Making the switch from the office to working from home has become the new normal, but some users might feel like their setup is not as well-appointed or productive as at the office. It’s time to change that. With the proper equipment and gear, you can turn your boring-old home setup into a workstation powerhouse—ensuring you’ll never need to return to the office.
At PCWorld, we’ve had to adjust to remote work just like the rest of the world. Our staff has spent countless hours testing and reviewing hardware, which means we’ve been lucky enough to find the best gear and accessories available. Below you’ll find our favorite work-from-home essentials.
Look sharp during Zoom meetings: Logitech C920e Business Webcam
Working from home means you’ll have video meetings. Lots of them. And those low-quality webcams that ship with most laptops won’t show your brightest side. So opt for a new webcam with high-quality resolution such as the Logitech C920e Business Webcam. It captures 1080p HD resolutions, a 78-degree field of view, and comes with great perks such as autofocus and light correction.
Block out background noise to help you focus: Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones
While products from the likes of Bose and Sony are great, they are also incredibly expensive. Enter Wyze Labs. The company has created a good pair of over-ear noise-cancelling headphones for a surprisingly affordable price. While the audio quality might not be able to compete with the more expensive brands, the noise-cancelling is still top-notch. If you’re looking to block out background noise at your home office or while working in a busy café, these headphones will do the trick just fine.
Get every answer with a smart display: Google Nest Hub
Marrying Google’s ever-helpful voice assistant to a 7-inch touchscreen, the Nest Hub smart display is much more than a device to control your music playlist or play ambient white noise (though both use cases can make working from home more pleasant). You can also use the Nest Hub to run fact-checks (“When did Musk become the CEO of Twitter?”); get direct spellings of words that elude spellcheck; verify the dates of important trade shows and other events; set workday alarms and reminders; and pretty much search everything on Google hands-free, receiving both audio and video results on a separate, independent display. Once you start exploring the work-from-home benefits of a smart display, you’ll never stop.
Protect your devices with a surge protector: TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip
Many people take for granted the vulnerability of their electronic devices to power spikes. Unfortunately, after your equipment gets fried is the worst time to realize your mistake. By purchasing a surge protector, you’re only paying a little amount of money to help to ensure the safety of your much more expensive electronics. The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip goes above and beyond a normal everyday surge protector by offering six outlets that can all be controlled and scheduled individually with a mobile app or voice commands and three USB charging ports. The scheduling system is robust and allows for ultimate flexibility in choosing when to power your devices on and off automatically for any kind of routine or travel need.
Create a full-on workstation: Kensington SD5500T Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station
Mark Hachman / IDG
Your ultraportable laptop may be perfect for commuting to and from the office, but when you’re working from home you want a dedicated workstation with the ability to connect all of your peripherals. A Thunderbolt dock will help you expand your laptop’s capabilities and allow you to connect to a larger monitor and a full size keyboard. You’ll increase your productivity and your body will thank you for the ergonomic upgrade. We’ve tested a ton of Thunderbolt docks and the Kensington SD5500T is our favorite. It gives you the reliable Thunderbolt 3 standard, a pair of DisplayPort ports, and 60W of laptop charging power all for a relatively affordable price.
Or opt for a less expensive USB-C hub: YEOLIBO 9-in-1 USB-C Hub (RU9A)
If you don’t want to drop the cash on a Thunderbolt dock, you should at least consider getting a USB-C hub. Modern laptops tend to lack all of the ports you need to connect peripherals and that’s where a USB-C hub comes in. They are cheap and they allow you to significantly expand your port options. We recommend the YEOLIBO 9-in-1 USB-C Hub as it gives you a variety of USB-A as well as USB-C ports and microSD and SD card slots, all for around $25.
Clean up your act: Simplehuman Cleanstation phone sanitizer
Your phone is dirty. That’s because your hands are dirty, your keyboard is dirty, and the poop bag you handled on your 10am dog walk is dirty. All our WFH germs get on our phone cases, so that’s why our editor keeps the Simplehuman Cleanstation on his home office desk. Just drop your phone into this gadget and 30 high-intensity UV-C LED lights will kill 99.9 percent of the phone’s surface germs in less than 30 seconds.
Working from home is all about productivity, and one of the best pieces of hardware to boost productivity is a great monitor. The Asus ProArt PA348CGV is an ultrawide monitor with plenty of horizontal screen space so you can view all of your apps and documents spread out at the same time. It sports excellent image quality, a wide color gamut, and good connectivity options.
There are a ton of great monitors out there, but the Asus ProArt PA348CGV has an excellent mix of features for anyone who has basic needs but wants a premium experience.
If you’re working from home all day, you need to be comfortable and a standard mouse and keyboard just won’t cut it. Focusing on ergonomics, the Logitech Lift mouse and Keychron Q8 keyboard were built to help keep your hands and wrists in a more comfortable and less injury-prone position.
The Lift mouse can be purchased for either left or right hands and comes in a variety of colors. It’s also wireless, which helps you minimize desktop clutter. The Keychron Q8 keyboard is a bit pricey, but gives you the satisfying feel and dependability of a mechanical keyboard while the curved design allows your wrists to rest in a more natural and comfortable position while typing.
