Since the start of the pandemic, we at the Strategist have been hyperfocused on home-office setups of all sorts — sussing out supportive, ergonomically designed office chairs, actually nice-looking small-space desks, and structural lamps (that happen to provide flattering Zoom lighting). And since it has become increasingly clear over the past few months that working remotely, at least some of the time, will be part of many office workers’ new normal, we decided to consider all those many hundreds of home-office items recommended to us by chiropractors, interior designers, CEOs, and other experts and organize them by price and workstation — whether you’re looking to revamp a 500-square-foot study or merely make your couch-and-a-coffee-table setup more ergonomically aligned.
An Under-$50 Go-Anywhere Workstation
Chiropractor Cariann Paul says if you can only afford one upgrade to your workspace, it should be a laptop riser that brings your screen to eye level. “If you’re constantly looking down, you’re going to develop really bad posture,” she says. You’re putting a lot of stress on the anterior muscles of the neck, which are not meant to support your head in that position.” A laptop stand brings things into alignment (Paul says to follow the “rule of 90,” meaning your hips, knees, and elbows should all be bent at 90 degrees when you sit) to help you avoid neck pain and tension headaches. For one that’s easy to tote from room to room or even to a coffee shop or backyard, Sarah Weingust, founder and CEO of travel company HostelPass, recommends the lightweight and foldable Moft stand with two height settings. Although it’s tiny, Weingust says the stand doesn’t budge even when she’s “typing up a storm.”
A valet tray is a convenient way — whether you’re sitting at a floater desk, a hotel, or a coffee shop — to make sure you have a spot to keep your phone, headphones, and whatever other miscellany you accumulate while working. This one — from A24 — is light, sturdy, and just big enough to hold the contents of your pockets.
These Prismacolor pens are technically markers, which is what freelance photographer Raquel Hendriksen says makes them so great. “They do not smudge or bleed through paper, and they make my handwriting look easygoing and legible,” she says.
A $60 Couch-Friendly Setup
If you’re not working at a desk with built-in storage, this filing box is useful for keeping papers or notebooks organized and away from the coffee table. Interior designer Alex Kalita of Common Bond Design uses hers to store photos and fabric swatches and calls the piece a “workhorse” that has “stood the test of time.”
An Under-$250 Small-Space Workstation
For clients who don’t have the space for a full home office, interior designer Christopher Stevens, founder of Tipper Studio, says he’s been “focusing on small discreet writing tables that read less like a desk and can do double duty as an entry console or sofa table.” These also give you the option to shift the desk’s function if you end up going back to the office full-time. This affordable pick from Ikea is one of his favorites. “It’s super-simple, has a bit of storage, and has a relatively shallow depth of 19 inches that makes it easy to place,” he says.
As Hendriksen says, “Finding a desk chair that isn’t hideous is hard” — and especially important when your “office” is just a corner of your living room or studio apartment. She chose this modern (and surprisingly affordable) dining chair that won’t be out of place among the rest of her décor.
[Editor’s note: These chairs require a minimum purchase of two and ship in five weeks. If you only need one chair, there are plenty of other Eames look-alikes available, like this one at Overstock for $95.]
Since you won’t be getting much postural support from your chair, a footrest can at least ensure your lower body is positioned properly. When your feet don’t reach the floor when you sit, it puts extra pressure on the sciatic nerve, which extends down from the lower back and branches out to the back of each leg. Paul likes this footrest, which helps you maintain those 90-degree bends in your knees and hips.
An Under-$500 Dining Room Desk (for Standing or Sitting)
“Our bodies are like clay,” says chiropractor Rudy Gehrman, explaining that if we stay in one position over an extended period of time, our muscles will start to default into that shape. Sitting at a desk all day, for example, might cause you to hunch your shoulders and jut your head forward even when you get up — and leave you with neck and back pain. To break the pattern, he recommends alternating your working time between sitting and standing with an adjustable standing desk. Both he and fellow chiropractor Jan Lefkowitz suggest this stand, which lets you easily transition back and forth during the day. “It’s spring assisted which makes it easy to adjust without hurting your back,” says Lefkowitz. When it’s time to clear the table for dinner, you can easily fold it down and move it out of sight.
Once you raise your laptop to eye level, you’ll probably find that the built-in keyboard and mouse are now too high to use comfortably. “When it comes to our wrists, we want them to be neutral so they aren’t in a position of stress,” says Paul, reminding us of the importance of a 90-degree bend at the elbows. Switch to a wireless keyboard like this one, which Paul likes because it’s more spacious than a typical laptop-sized one. ”A smaller keyboard tends to force us to close our chest, making it easier to round our backs, which can increase back and shoulder pain,” she says. “A split keyboard allows us to have a more open and neutral configuration by keeping our arms properly aligned.”
