Jarvis standing desk at home. It comes in six sizes (starting at 30x24 inches for $549) and can be adjusted to rise between 24.5-inches tall (for sitting) and 50-inches tall (for standing). Verge deputy editor Dan Seifert, who has owned his Jarvis desk for four years, describes it as “comfortable, stable, and spacious,” while Verge news editor Nick Statt adds that assembly is “far less cumbersome than I thought it would be.”
When Kim needed to get a desk he could work from home at, he told us he was “drawn more to design” than solely function, especially because he was going to have to look at it even when he wasn’t working. While he landed on a simple desk from Muji that cost him $175 (but is currently unavailable), this even-less-expensive and equally streamlined desk comes from our list of the top-reviewed home-office desks on Amazon, where buyers raved about its minimalist look, simple set-up, and surface area. One happy shopper praised its height in particular, noting that their “desk-chair arms fit underneath without getting stuck, so I can roll around freely.”
Susan Dominus, a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, likes her Ikea desk so much that she owns two (which she has raved about on Twitter). “At some point, I decided I really wanted to work in my nice sunny bedroom,” she told us, “and there’s this little corner where only a small desk would fit.” Dominus’s exact Ikea desk is currently unavailable, but it comes from the same Micke line as this desk — which, at just 10 inches wider than hers, is still compact enough to fit in most spaces and feels just as “clean, bright, and efficient” (the three words Dominus used to describe her own desk). With two drawers, this desk also has more storage than her one-drawer desk. For more cool-people-approved small desks, head here.
If you’re less interested in finding a new desk and more invested in making it easier to work from the couch, Hannah Starke, a member of the Strategist’s social team, says this handsome contraption has allowed her work from the couch without feeling like she’s working from the couch. “It has plenty of space for my phone, coffee mug, notebook, and laptop,” she says, adding that it was “really straightforward” to assemble. “I’m just mad I didn’t get it sooner.”
Jeremy Kirkland, host of the Blamo! podcast, was another who told us that he “didn’t understand the value and importance of having a good desk until I started working from home.” Describing himself as a “laptop road warrior” before the pandemic, and always “editing at coffee shops”, Kirkland says he “now realizes my productivity in those environments was 20 percent.” The desk that got him to 100 percent, he says, is this solid-wood design from Artifox. It costs a little more than the others on this list, but Kirkland says the price is justified by the quality and craftsmanship of the wood, as well as its just right size for a “somewhat close quarters” apartment. He also likes its many thoughtful modern design details, including a hidden area at the back for cable storage and extension cords, pegs for hanging your headphones, and felt hooks that prevent your cables falling to the floor when you unplug your laptop or iPhone. “It’s so modular, with so many setups to fit the way you work,” he adds.
If you’ll be using your home workspace to do more than fire off an email or two, our sources say you might also want a proper desk chair. When a reader wrote in to us about finding the best home-office chair, we spoke to a professional about it (Marc Schwartzberg, a three-decade veteran of the office-furniture industry and the owner of Office Furniture Heaven), who told us that you should think of your office chair like you would your mattress. Specifically, it needs to be comfortable, as chances are you’re going to spend around eight hours in it every day.
This ergonomically-designed office chair comes recommended to us by Dr. Rudy Gehrman, the founder of wellness center Physio Logic. It has a supportive mesh construction, roller wheels, and the ability to adjust both the armrest and seat height. It’s also very reasonably-priced for a chair with back support, given that a different chair — Herman Miller’s Aeron chair, below — will set you back nearly $1,000.
If your home is going to be your primary office for years to come, you might consider investing in a chair that not only looks nice, but has been designed with long-term desk working in mind. The aforementioned Herman Miller Aeron Chair is the “the Ferrari of desk chairs,” according to Chris Black, and versions of it (if not the original) can be found in a wide range of offices. It’s the chair that Boyd Steemson, the work-from-home CEO of TotalRock radio, has sat on five days a week for years. “This assemblage of poly-carbon, leather and chrome is perfectly contrived to keep its occupant poised and powerful,” says Steemson, adding that the chair feels like “a hammock you can sit in, ping forward, rock backward, and scoot effortlessly over the carpet on. It’s a triumph.” It has also been recommended to us by chiropractors, who appreciate the chair’s adjustable lumbar support.
If you’re looking for a chair with a space-saving footprint that still offers some posture support, Dr. Adam Lamb of Lamb Chiropractic told us he personally sits on a stool when he works, because it because it helps him maintain good posture while improving core strength and balance. This stool comes recommended by chiropractor Dr. Randi Jaffe, who says it “makes it easy to go from sitting to standing” thanks to its adjustable seat.
This kneeling chair (which can easily be rolled under a desk at the end of a workday) has been a Strategist favorite since writer Alice Gregory told us about it back in 2017. Worried about what sitting down all day was doing to her back, Gregory picked up this chair with a design that she says “forces you to engage your core and naturally keeps your spine upright.” After using it for awhile, she continues, “your back muscles strengthen and circulation improves.”
Maybe you don’t want to replace the chair you’ve been working in, but would instead just like to make it a bit more comfortable. For that, contributor Maureen O’Connor says this inexpensive ergonomic attachment is a great way to upgrade a chair that you already own. She explains that the attachable support borrows its design from the Aeron chair, telling us that: “Before Easy Posture, at the end of the day, I felt as though I was two inches shorter than when I started. But like a classic before-and-after, now I’m standing taller and feeling great.”
Another recommendation for upgrading a chair you already own, this gel cushion is what Strategist newsletter editor Mia Leimkuhler uses to make the seat of the dining chair she works from home in more supportive. According to her, the cushion (which comes from the brand that makes one of our favorite firm-but-springy mattresses) makes it perfectly pleasant to sit “for eight hours in a chair that is not designed to be sat in for eight hours.”