Go wireless: Logitech MK540 Advanced Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo
If you don’t want to spend big on a mouse and keyboard, you can find a more affordable alternative in the Logitech MK540 Advanced Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combo. Coming in at an affordable $50, the keyboard is surprisingly snappy and has a pleasant tactile experience without too much noise. The mouse provides smooth and reliable use and has a few programmable gestures you can set for your convenience. Both are wireless, so you can do away with all of those annoying cables cluttering your desktop.
Backup software is a must: iDrive Online Cloud Backup
Many people neglect to consider backup when working from home, but if your IT department isn’t covering you and your data, it’s something that needs to be addressed. Luckily there are relatively inexpensive services such as iDrive Online Cloud Backup that make it simple to do. iDrive is comprehensive and versatile and allows you to set up and use their backup software without any fuss. It’s a one-stop shop to help keep your valuable data safe and secure.
PDFs are a staple of any modern digital workplace, but they aren’t always the easiest to edit. There are a ton of great PDF editors out there, but Adobe Acrobat Pro DC has been, and continues to be, the reigning champ. There is no other software that combines the same features for creating, editing, reviewing, and securing your PDF documents. Plus, the subscription-based format means that you’ll always have access to the latest version and won’t need to continually buy new software every year.
To save space on your desk and reduce eye-strain there is no better option than a screenbar. When BenQ debuted its ScreenBar it had us wondering why no one had thought of this before—it’s an extremely practical solution to a very modern problem. It’ll save you desk space and keep you from going cross-eyed from squinting through the reflections on your monitor all day. Admittedly, it’s a bit pricey, but your eyes will thank you in the long run.
If you don’t want to shell out the money for a screenbar or it just isn’t your style, then the tried-and-true desk lamp can be a great alternative. At just $30, the IKEA Forså provides form and function to help keep your desk looking chic and well lit.
It comes with excellent adjustability, a cool old-school chrome design, and a straightforward on/off switch to keep things dead-simple.
When working from home you have a tendency to stay seated for long periods of time even more so than working in an office. And no matter how comfy that fancy ergonomic office chair is, sitting in it all day isn’t ideal. The best way to keep your body happy while working at a desk is to switch to an electric height-adjustable standing desk.
The Jarvis Bamboo Standing desk not only looks nice with its clean bamboo top, but it’s practical too. It comes with an impressive height adjustment range, solid stability (even when maxed out), a great warranty, and decent customization options—it ticks all the boxes for things you want in the perfect standing desk.
A smart light switch isn’t an obvious necessity, until you have one. Being able to control the lighting system in your home office via voice controls, motion detection, or your smartphone is a simple luxury that can pay dividends—both in your mood and in your energy bill.
The Lutron Diva Smart Dimmer is built to work with the Lutron Caséta ecosystem, but it also provides broad compatibility with different smart products and systems such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and many others. It also has a minimalist design that doesn’t draw attention to itself.
In those cold months of winter you need a way to keep warm and comfortable while you work at home. A space heater such as the Vornado VH200 Heater is a great way to keep your energy bill down while still warming a specific area. The Vornado is small enough that it won’t take up too much room in your office, but powerful enough that it can heat an entire room by itself. It’s also extremely quiet, meaning you can focus on your work without being distracted by an overly noisy fan.
A clean desktop can help you stay productive and focused while working at home. One of the best ways to reduce your cord clutter is to switch to a wireless phone charger. It’s also one of the most convenient and hassle-free ways to charge your mobile devices.
Right now there’s no better wireless charger than the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Stand. It’s the fastest Android charger we’ve ever tested, it has a clean, minimalist look, and the upright stand makes checking notifications a breeze.
A full, booming 7.1 surround sound speaker setup might be great for watching movies and playing games, but for work you don’t need anything nearly as fancy. If you’re working at home you just want something that will produce clear audio during meetings or while listening to some background LoFi beats to help keep you focused. Save yourself some money and go with the Creative Pebble speakers, which for only $40 produce deep and rich audio that you would expect from something two or three times the price. Plus they don’t take up much space and look really good on a desktop.
Do-it-all productivity: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9
You need a laptop while working at home and there are none more suited to the task than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9. It sports great performance thanks to its Core i7, integrated Iris Xe graphics, and 16GB of RAM. It will not only handle any word processing and spreadsheet work you throw at it, but it can also handle web-browsing while you’re on your “lunch break.” It has a spacious 16:10 aspect-ratio screen, which is ideal for viewing documents, and a comfortable keyboard for marathon typing or coding sessions.
If you want something a little more portable (or affordable) than a full-fledged productivity machine like the Lenovo ThinkPad, then look no further than the Chromebook Spin 713. It has fast performance and a versatile 2-in-1 form factor. Meaning you can either use it as a regular laptop or flip the screen around and use it like a tablet. At just under three pounds, it’s also portable enough to take to the coffee shop when you need a change of scenery. So long as you don’t need Windows while working, the Spin 713 is a great everyday option.
Sam Singleton is a tech editor and PCWorld's jack of all trades. When he's not on the hunt for the best computer deals he's covering VPNs, productivity software, laptops, and a wide gamut of consumer-grade hardware and software.