Although vertical mouses are a little strange-looking, several experts, including Paul, recommend them because they keep the wrist in a neutral “handshake” position, unlike the typical style that forces it to twist down. This mouse comes in both right- and left-handed versions and is a favorite of Alice Holland, a physical therapist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy, who likes that it “allows the hand to be rotated to a comfortable angle.”
If you’d rather not replace one of your dining room chairs, consider this posture-correcting seat that Lefkowitz recommends. “It keeps the pelvis in a forward tilt when you sit,” he says. “Most people, if their core is weak, will allow their pelvis to tilt backward and they go into a slouched position. This increases pressure on the lower back and also sets off a chain reaction that leads to a forward head posture and rounded shoulders.” And when company comes over for dinner, you can easily tuck this away to hide your office.
This affordable nickel-plated task lamp from IKEA is a favorite of Architect Páll Hjaltason, the owner and founder of Plús Arkitektar. He likes that the design is “generic” and that its adjustable arm allows you to direct the glow as you please. “I bought a lot of them for my growing studio, so they’re everywhere.”
An Under-$1,000 Full Room Redesign
In an ideal world, you’d have your office custom-designed with built-in storage that perfectly fits your needs — like with the designer-favorite modular Vitsoe shelving system that Pink Essay creative-studio founder David Eardley calls “the epitome of simple, ageless organizational design.” Unfortunately, that would eat up most of all but the biggest of budgets. This wall desk with attached shelves mimics the style at a fraction of the cost. It’s a space-saving favorite of designer Pramiti Bhargava of BlueGrape Staging. By utilizing wall space, the desk “clears up floor space and gives you a spot for all your files,” she says.
Of course, you’ll also want something to raise up your laptop. This aluminum stand, recommended by chiropractor David Perna, matches the industrial style of the desk. Perna says his practice has been “seeing an increase in neck pain because, even on a desk, a laptop screen is often too low to look at all day.”
“An ergonomic chair is the most important item a person can purchase when focusing on improving their work-from-home setup,” says chiropractor Randi Jaffe. For improving your posture and decreasing pain throughout the day, she recommends this chair, which is adjustable at seven points for personalized comfort.
Make a comfortable chair even more comfortable — and better for your spinal health —with this U-shaped cushion, which Jaffe says would be a smart addition to any chair. “It immediately improves posture, decreases pressure on the hips and lower back, and aids in preventing fatigue,” she says. “It also helps to promote healthy weight distribution, thus decreasing pain and discomfort.”
A dedicated desk opens up space for a structural lamp like this adjustable one that Stevens loves. You can tilt it to adjust the angle to either focus on your desk or maximize your Zoom lighting and dim it when you want a softer look.
[Editor’s note: This table light has an expected delivery date of December 14, 2021.]
“We see messy office spaces all the time with papers everywhere, wires tangled, and even little things like paper clips and pens strewn about,” says Bhargava. To keep everything under control, she suggests this sleek desk organizer.
If you’d rather keep your desktop clean, Eardley suggests a pegboard that has room for all the supplies you regularly reach for. “You can’t go wrong with a pegboard,” he says. “They’re a more-customizable and more-design-conscious alternative to a floating wall shelf, adding a bit more personality to a space.”
A Fully Furnished Study for Under $5,000
If you’re going to splurge on one piece of furniture, make it the chair you’ll be sitting in for at least eight hours each day. Herman Miller office chairs are popular among both chiropractors and design-minded folk, and Paul says the Embody model is “the holy grail of all the chairs” if you’re looking for the best possible ergonomics. Shaped to model a spine, the Embody was designed in collaboration with 30 physicians and biomechanical experts. And the seat and armrests are totally adjustable for a perfect fit.
A serious chair deserves a handsome desk like this solid oak-and-steel design from Los Angeles–based studio Croft House. “Its lines are strong and minimal, and it’s beautifully handcrafted,” says interior designer Jenny J. Norris. “I appreciate pieces that mix finishes, and the combination of oak and steel on this desk is stunning.”
Hendriksen says this lamp from Danish company Hay is “the perfect size for a desk and very sleek. The cord situation on it isn’t crazy either.”
If you have the room for a set of drawers, go with an unexpected vintage style like this one that opens up in all directions. It’s the one thing actress Grace Dougherty wishes she could add to her office, mainly to help with staying organized. “When I’m doing research for writing, I tend to have papers all over the place,” she says.
[Editor’s note: This vintage stacking drawer set is sold out, but keep an eye out for it (or drawers like it) on secondhand sites like eBay and Etsy. If your style is more retro than vintage, you can get the in-stock Kartell’s Componibili Storage Unit for $200.]
With a generous budget, McCall Dulkys of Interiors By McCall says to “spring for a chic organizational set” that corrals both physical objects and visual clutter with a uniform look. “Having a well-organized workspace will instantly make it feel more official and less chaotic,” she says.
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