Whether you're a freelancer, you own your own business, or you're fortunate enough to work for a company that lets you work remotely, welcome to the club. Over 4.3 million employees now work remotely, and the ranks keep growing.
If that's you, you know that your setup is important, since having the right tools and technology available means being able to stay connected and productive.
Here are the eight things you need for a productive home office:
1. A laptop that balances power and portability.
One of the biggest advantages of working remotely is that you can basically work anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. It doesn't make a lot of sense, then, to be chained to a desktop computer. Instead, invest in a lightweight but powerful portable, like thenew MacBook Pro or a Microsoft Surface Pro 2.
Or, even better, get an iPad Pro and skip the laptop altogether.
2. A display big enough to multitask.
When you are working at home, it's nice to be able to work on something larger than the 13-in. display that comes standard on most popular portables. Even though Apple doesn't make them anymore, I'm a big fan of my 24-in. Cinema Display. Fortunately, there are a lot of great 4K monitors available at reasonable prices, like the LG 24-in. 4K FreeSync Monitor.
3. A keyboard and mouse that fit your hand.
Laptop keyboards and trackpads are fine if you're working in a coffee shop, but if you're going to spend some serious time working, get a good keyboard and mouse. Your wrists and hands will thank you later. I like the Apple Magic Keyboard 2 with Numeric Keypad, but there are plenty of great options available, like the Logitech Wireless Performance Combo MX800 keyboard and mouse.
4. A reliable Wi-Fi router that covers your home.
If you're going to work remotely, the last think you want is to be tethered to a wall. I'd highly recommend investing in a quality Wi-Fi router, like the Netgear Orbi system, capable of easily blanketing your home with a fast wireless connection. It's definitely not the least costly option, but if you've ever tried to host a Zoom video conference with your team over a mediocre wireless signal, you'll know that it's worth the expense.
5. A smart speaker for your desk.
Amazon's Echo and Google's Home speaker have become commonplace in homes, but they're a must in your home office. A little ambient music can help you focus and drown out the noise from other areas of your home without having to put on headphones (though you should have a good pair of those too).
At the high end, the Sonos Play:5 and Apple HomePod sound amazing but are almost overkill to leave hidden away in your office. Save those for the main living space or media room. Check out the Sonos One for something affordable that also sounds great. It comes with Alexa and supports Apple AirPlay 2.
6. An AirPrint printer.
I hate cords. I wish I never had to plug in another cord, but it doesn't seem like that's likely anytime soon. I find a glimmer of hope that at least my printer doesn't have to be physically attached to my computer, which means that instead of planting it on my desk, I can hide it away somewhere less conspicuous and more convenient.
I recently updated our printer to an HP OfficeJet Pro 6978. There's nothing fancy about it, but it does a great job, and can handle everything from two-sided printing to high-quality photos. Bonus points if you get one that also handles light copy and scanning. Apparently, they still make devices that are able to fax stuff, too, if that's your thing.
7. A quality webcam to make you look good.
If you're going to spend any amount of time in video meetings, get a good webcam. Most laptops have them embedded, but chances are the external display you add won't. The Logitech C922 Pro Stream is a favorite, though it's a little pricy and isn't 4K. Then again, I doubt that your boss will notice the difference between the HD and 4K versions of you.
8. Headphones for those "must-focus" times.
Headphones are helpful for cranking up some music without bothering everyone else. They're also great for better sound quality on video meetings. The Bose QuietComfort 35II are probably the best all-around combination of sound quality and comfort, though you'll probably look funny sporting a big pair of cans on your weekly team meeting. I'm a huge fan of the Apple AirPods 2 for daily use since they sound great, connect to basically any device, and travel well when I'm working outside of the house.