Lockdown is lifting in the UK, and businesses are slowly looking for ways to bring you all back into the office to work under one roof, even if it's just for a few days a week. It's been over a year now, but you might actually be missing the office, unless you've been building your home office to make it as efficient and cool as possible.
There's a lot of different ways to improve your home-working experience, and if you're one of those who might still need a desk and a laptop in your living room or bedroom to get the job done throughout the rest of 2021, you're going to need some help upgrading your setup.
Whether it’s a smart speaker to blast out the music and keep you motivated, a laptop stand to stop your neck from bending to see the screen, or even a plant or two to reconnect you with nature, there’s always a way to make working from home better.
There are even ways to improve your workload when commuting to and from the office, with tablets, headphones, and a flask to keep your morning brew warm on your journey - trust us, we have done our homework and found the very best gadgets and items to make living/working at home as good as it possibly can be.
Check out our top picks below.
To Work On The Go
If you're still working from home but there might be a glimmer of hope that you'll be heading back into the office soon, you might need a portable tablet to catch up on your tasks between your commute.
Some of the smallest and most powerful tablets are ideal for sneaking in an update to your spreadsheet, replying to an email or squeezing a cheeky game or two while travelling around, and prices have only gone down over the years.
Apple's iPad Mini is one of the best around for the busy worker, as it's small and light enough to fit in your backpack, but also powerful enough to keep up with the busiest of blokes.
You can get the Apple Pencil to tap away or doodle on the train, and the storage capacities are large enough to house plenty of apps, files, and music to keep you occupied all for under £400.
If you're more of an Android fan and you don't want an Apple device, Samsung has some brilliant tablets that are worth looking at.
The new Galaxy Tab S7 is a super-charged device that could probably replace your laptop, with lightning-fast speeds, a big, bight display that's designed for multitasking, and plenty of storage options.
It's much more expensive than the iPad Mini, almost double the price, but if you want a tablet that can cope with all your workload away from the office, then go for this one.
To Keep Your Phone Clean
With everyone now way more concerned with what they touch and who they interact with, you might want to protect the one thing you touch the most throughout the day: your smartphone.
You can now get a sanitiser box on Amazon that will zap your smartphone with ultraviolet rays to completely blast the bacteria and potentially damaging residue from your handset.
It’s safe to use and won’t damage your device, but just gives you peace of mind that at least your phone won’t be carrying the Covid-19 virus.
To Actually Get Some Work Done
Something your business might not have thought about when telling you to spend a year or so working from your bed is that you probably don't even have a laptop to cope with doing any work.
Now that everyone’s smartphone is almost as powerful as a laptop, most people don’t really want to invest in a powerful, expensive device, but now you might be expected to fork out for one.
If that’s the case, you really don’t need to pay through the nose for a good one, as most Chromebooks are pretty affordable and will be able to cope with any jobs you can throw at it.
This one from HP is a perfect little option to pick up for just under £200. It has a 12.5-hour battery (we hope you won’t be working that long every day), a large storage for downloading all the apps you need to keep going, and a potent processor so you won’t be waiting for it to boot up.
It also has a great display for when you just want to chill out and binge-watch some Disney+ after a hard day’s work.
If that’s too much money to spend in one go though, you can spread the costs over several months, paying £7.64 instead and still be able to use the laptop whenever you like.
Alternatively, if you have a bit more cash lying around, this Lenovo IdeaPad 1i is a solid option for £279. The 14-inch display is bright and expansive to get your work done, and it has a decent battery life and storage space for all your files.
To Keep Up Your Home Workout Routine
Did you know that three 10-minute sweats can boost your mood as effectively as one 30-minute workout? There’s always time to benefit from training.
However, with the country stockpiling fitness kit, you'll be hard-pressed to find somewhere still selling kettlebells, let alone a range that'll include the weight you're after. JAXJOX's adjustable kettlebell is the antidote — starting at 5.5kg and going up to 19kg, it's ideal if you're short on space but still keen to get a workout in.
To Drown Out Unwanted Noise
Bang & Olufsen's third-gen, wireless noise-cancelling Beoplay H9 headphones are the luxurious solution to frustrating housemates, noisy streets or anything else grinding your gears as you work your way through a 9 to 5.
The sound is deep and rich — you'll hear notes on your favourite tracks that you've never previously heard — and, if gaming is your thing, helps you unwind by immersing yourself into a new world. The materials feel luxurious and lightweight, with a comfortable headband keeping them securely in place. The ear cushion is breathable and fits your ear without being too tight.
However, if you want the very best from your home headphones, go for Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones. They offer unparalleled audio quality and excellent noise cancelling to block out the noise.
The battery life will keep up with almost four days worth of work on a single charge (30 hours), and they are lightweight and comfortable so you can keep wearing them all day.
They are on the expensive side, but they really are the best headphones on the market right now, and are well worth investing in if you spend a lot of your time listening to music at home.
To Stay Ergonomic
Now you’ve got your laptop so you can actually get your work done, it’s time to think about how to make using that laptop a little easier on your body.
One of the biggest victims of working from home is your posture, as you make the transition from an ergonomic, user-friendly desk environment, to the devilishly comfortable bed set-up.
It’s good to maintain a bit of discipline and use a desk, and if you’re going to do that, you should definitely consider picking up a keyboard and mouse to ease your problems.
Using this combo allows you to sit up straight and perpendicular to the desk edge, rather than hunched over the tiny keyboard of your laptop, and lets you set up the actual laptop screen much higher and closer to your eye-level.
This is pretty important as it relieves the stress on your neck muscles and forces your back to straighten up. Once you get used to sitting like this, you’ll feel way more comfortable and you won’t come out with a crooked spine when the lockdown finishes.
