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The ultimate work from home desk setup guide, because outside is canceled

That TV tray and laptop are not ideal.

autonomous kinn chair review knowtechie for work from home
Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

With everyone (who has the option) sheltering in place, work from home arrangements are essential to keeping the economy going. That means you’re gonna have to think of your working area. Trust us, working from the couch with your laptop on your knees while you binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy isn’t gonna cut it after a couple of days.

Think of this as an opportunity. Whereas before you were beholden to your corporate overlord’s sense of architecture, style (and budget), now you have a chance to make the office space you actually want to spend time in.

Does that mean some more plants, or maybe a deskside coffee maker? That’s up to you, but there are some basics that you should start thinking about to begin with. Remember that while you know you’re at home to work, the other inhabitants of your home might not understand this. That goes double for kids, possibly triple for pets.

That means establishing a routine is essential. Before, your routine probably involved dashing out of the door to try and beat rush hour traffic. Now, your commute is gone, you’ll want to figure out how your morning and end-of-day routines will look like. Used to drive-thru Starbucks? Maybe spend a few minutes getting to know your coffeemaker. Like to hit the gym? Maybe a quick few laps of the block before everyone else gets up will get you pumped for work.

The point here is that when you work from home, the boundaries between work and home tend to blur. It’s up to you to keep the boundaries going, both for your productivity and so your home life doesn’t suffer.

A stable environment

uplift desk with keyboard tray out

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Okay, so the first thing you need to think about is where you’re going to work. You could work from the dining table, but then you’d be eating at your desk for lunchtime and that’s just not good for your mental health. You need a dedicated workspace, and that means a desk.

We’re partial to standing desks, and UPLIFT’s V2 is one of the best around. You’ll have to head over to their website to grab one at the minute as Amazon seems to be out of stock. We reviewed the V1 of their height-adjustable desks, and it shone in every category.

If you still want a height-adjustable desk but your budget is more modest, Monoprice has a bunch of affordable, solidly-built standing desks like this one, which also tilts so it can be used for drawing or drafting. Great to keep the kids entertained when you’re not drowning in spreadsheets.

Then it’s time for a comfortable seat. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this one, so don’t skimp. We really like the Kinn chair from Autonomous, which is stylish, comfortable and supportive.

But wait… you just bought a height-adjustable desk. You’re going to want to stand at times, so you get some movement going. We’re fans of balance boards to get all our nervous system into the mix, and these from Fluidstance are great. You’ll burn 19.2 percent more calories than sitting, keeping you more fit while you work.

Computer time

work from home on a laptop

Image: MSI

Once you’ve got a good working area, it’s time to get sorted with a capable device to handle work, and the occasional gaming session so your mental health is taken care of. MSI’s got some stellar laptops right now, like the Creator 17 which has the first microLED screen. It’s not cheap at $3K, but with the latest Intel CPU and Nvidia Graphics, it’ll handle any work you can throw at it, and then some. I know we said you don’t want to work from the couch all the time, but it’s nice to have the option when you want a change of scenery.

Since you’ve got a Thunderbolt 3 port on this laptop, grabbing a dock to expand your port selection is a good idea. Kensington has been in the game for a while now, and the new SD5300t has all the ports you’ll need to add more monitors, use external storage and more. You could also add monitors via USB-C, like this BenQ SW270C which comes factory calibrated for peak color. I mean, it’d be a shame to put an inferior panel next to the MSI’s glorious screen.

If you want a cheaper option, this portable USB-C monitor from Auzai is great. It’s 1080p and is an easy way to add a second screen to any laptop. Bonus points for it being compatible with the Nintendo Switch, so you can give it to the kiddos so they leave you in peace to work.

Accessories for when you work from home

Then it’s time for some quality of life accessories. Even the best laptop keyboards are tiring to type on after a while, so you’ll probably want an external keyboard. Mechanical is the way to go here, and Das Keyboard makes some of the best around. They’re built like tanks, and the handy media controls are just great.

You’ll also want an external mouse because touchpads are really aren’t ideal. The MX Master Mouse 3 from Logitech is our current favorite, with insane battery life, responsive tracking, and satisfying clicks. It’s also got the best scroll wheel in the business, handy for whipping through spreadsheets.

