The Remote Work Buyer's Guide


Fred Perrotta

Most office workers picture working remotely as sitting on the couch in your pajamas with your laptop on your lap. Not so. Just because you aren't in a traditional office doesn't mean that your work environment doesn't matter.

Working remotely requires learning new routines and techniques for focus and productivity. Like the mental aspects of remote work, your physical space matters too.

If you work from a cafe, you may be limited to your laptop and a charger. But if you work from a coworking space, rented office, or from home, you can create a workspace where you are comfortable and productive.

This post breaks down all of the tools I use in my home office or at my favorite coworking space, Impact Hub Oakland.

Tech

Computer: After retiring a 6-year-old Macbook Pro that sounded like a lawnmower, I bought a 13" Macbook Air (from $999) a few years ago. The Air has plenty of power for any work I need to do and is thin and light enough to carry around between workspaces or when traveling.

In my home office and the coworking space, I use an external keyboard and mouse so that I can elevate my laptop for better ergonomics.

Keyboard: The Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch K811 Keyboard ($75) was a Wirecutter pick. This keyboard is small, light, and connects via Bluetooth. The "Y" key is about to fall off after two years of heavy usage, so I'll reassess this pick when I replace the keyboard.

Mouse: The Logitech M705 Wireless Marathon Mouse ($21) was also a Wirecutter pick. This mouse connects via Logitech's USB dongle, so you have to remember to always leave it plugged into your computer if you'll be bringing your mouse along. I'd prefer a larger, Bluetooth-compatible mouse like the Logitech MX Master ($60). However, I had problems keeping it paired to my laptop and had to return it.

Phone: iPhone. Duh. I have a 6S but might upgrade to the X this fall.

Backup battery: I remember seeing everyone in Asia carrying these batteries before they were ubiquitous in the US. I finally bought one for those travel and work days when I'm using my phone a lot but never in one place long enough to charge it. The AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank works well and is shaped like an iPhone for easy carry.

Desk

Standing desk: When I moved from San Francisco to Oakland, I went from a tiny studio to a two-bedroom apartment. The second bedroom is my office. With my new-found space, I decided to splurge on a standing desk after lusting after one for years. The Jarvis Adjustable Standing Desk (from $470) has been excellent. The desk has a motorized height adjustment, and you can save the settings for your preferred standing or sitting heights. The best standing desks are expensive, but I can't live without mine now.

Just remember to get a standing mat. I have this one ($80) but hope to upgrade to the Ergodriven Topo ($120) in the future.

At home, I use an external monitor as my main monitor, and my laptop, elevated on a stand, as a secondary monitor. At the coworking space or on the road, I just use the laptop on a stand.

Monitor: I have the Dell Ultrasharp U2415 24" Monitor ($245), which I bought after my previous Samsung monitor refused to stay on. It's a monitor. It works and looks fine to my not-very-discerning eye.

Monitor arm: In case you couldn't tell from the standing desk, ergonomics are important to me. I don't want work to cripple me by age 40. Rather than tilting my head down all day, I bought the Ergotron LX Desk Mount Arm ($160). I switched from another arm to this "tall pole" one so that I could get the monitor up higher. I'm 6'1", so anyone over 6' tall should consider the taller pole arm.

Laptop stands: At home, I use the Rain Design iLevel 2 Adjustable Height Notebook Stand ($65) to elevate my laptop.

When traveling or coworking, I use the Roost Stand ($75) because it folds up and is easily portable. Every other time I use the coworking space, someone asks me what it is and where I got it. You've been warned. Not hunching over your laptop may cause others to interrupt you at work.

Other

Backpack: From the earliest samples, I've been carrying the Homebase Backpack as my commuter bag (as well as my luggage). We developed this bag for digital nomads and light packers. When I travel, that's me.

When I'm at home, I still use the Homebase because it's light (2.3 lbs) and designed to carry both work stuff and clothing. For me, that's my laptop, Roost stand, keyboard, and mouse along with my gym clothes.

If we ever build a smaller, but still fully featured backpack, I'll downsize for non-travel situations.

Headphones: I've gone through a lot of Apple earbuds and a variety of exercise headphones, but the Sony MDRV6 Headphones ($85) have lasted for years. These overear headphones are excellent for the office, because of their sound quality, but bad for travel due to their size.

The Monoprice Large-Driver Earbuds Headphones ($10) are the perfect budget choice. Mine even survived the washing machine. Hat tip to Garrett for the recommendation. Everyone loves Apple's AirPods ($160), but I haven't made the leap yet.

Printers: The Brother HL-L2340DW ($85) is fast, cheap, and wireless.

If you do much shipping, get a DYMO LabelWriter 4XL Thermal Label Printer ($165). This shipping label printer is expensive but worthwhile. Get the printer and a Stamps.com (USPS) account. I use this combo for labeling shipments and scheduling pickups at my apartment. How much is not going to the post office worth to you?

For More

For more suggestions, check out the Wirecutter's guides to home office furniture and supplies and home office tech and apps as well as the Packsmith guide to a portable office.