It’s still pandemic-mania out there, which means like many, you’ve gone from I’ll be back in the office by Easter! to This rusty outdoor furniture I set up in my linen closet probably won’t cut it through December.
We get it—if prolonged remote work becomes the new normal, it’s probably time to invest in some high-quality gear.
The Instinct squad was working from home (WFH, if you’re hip) before it was cool. Recently, we wrote about how to work from home. Now we’re being asked what gear keeps us focused and in the work zone while at home.
You ask, we answer! We polled the team, and here are some of our favorite WFH tools.
📺 Save Your Eyes From Tiny Screen Syndrome
Almost every Instinct team member recommended investing in an external display. There are a few good reasons for this:
- Having an external screen prevents laptop hunch and eye strain.
- It defines the workspace (instead of plopping on the sofa).
- Studies show that dual monitors can increase overall productivity by as much as 52%.
My personal preference is a HD 27-inch monitor with 1440-pixel resolution. I’m a big fan of this Dell model, which starts at $299 on Amazon. It’s big enough that text is always readable, but small enough that it’s still affordable. Plus, it offers the resolution of a larger display.
Here are a few more displays that the Instinct team recommends:
- For the constant multitasker with a dedicated work space: Caleb and Joy recommended this game-changing 34-inch curved monitor, which is currently on sale if you buy directly from Dell.
- For a basic upgrade without too many frills: Try this 24-inch Dell monitor that starts at $199 at Best Buy. Stacy, our director of business development, gives Instinct demos on this monitor every day. She says it’s easy to hook up, the screen angle is adjustable, and it works great for most office work.
- For the dinner table office that gets put away at 5 pm: Colleen and Steve love this 15.6-inch portable monitor. It’s super sleek, travels well, and is helpful if you like to move around throughout the day. It starts at $99 on Amazon.
🎧 Good Headphones Are a Must
Wherever you’re working, you’ve probably run into one or more of these classic distractions: children, spouses, animals, the neighbor mowing his lawn for the tenth time this week, a roommate doing a Zumba class while you’re on a call.
A good pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones is key to a productive, enjoyable work day at home. And since looking for a good pair of headphones can take you down a long—and expensive—rabbit hole, we’ll keep this short and sweet.
Here’s what to look for in a good pair of headphones:
- Active noise-cancellation features
- Comfort (look into both in-ear and over-ear styles)
- Bluetooth connection capability (no wires!)
Here are the Instinct team’s top picks:
- Sony WH1000XM3 Over-Ear Headphones | $349 | Comfortable, wireless, and one of the best options for noise cancellation. Includes a built-in microphone and Alexa voice control. (This is a team favorite—several of us have this pair.)
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Over-Ear Headphones | On sale for $299 | Comfortable, wireless, and includes active noise cancellation (but the built-in microphone leaves something to be desired).
- Samsung Galaxy Wireless Earbuds | $149 | High-quality sound and built-in microphone for improved call quality. Caleb considers these a great alternative to Apple AirPods.
🎥 Look Your Best on Video Calls
Most laptops come with relatively decent webcams, thankfully. However, if your laptop doesn’t (or if you use an external display), you’ll want a webcam.
Admittedly, you could just keep your video off forever, but we’d recommend against that. It’s always recommended to connect with your team in a way where you can see each other’s expressions and pick up on nonverbal cues.
When looking for a webcam, avoid anything less than 1080p. Bonus if you find one with auto-focus features to keep you looking sharp! We’ve found that Logitech makes some of the best webcams, like the C920 HD Pro Webcam, which you can get for about $80 (when it's in stock—these days, webcams are harder to find than toilet paper).
🎙 Make Your Voice Heard
Want to avoid being the Can you hear me now? participant on your calls?
Most laptops have subpar built-in microphones that pick up way too much background noise. Plus, video calls often make your computer work extra hard. That makes the fans spin faster to keep your computer cool, and your laptop microphone will pick up the added noise. Who wants to sound like they’re working in a wind tunnel?
Some people recommend a headset to solve this issue, especially if you’re also trying to block out background noise. This is a great option for video and audio call users. But if you do anything more, such as recording audio or videos, we’d steer you away from that option. Headsets make you look dorky but also won’t be much of a sound upgrade from your built-in microphone.