Depending on your existing network equipment, you might want to upgrade since more people will be using it on a daily basis. If you’re buying now, you’ll want a router with the latest wifi specification, WiFi 6. You’ll have devices that support this if you have a recent iPhone and the improvement over prior WiFi equipment is definitely worth it.

Netgear’s got a range of WiFi 6 routers that you can choose based on your budget and number of devices you need to support or if you’re having to contend with thick walls and long distances that WiFi would struggle with, Zyxel makes some great Powerline adapters that turn your home’s wiring into a speedy network connection.

Don’t forget about music

work from home headphones

Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

Music is going to get you through those long days, so it’s time for some good headphones. Master & Dynamic’s MW65 are wireless with Bluetooth, have active noise canceling, and best of all – look spectacular. They’re also no slouch in voice calls, so feel confident using them during conference calls.

If you prefer wired, there are all kinds of options you could go for but we’re particularly fond of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pros. Honestly, these are going to be ‘endgame’ headphones for most people, myself included. You’ll need to add a mic for voice calls, so it’s time to stick a Modmic to those sweet ear cups. You might also want to add a dac/amp to the mix to get the most out of the combo, and it’s time to buy some more Schiit. The Schiit Hel, or Schiit Fulla 3 to be exact, both of which will make your Beyers sound great while adding a mic port for the Modmic.

You’re going to be staring at screens A LOT, be prepared

benq monitor

Image: BenQ

You’ll also want to protect your eyesight. That means blue-blocking glasses from Gunnar while you’re using your screens, and soft lighting around your desk while you’re reading. We’re big fans of the BenQ ScreenBar, which puts light down everywhere you need it without putting a glare on your screen.

As you won’t be in the office for a while, you’ll need something to keep important documents safe in. UPLIFT has some nifty under-desk lockable file cabinets that can also be used as a stool or footrest. You’ll also want extra storage for your laptop, and Seagate has you covered with USB-C external SSDs.

Keeping your home office tidy is yet another chore added to the daily grind while you work from home, but you can make it easier. Townew has a self-sealing trashcan that takes the pain out of trash day, and a self-opening lid to take the pain away from every other day. Couple that with a rechargeable vacuum like this one from Acum, and your home office will be cleaner than your actual office, without the lingering scent of bleach.

Image: Pitaka

Oh, and while we’re talking about tidiness – you’ll want to keep as much desk space as possible. Pitaka can help with keeping your smartphone out of the way and juiced up with the best wireless charger I’ve used to date. The MagEZ Bar mounts on your wall, so you don’t lose any precious workspace. It’s got two spots for high-speed wireless charging, and the other half of the bar is covered in high-strength magnets to stick your keys, your wallet, and anything else metal out of reach. You’ll need one of Pitaka’s MagEZ cases as well, for iPhone or Android devices.

Wait, what about my commute coffee?

Image: Wacaco

There’s just one last thing you need before your home office is complete. See, not going outside means no morning commute coffee runs. No coffee run means no java to power your workday. I mean, you could use a drip machine to brew your morning cup of joe, but let’s face it – the reason you bought your mocha-java-quad-shot with an Italian-sounding size was because it tastes better than your home drip machine.

You can fix that though, and it’ll cost less than you’d think. Enter Wacaco, who have a whole range of portable, easy to use coffee makers so you can recreate the barista effect at home. No worrying about overpressured, overheated steam, or $1k, temperamental espresso makers that take up half your kitchen. Just great coffee.

There’s the newest addition to the range, the Pipamoka, which uses the vacuum effect to get the perfect coffee-to-water ratio. It’s even got an insulated, metal cup with a screw-down lid so you can keep that precious coffee ready to drink for ages. Then there’s the Nanopresso, which is my favorite of their range. This little bullet uses hand-powered pumping to recreate the taste that all that expensive espresso equipment is usually needed for. Mine’s a quad-shot.

Now your home office is tricked out more than a season of Pimp My Ride, will you even want to go back to the office once lockdown is over?

What do you think? What are some of your essential work from home gadgets and tools? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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