My Unconventional Best Work-From-Home Gear Guide (What’s Yours?)

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I’m quite familiar with working from home in my tiny 78 sq. ft. “office”, but after looking at some online WFH gear guides recently, it’s all about standing desks, latest laptop models, and USB hubs. Eh? My desk is a basic folding table and my laptop is a 2015 Macbook Pro (with real scissor keyboard and real moving trackpad) that recently underwent DIY battery replacement surgery (way too complicated, Apple!).

My favorite WFH gear is different. Maybe yours is too? These are real things that I bought with my own money and I would buy them again if I had to do it all over again.

Quiet, Please! – 3M PELTOR X5A Over-the-Head Ear Muffs

I wear these every day to help me focus. They have the highest noise reduction rating (31 dB) available on the market. You even have to certify that you are using them for “professional/commercial use” (which I am while working for money, as far as I am concerned). At ~$30, they are also about $10 more expensive than other similar models, but I think the extra $10 is well spent to know you have the quietest experience possible. If you have kids running around the house, you need all the help you can get. They are “over ear”, which means they don’t put pressure on your ears and I can wear them for a relatively long time without discomfort. (I try to take regular breaks anyway.)

Budget Noise-canceling Headphones – Mpow H5 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

After a certain member of the house (ahem) stole my trusty old pair of wired Bose QC25 headphones, I decided to try out a budget pair of $50 bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones. These over-hear headphones worked out quite well and I really don’t miss the old Bose ones. I’d say they are 80% as good while under 20% the price of new Bose QC35 headphones.

Note: I do own a pair of regular Airpods, which I got as a nice gift. I do like them and use them for phone calls around the house and outside, but I use the Mpow headphones while at my desk listening to music or editing things.

Dependable Printer – Brother Monochrome Laser Printer

This thing is the workhorse of my home office, and yet also the oldest electronic item here at over 10 years old. Which is rather crazy, given that it has moving parts and is used constantly to scan PDFs, make copies, and of course print. These Brother black-and-white laser printers are like the Toyota Corollas of the printer world – cheap yet reliable. The cost per page can be very low thanks to generic toner cartridges (that link is for two of them) if you don’t mind a slight decrease in quality.

Dry Erase Whiteboard – Magnetic Dry Erase Whiteboard

Another inexpensive but important addition for a variety of reasons. Sometimes drawing it out in real space is just better than the digital alternative. This one is lightweight and thus easy to remove from the wall and move it around. You can also put up complex equations or obscure drawings and put it behind you during those Zoom and Webex meetings and impress/confuse/scare your colleagues. I like these BIC markers as they are higher quality and have finer points.

Looking around my desk, other random things that I probably like more than I should are my TI-85 calculator, classroom-grade pencil sharpener, and an ancient Swingline stapler (sadly not the red 747). The only thing that I have been thinking about upgrading is my office chair. Any suggestions?

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Comments

  1. david in oregon says:

    great minds think alike… lol.
    folding table for desk, pencil sharpener, ti-85 calculator (sadly mine is broken), brother printer, dry erase board… all things I cannot live without. Particularly the printer. I’ve gone through hp, Lexmark, epson… the brother one is without a doubt the best. I just have a basic inket wifi model. Cheap ink refills, too!

  2. Stuart J Weissman says:

    YES! I have a Brother laser printer I paid $50 (new) for that duplexes and that I have been using for well over 8 years. By using the toner saver mode, I think I am on my 6th generic toner cartridge. Before this, I was throwing out a $100 laser printer about every other year once the irreplaceable pickup rollers would stop picking up the paper.

    As for a chair recommendation, I would highly recommend the Staples Hyken.
    It can be had for under $150 when on sale and I’ve been using one for three years now and it shows no sign of wear whatsoever. Since it’s mesh, it’s extremely supportive and you don’t have to worry about any cushioning wearing out or patent/bonded leather wearing off. It has the three adjustments I find necessary in all office chairs (height/lumbar/arm rest height and distance apart(rare)) and is just rock solid hence the 7-year warranty. If you are 6′ or taller, the head rest won’t work, but I’ve never used a head rest on an office chair before. I just left it off. I liked the chair so much, my brother-in-law is working from home through the virus and he bought one and loves it too. Good luck and let us know what you decide upon.

    The other option, is to find a used Steelcase somewhere. The Criterion and Leap (and trooper about 20 years ago) are what I purchased for my office workers and they are awesomely durable chairs. If you find one reupholstered, it’s a good way to go as well.

    https://www.rework-furniture.com/brands/steelcase/ for example.
    https://www.staples.com/Staples-Hyken-Technical-Mesh-Task-Chair-Black/product_990119?akamai-feo=off

  3. Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks for your blog! I am going to get that pencil sharpener.
    Here are 2 office chairs we got one in 2017 and other just last month. Both were bought for ~$45-50. But just checked the price and they are way more now between $63-73. Looks like lot of people are buying them right now.
    2017: AmazonBasics Mid-Back Desk Office Chair with Armrests. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IIFW2L4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    2020: BestOffice Office Chair Ergonomic Desk Chair. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0147WIC7E/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    These prices beat a few from Craigslist too.

    Another favorite of mine is if you have an HP printer, have a HP Instant Ink subscription starting at free for 15 pages/month.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll take a look at those as well.

  5. Gotta have a color laser printer. Nothing else is so convenient, particularly for making color copies. Also need a standalone giant monitor, in my case a 29 inch wide display. I then put my 15 inch Dell XPS on an articulated arm stand so that I have use of both monitors or approximately the space of three conventional displays. Sometimes I even hook up my iPad Pro to work as a third screen using an app. It’s a big help to be able to drag stuff from one place to another without minimizing and resizing things all the time. Plus a wireless mouse and keyboard. The mouse even works on the iPad when it is slaved as a third Windows display. I’m in a loft above our living room with skylights above my desk. No windows to distract me but plenty of natural light.

  6. Another great post, John! I personally didn’t like highly rated Staples Hyken chair as it is rather small. I highly recommend https://www.officedepot.com/a/products/690690/WorkPro-Quantum-9000-Ergonomic-MeshNylon-Executive/?cm_mmc=PLA-_-Google-Mobile-_-Chairs_Seating-_-690690&gclsrc=aw.ds&&gclid=CjwKCAjwssD0BRBIEiwA-JP5rNQphwScrYLFL3SFaXyAnJ__PWwFq1fOMCfAQNCqZ4IaXoxdziBJrxoCUGwQAvD_BwE

    It is more expensive, but worth every penny. It goes on sale from time to time (I bought mine for $299). They also have a version without headrest which cost less.

  7. I vote for dual monitors. So much easier!!
    Staples brand easy touch stapler (one touch?)
    Plus some magneticclips to hold stuff in groups but away from the desk space.

  8. For chair the IKEA Markus is phenomenal. You could probably test-drive it once quarantine is over if you have an IKEA nearby
    https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/markus-office-chair-glose-black-robust-black-00103102/

    P.S. I got the ‘upgraded’ version of the headphones you recommended. They sound great! It came up at $30 after a $10 coupon
    https://amzn.to/2xt8Wc1

    One minor issue I found was that if I’m browsing on Safari while paired to my iPhone I would get a beep. Have you experienced anything like that?

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