To Look After Your Neck
As we just mentioned, it’s also really beneficial to raise the laptop to roughly your eye-level when working in a sub-optimal environment.
Investing in a stand not only achieves this and makes looking at your screen much easier on your body, it’s also kind to your computer, as it allows the fan to blow away the hot air from underneath the device.
This might not sound important, but it's way better than getting boiling hot legs by putting it on your lap, and it will improve the overall performance of the laptop, as it won’t have to divert power to the fan to keep it from overheating.
This particular one is a good option, as it is capable of supporting a wide range of laptop sizes and it’s pretty sturdy and durable without blowing a hole in your budget.
To Keep Your Brew Warm
When you start to work from home, different problems arise that you never thought you’d have to deal with, like being so engrossed in your work (or that’s what you tell your boss anyway) that you forget all about that cup of tea you made 45 minutes ago.
Nothing can ruin your motivation to work like a chilly cuppa, so you might want to think about picking up a thermos flask to make sure that never happens again.
This one on Amazon is amazing as it can keep your drinks hot or cold for up to 24 hours (though we don’t recommend letting a cup of tea sit stewing for a whole day).
This is also a great way to keep topped up on food, as you can make a big batch of soup and have sustenance throughout the day, without having to reheat it or keep it on the hob for hours.
Amazon is also offering a ridiculous 50-year guarantee on this flask, but 'lockdown' won't last that long, right?
To Look After Your Phone
We talked about raising your laptop to make it easier to look at, but what about our phones? It’s incredible how often you bend your neck to look down at your phone screen, and you might not realise how much easier it is to have your phone higher up and closer to your eyes.
This stand is capable of holding most of the modern smartphones available on the market, and even has a little notch at the bottom of the stand to allow you to run a charging cable through to keep your phone topped up.
To Keep Your Eyes From Straining
We don’t know how often you’ll be burning the midnight oil over the next few weeks, but we cannot understate how important it is to look after your eyes when working in low-light conditions.
This lamp is on the expensive side, but has a few cool features to justify the price.
It can be connected to Amazon Alexa devices, so you can use your voice to turn it on and off, which is exactly as cool as it sounds. You can set up timers for the lamp to stay on with voice commands and even control the brightness without having to touch it.
It also charges up your phone, as it doubles up as a wireless charger. Simply place your phone on the base (if it is wireless-charging enabled of course) and keep the juice flowing. And if your phone doesn’t have wireless charging capabilities, there’s a fast-charging USB port in the back of the lamp so you can recharge that way.
The lamp itself also looks after your eyes to stop you straining your muscles and ending this lockdown with a face full of wrinkles, with a wide range of different lighting modes for all uses.
To Give You Green Fingers
We know you might not spend much of your time in your home study or living room (you probably spent most of your time in the gym or at work before the crisis hit), so it was probably easier to not decorate your home office with a few creature comforts.
However, having a bit of greenery in the room can have a number of benefits, including greater oxygen circulation, a brighter looking room to improve motivation and mental health, and something to actually look after other than yourself.
And to be honest, no plant will ever be easier to look after when you put it in this self-watering plant pot, which takes all the stress out of indoor gardening.
The plant knows best how to look after itself, and this clever bit of kit will allow whatever plant you choose to draw water out of the filtration system on its own, whenever it needs it, removing the need for a middle man: you.
It’s easy to clean and fully recyclable, so you can switch up your bushes at any point. The pot itself is also pretty stylish and won’t look out of place in your home office at all.
To Keep The Music Going
The truly amazing thing about working from home is that there’s no rules to having your own music on - unless you have housemates who’d rather you didn’t blast out the tunes.
If, however, you’re lucky enough to have free reign over the noisiness of the work environment, then the Amazon Echo smart speaker is a perfect option to keep you motivated.
Use Alexa to change the track, raise or lower the volume, and even get regular news updates, just by using your voice, so you can place the speaker wherever you like.
You can connect the speaker to your phone so you can play music through your streaming service of choice, though Amazon currently has a deal on their Music Streaming Service to get you a three-month subscription for 99p, which is a pretty spicy offer for music lovers.
To Unwind After Work
And finally, all that working from home can be pretty exhausting, and you’re going to want something fun and engaging to do to reward yourself once you’re done.
With gyms closed down and most of the country restricted to just one outdoor activity a day, you’re going to need something to keep yourself preoccupied in the evenings and on your lunch break, and the Nintendo Switch is the perfect choice.
Small, lightweight, and boasting a large library of excellent games, the Switch is a great little console to let you unwind and relax anywhere in your home away from the TV.
To Keep Track Of The Time
Perhaps not a bit of gear that is “essential” in your home office, a smartwatch can have it’s uses to make life at home a bit easier.
Some of the best smartwatches, including the new Apple Watch SE, will give you periodic reminders to stand up and get active throughout the day. Studies show that moving around throughout every hour and stretching your muscles or doing some form of activity can have an amazing impact on wellbeing.
We know you’re most definitely not just clock-watching when you’re working from home, but a fancy smartwatch is
And when you’re finished with work and you head out for your run or cycle, and it will track your progress, posting your exercise on a calendar so you can stay on target to reach your fitness goals.
To Protect Your Posture
You might have grumbled at how uncomfortable the chairs at your office were, but at least they had your spine in mind. Ergonomic chairs are rarely found at home, so investing in a good one for your home office is a great way to stop those nasty back aches.
You might be looking for office chairs, but the odd thing is that gaming chairs are sometimes cheaper and more comfortable, so long as you can put up with the flashy colours and logos.
This particular one is a little over £100 right now and has padded armrests and a curved back to help you sit up right at your desk. It’s designed for gamers who spend hours at their PC, so will easily cope with your average 9-5 working day no problem.
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