🪑 Sit or Stand? Chairs, Desk Risers, & Mats
A good chair—or the right standing desk setup—can make or break your home workspace (and your back). You’ve probably seen the studies that attribute our myriad joint, muscle, and back problems to bad posture and poor support. So this is probably the most important gear recommendation we’ll make: an ergonomic chair and/or a standing desk setup, complete with a squishy mat.
Our Favorite Picks for Sitting
HermanMiller makes some of the best ergonomic chairs available, albeit at a higher price point (ie, starting at $1,395). If that’s (understandably) more than you’d like to spend, the $350 ErgoChair 2 from Autonomous is one of the best ergonomic chairs we’ve tried, at a more affordable price. In the long-lasting-but-nothing-fancy category, it's hard to beat IKEA. Mickael and Caleb recommend the MARKUS chair ($229) or the FLINTAN chair ($79).
If you’re looking for something that puts the ‘fun’ in functional, Courtnie, our lead project manager, recommends this exercise ball from Phyllexi ($20 on Amazon)—for those times when you’re stressed out and a good bounce is all you need to loosen up a bit.
If You’d Rather Stand
We’re an office divided on this topic. Some of us love them! Others won’t stand for them. Regardless, the most loved standing desks share one key feature: they’re adjustable.
So if you like the idea of a standing desk but aren’t sure if you could commit to standing for the entire day, we’d recommend one of the following options:
- FITUEYES Adjustable Spring Riser Desk | $99 on Amazon | Lightweight and compact when lowered, fits on any surface and is easy to tuck away in a corner/under the bed when not in use.
- FLEXISPOT Adjustable Desk Riser | $119 on Amazon | Small enough to fit in a home office without feeling clunky and gives you the flexibility to stand or sit.
- BEKANT Motorized Sit/Stand Desk | $479 from IKEA | If you’re in the market for an actual desk (instead of a desk riser), this is Caleb’s favorite.
Pro tip! If you go the standing desk route, you’ll want to get the often-forgotten standing mat. It’s a game-changer for standing desk newbies.
🚰 Stay Hydrated, My Friends
A survey by New York Hospital and Cornell Medical Center found that 75% of its subjects were functioning in a chronic state of dehydration. Not drinking enough water can result in headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and even high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Here are some of our best tips for staying hydrated:
- Calculate your daily water needs and download a water tracker app to help you stay on track.
- Invest in a quality water bottle or double-walled thermos and refill it every time you get up from your desk.
- Keep fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs on hand (eg, lemons, limes, cucumbers, mint) to infuse your water for a kick of flavor.
Your Workspace Is More Than Its Gear
One more thing! We covered some tips in our other WFH article, but they’re worth repeating.
- 🏢 Define the workspace. If possible, find a room or space in your house where the only thing you do is work. Eat lunch, exercise, and take breaks in a different space if you can to ensure you get the mental break you need. At the end of the day, start your commute and don’t go back to ‘the office.’
- 🧹 Keep your workspace organized. Invest in some cable management, wipe down the counters, clear off the clutter. Remove anything that you don’t use for work.
- 🕚 Define your work hours. The lines between work and home get blurred easily. Sometimes that can be really nice (ever folded a load of laundry during a meeting?). But more often than not, it’s hard to stop working. We recommend setting a daily schedule that includes a shutdown routine. For me, I jot down some notes about what I worked on that day and where I need to pick up tomorrow. Then I close all the apps on my computer and walk away. It might sound silly, but it helps give your brain a predictable cue to change context, and it helps alleviate the temptation to quickly finish one more thing before unplugging for the day.
- 🏃♂️ Make time to be active. It’s so easy to be inactive when working from home. Aim to stand and move around a bit at least once an hour, and if you can, build in 30 minutes each day to go for a long walk, do a workout, or whatever else helps you reset your brain and stretch your muscles.
So there you have it, the Instinct team’s ultimate guide to upgrading your home workspace. Save your eyes with an external monitor, ensure you can be seen and heard with a good webcam and external microphone, invest in a good chair and desk setup, and drink plenty of water.
Wherever you’re working right now, we hope you’re safe, healthy, and staying hydrated. Keep up the great work! 💪