So you think your ready to work from home? This might not be so simple as those who have been forced to work from their coffee table for the past 2 years can attest. COVID-19 does have some silver linings including opening the door for more remote or hybrid work. However long this lasts is anyone’s guess, but for those planning on starting a career from your home, create a plan of necessities now! They are simple and most won’t break even the tightest of budgets.
When I first started to work from home I had little idea of what comforts would be beneficial and which would be wasteful. Many of my friends went to great lengths ensuring their offices were just as if they were working out of the central business district. They spent tons of money on furniture, area rugs, paintings, large screen TVs, and so on. For me, I went thrifty, utilizing an existing inexpensive chair, retrofitted a cheap composite desk to suite my needs, bought a printer/scanner and was on my way. Yes, it was not as pretty as my friends, but they spent a load of cash and lost bedrooms in the process.
The first results were not quite as simple as I make it seem and as anyone who has experience during the pandemic, working from home can be really difficult, even painful. Below are the MUST HAVE items that I discovered and hope they will help you avoid damaged floors, back pain and embarrassing Zoom calls!
Chairs and Wheels
Your chair is a super important component to your home setup but it goes way beyond comfort. Buying a chair is a difficult and pricey process and most likely, you will never be able to test it out before pulling the trigger. For some reason, office furniture is lumped into the same category as holidays, wedding and other over-charged products. However, I will leave the chair buying process to you and my advice is to NOT go all-in. I elected to take an older office chair I had for years, devoid of all any bells and whistles and added some cheap add-ons that have since paid me back many times over.
The first purchase was to save my hardwood floors which were being torn up by the cheap plastic wheels that came with it. Every roll on the floor seemed like a new wear mark on my recently installed white maple floors. Knowing I needed to act, I immediately assumed I would be forced to throw down some hideous plastic mat on the floor. However, after digging a little, I came upon a easy solution. The wheels on almost all office chairs are replaceable and with a universal fit I decided to try these AXL Rollerblade Caster Wheels which at the time, were $24.99 yet as if defying economic pandemic laws, are now only $19.99. I had no idea what to expect but was blown away by the product. 3 years and still going strong, these supper durable and cushioned rubber wheels have me gliding silently and effortlessly. They even made the office chair a popular entertainer during my daughters play dates!
The next chair upgrade after saving my floors was to save my back. There was no lumbar support whatsoever and sitting for hours in the chair became nearly impossible. To conquer this distraction, I took a chance on keeping my low quality chair and added an Everlasting Comfort lumbar support pillow. I did my usual reviews using other peoples reviews and with the seemingly honest positive feedback, the simplistic style and $35 price tag won me over. The jet black pillow serves it purpose extremely well and looks as if it were part of the original chair. On a side note, you might want to research some chair sitting etiquette if your feeling pain in your back while sitting. One of my mistakes was not putting both feet flat on the floor!
Everlasting Comfort also makes a great cushion for your butt that will further enhance any inexpensive chair your using. The memory foam seat cushion is comfortably and the style is unobtrusive. It retails on Amazon in many different colors for around $50 and allows you to still sit with some luxury without spending $700 on a new chair.
If you do need a new chair, start with this Formax model which is priced ridiculously low right now. At less than $50, you won’t feel any sense of post-Christmas shopping guilt. Once you add on the above accessories, your chair will resemble far pricier options. One note, it does not recline and you should add better wheels such as the ones listed previously. I have seen this chairs price fluctuate so look out for deals that can hover closer to $30!
You can go a sexier and far more expensive route by purchasing air pods or other high end Bluetooth headphones, but the Sony WI-XB 400 does everything you need for less than $30. The very lightweight, quick charging headset is hardly noticeable while in use and easy to wear around your neck with the convenient magnets. I have air pods and love them for the quality but purchased the WI-XB 400 when I kept losing an air pod because of the discomfort of leaving them in my my ear all day. Best yet, you don’t have to look like your filming a YouTube video with a clunky over-the-ear headset.
Now if you do have a little room in your budget, I believe that both 2nd and 2rd generation Apple AirPods are well worth the money. You know what your getting with Apple which is very user friendly, high quality gear and the AirPods are no different. Crystal clear audio/microphone, intuitive hands free features like hands free answering, texting and also great features that allow you to skip songs, etc., with a tap of the finger. 2nd generation AirPods can come in around $100 and the 3rd generation AirPods costing $170. I use the 2nd generation and find them beyond satisfactory with great battery life, durability and a charging case that seemingly last forever.
Its no secret that the world needs a universal plug that will power every device. However, until that day comes, you need to organize yourself as best as possible. Try using the BEVA Power Strip Tower and surge protector which will provide you 9 standard AC outlets and 4 USB ports. I like it mostly because it sits on my desk behind my monitor where I can access if needed but not lose space. The 6 foot cord is plenty for most and comes in at $26 on Amazon. A 10′ cord version is available as well if your primary outlet is too far away.
If you lack desk space or prefer wall mounted power supplies, this 6 outlet, 3USB port surge protector will conveniently add necessary power to your home office. The low profile design will sit tight to your wall and even comes with a phone platform at the top that will keep you from looking where you left our charging phone. This $17 option comes in black and white versions.
Regardless of what material your desk is, your better off protecting it from the start. Your home office is by definition in your home and your will treat as such. This means snacks, coffee, clutter and everything else that could potential destroy your work area. I have a rule, no clutter on my pad! In order to achieve this internal compromise, I purchased a simple non-slip desk pad that doubled as a mouse pad and my default “no clutter” boundary. Beyond protecting the white painted surface of my desk, it made for comfortable handwriting and added a sense of sophistication to my work area, all for $14!
Home Office Software Suite
Nearly every home office or remote worker needs the basic software essentials. This includes word processing, spreadsheet, email, PDF editor and so on. If your working remotely, you will probably have the luxury of using your parent companies license for some of the pricier options. However for the home office entrepreneur, this is not the case. Mobi Systems’ OfficeSuite is a well-know alternative throughout the world and only recently being recognized in the US. At less than half of Microsoft Office, this all inclusive package provides compatibility with all the major file formats and its cloud storage merges seamlessly with Google Drive, etc. Saving money is great but using free software as provided by Google and others is risky and you should be weary of your privacy. I wrote a more in depth review in my article Home Office Software that Won’t Break Your Budget.
Happy New Year to everyone and lets hope these pointers will make your 2022 home office life a little easier!