11 Veteran WFH’ers Name the Single Most Important Item in Their Home Office
You’re probably new at this. These people decidedly are not.
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If the pandemic happened even a decade ago, we would have all sat at home being largely unproductive before eventually returning to a workplace that remained largely intact.
But it didn’t. It happened now, when technology has made remote work a viable — and sometimes even superior — alternative, and it’s unlikely that things will go back to “normal” for most Americans once offices are able to safely reopen.
In fact, working from home may well be the new normal for many Americans, whether on a permanent basis or a flexible, voluntary one. Sure, most companies will probably maintain offices for necessary meetings and events and employees who just plain need it, but they will also introduce new programs and policies that allow certain departments to tune in remotely in perpetuity. Since widespread COVID-19 office closure began in March, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other Silicon Valley mammoths have announced that some employees will never be expected to return to the offices they vacated.
Of course, part of this new reality is that a wide swath of Americans — possibly including you — need to learn how to actually work from home effectively on the fly. An integral part of that process? Creating a space that is conducive to work.
With that in mind, we decided to reach out to 11 folks who were working from home long before COVID entered the lexicon for the one piece of desk gear that they can’t work without. We asked them to omit necessities like wifi, computers, printers, etc., instead focusing on items that only a true pro with years of trial and error could understand the value of — but noobs like you and me can reap the benefits of immediately.
Cory Ohlendorf, Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Valet: Datexx TimeCube Plus
I’ve had a lot of experience working from home — first as a freelancer and then during various times running Valet. Unfortunately, I’m a creature of deadline, and I’m not always the best at managing my time. So when I’m at home and looking to stay on task, I use this handy little gadget. It’s basically just a timer, but instead of the one on my phone, this little cube has a tactile quality to it. And anything that keeps my phone out of my hand can only help my productivity. I flip it to the 20-minute timer and blast through a chunk of emails. I can flip to the 10-minute side for a manageable scroll through social media. When your time is up, there’s a power beep that you can’t miss (but it’s not annoyingly loud). Plus, the minimalist design is good looking enough to stay out on my desk when not in use.
Rae Witte, Freelance Journalist: Beats Studio3 Wireless
My single most important work-from-home product has become my Beats By Dre Studio3 noise-canceling headphones. I get distracted very easily, and with roommates also working from home more than normal, these have become essential for my productivity. Whether it’s putting on BadBadNotGood albums to write in my own bubble or taking phone calls with them on to drown out the neighbor’s dog barking outside my window, they really allow me to focus and knock out some work.
Jeremy Cohen, Photographer: NutriBullet Pro Exclusive
I’d say my go-to item is my NutriBullet. I don’t have a lot of structure in my life, but one thing I’ve been consistent about (especially during quarantine) is making a protein shake after every workout, usually first meal of the day. I switch up ingredients, but usually some form of combo of: protein powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, turmeric, pepper, spinach, fruits, beets, cucumbers, water.
Kaleigh Moore, Freelance Writer & Forbes Contributor: TaoTronics LED Dimmable Office Lamp
I like that it has adjustable color and intensity settings so I can adapt it to my mood and ambient lighting coming in through the windows. I like to use the warm color light when working at night as it’s soft light without the harshness.
Jessica Graves, Chief Data Officer, Sefleuria: Timeqube Classic
I thought I’d seen it all years after building an intentionally remote distributed company. But the Timeqube is hands down one of my favorite objects to visualize time. We are spatial creatures, and having many different tasks in one physical device (e.g. using a cell phone timer app instead) just doesn’t seem to cut it for cultivating focus without distraction opportunities. I use it as a physical marker to begin a task. I can use it to pace myself in meetings & online keynotes without audible interruptions. I never go over a standup or intro slot. I use it to cut off from interesting computational problems instead of getting sucked into a rabbit hole that ends up digging up some old Frank Ramsey paper. I use it to start a race to do tedious tasks, or to shortcut perfectionism. Context switching can be hard to parse from home, and this helps! It’s probably not the best idea for a meditation timer though.
Cody Min, Founder, Astronaut Monastery: Malin+Goetz Cannabis Candle
Our studio was built on a remote policy (we’ve basically never required anyone to come into a physical office), so COVID wasn’t much of a transition. That said, sitting in your apartment for a number of hours can always be a bit numbing, and especially during the first few months of intense quarantine, there wasn’t much reason to step outside. My WFH recommendation is to invest in a nice, scented candle — I’m particularly fond of Cannabis by Malin + Goetz (it actually doesn’t smell anything like weed, more of a grassy earth scent). It really helps to elevate the space and I find pleasant scent to be a powerful trigger for focus and creativity.
Jesse Neugarten, CEO/Founder, Dollar Flight Club: Felix Gray Blue Light Glasses
Working from home is great, but you definitely end up having more screen time than most. I used to get eye fatigue and headaches so I tried out these glasses to help mitigate the effect of my time using screens.
Jonathan Ball, Typographic Illustrator: Philips Hue White and Color LED Smart Button Starter Kit
It’s something I never thought I needed, but now that I have smart lighting, I’m hooked. I can set up room wake/sleep schedules and I have a wide range of color temperatures/mixes. Ask Siri to bring some daylight indoors or chill things out in the evening for late night sessions. Having the right atmosphere makes a huge impact on productivity. Also, don’t settle for the cheap brands — get Phillips.
Dave Coleman, 2D Animator and Illustrator: Hario Pour Over Starter Set
The Hario v60. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of making pour over coffee each day. Trying new beans, the fragrance as you grind, the bubble of the kettle as it boils. It’s a very tactile and cathartic experience, and I look forward to the brief respite from starting at my computer all day.
Will Dunn, Screenwriter: Roost Laptop Stand
Off the top of my head the two items that might be of interest to you would be the Roost laptop stand and Krisp. Roost is great for a more comfortable desk setup if you don’t have an external monitor. You’d also need an external keyboard and mouse to use the Roost. I use the Apple bluetooth ones. Krisp I actually don’t use so much now because I live alone and it’s pretty quiet to WFH, but I used it a lot when I was a digital nomad — it lets you take calls in noisy coffee shops by blocking out ambient noise from the call (sending and receiving audio), so it might be useful for those doing WFH with kids (or roommates) running around?
Dave Pell, Creator, NextDraft
I didn’t work from home before the pandemic, so I’m not sure I qualify. I also work from a couch while at home and the office. During the pandemic, stuck at home, the most important “products” I have are my two beagles. I position one under each elbow as I recline on my couch and type on my laptop. Not only does that turn out to provide perfect ergonomics for my workstation, it’s also nice to be with two friends who don’t seem bothered by the pandemic or the collapse of American democracy.
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