Stuff We Like: Home Office and Virtual School Essentials

So many of us are still working or learning from home, and we’ve been sharing links to items that have made our new working and learning spaces more comfortable. So of course we want to share them with you – and hear what’s working for you, too!

NB: some of these links are affiliate coded, which means a portion of your purchase comes back to us at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your consideration!

Sarah: I’ve mentioned this a few times on the podcast and on our Stereo broadcasts, but I recently put a heating pad on the back of my desk chair and it’s among the most lovely things I’ve ever done for myself. I got this one:

A blue plush heating pad with plug and controller

Pure Enrichment® PureRelief™ XL (12″x24″) Electric Heating Pad $35

I’m using it right now. It’s heavenly.

I also recommend, if you’re using a laptop, lift it up on a laptop stand (more on keyboards and mice in a moment). The one I have is sold out, but we also got this one for my son’s laptop for school:

a purple metal laptop stand designed for larger laptops Laptop Stand, $27-38 

And if you want pink, there’s another model that’s piiiiiiink!

 

A pink metal laptop stand

Laptop stand, $40-43

 

My older child is also set up in the basement, and it’s winter, so we have a Full Spectrum Light, too:

Miroco full spectrum panel light in pale white plasticFull Spectrum Miroco Light, $38

Tara: Oh, shit, I should get one of those! I had to switch out my lamp, because what we had down there was too bright and I’m migraine prone (thanks for nothing, Calgary barometric pressure swings!)

Claudia: Pencil sharpener! We have that one, and I love the size and the fact that it is manual.

A manual blue rotating pencil sharpener

Sarah: Footstools and footrests! I have one because I have Tiny Muppet Legs.

Blue memory foam plush footrest pillow that's curved on topEverlasting Comfort Office Foot Rest, $35

I have an Everlasting Comfort tailbone pillow for when my lower back hurts, too. I love that little pillow.

Black footrest with nubble bumps on it adjusting for your legs and heightMind Reader Comfy Foot Rest, $23

 

Catherine: I need one for my own muppet legs!

Claudia: Me three!

Tara: I use an aerobic step for my little legs

Sneezy: MUPPET LEGS UNITE!!!! I have a plastic stool!!!!

Sarah: I also recommend Bluetooth earbuds or headphones to block out noise. I have this pair:

Pink padded over the head headphones with bluetooth connectivity

Mpow H7 Bluetooth Headphones, $24-27

Tara: I have a list of stuff I bought since moving to working from home full time that I love.

I replaced our office chair because it was fine for a few minutes here and there, but TERRIBLE for daily use. I got a Serta Smartlayer Dover chair, because I am a short human, and I’m loving it.

Claudia: I also use a lumbar pad. That helps. But the ergo mouse was a game changer — I had a lot of shoulder pain from moving a traditional one about.

Maya: I love my trackball mouse too!! I opted for it because of a small desk + cat interference. A trackball mouse allows you to keep working regardless of how your cat has decided to drape themselves over your workspace!

Sarah: I have a track pad for that reason!

Claudia: This is my trackball mouse, and there’s also a cheaper model that should be OK (I got reimbursement so went for the one with more features)

Back ergonomic mouse with a trackball under the thumbLogitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse, $92

Tara: A wireless keyboard and mouse were essential.

For the keyboard, I splurged and got the bluetooth one from Apple, and then I got this mouse which is cheap, but super effective:

Black ergonomic mouse with a thumbscroll buttonVertical Wireless Mouse, $23

(I didn’t expense them because I wanted to keep them if/when I eventually leave my company.)

I totally agree with Sarah about earbuds. I got the Samsung Galaxybuds+ ($110) and I looooove them. One of my favourite purchases of anything in the last year.

I mentioned that I work in a basement in Canada, so it’s freaking cold sometimes. After a bunch of research I got this electric blanket from Serta and I love it. The 5 settings give enough options for a little heat vs a lot, the sherpa side is super soft, and while I can still feel the cords, they’re padded enough to not be obnoxious:

blue fleece electric blanket Serta Reversible Sherpa/Fleece Heated Electric Throw Blanket, $55

Catherine: So I spent six months of last year working from my kitchen table and I hated it, because I had a perfect view of the dishes that needed doing and the pantry that needed sorting and the bathroom that needed cleaning. And then my workplace asked what I needed to work comfortably at home, and I was able to get this little flat-pack desk and set it up in a corner, and it was life changing. It’s small and light and fast enough to assemble that I could, potentially, pack it down each day, though my setup is such that this is not practical. And it comes from a company that normally makes furniture for the theatre and pivoted to home offices.

(Also essential to my working from home was this monthly chocolate tasting subscription box from Bean To Bar Australian Chocolate.)

Sarah: Excuse me, WHAT? A Chocolate Subscription Service is BRILLIANT.

Catherine: It has tasting notes on the chocolate and everything!

Sarah: North American folks, I have some links for you:

Lake Champlain Chocolates (a Team SBTB favorite) has a 3, 6, and 9 month subscription option for their Chocolate of the Month Club.

And The Spruce Eats ranked a whole bunch of chocolate subscriptions.

Ellen: I feel like I had some maladaptive working remote habits that I’ve had to kick to the curb hard since going back to school (full-time on zoom…wheeeeee).

Having desk stuff and organizational supplies that are actually cute is HUGE for my quality of life. I bought this fancy, square open-dated planner from Worthwhile Paper.

Looks like the exact planner isn’t available right now but they have LOTS of cute desk stuff. I also have been buying lots of stickers and washi to decorate my planner because it motivates me to actually use it if I can stick adorable little animals and flowers and planets on every page.

I also just bought a super cute desk mat from Celestial Fox!

Sailor Moon everything!!

Maya: I mentioned this before, but I wanted to shout out Workona (workona.com) again.

I’m the kind of monster that has at minimum 100 tabs open at a time, much to the horror of anyone around me. Workona allows for me to organize tabs by topic, which is flexible enough to allow for my organization to be guided by the connections my brain makes, not any sort of pre-chosen set of categories. They just did an upgrade where now you have space to make notes and tasks that are associated to the workspaces (topics) you have created. Basically, it’s essential to how I engage with the internet! I use it for both work and home stuff (because I love tabs in all facets of my life).

Sarah: I started using Workona after you recommended it! Do you close the different windows full of tabs and reopen when you need them? Or do you keep them minimized?

Maya: I close them! I’ve got a dual monitor setup, so I have a set of tabs that are always open (Slack, Gmail, Trello, etc) on one screen and then the window that I use to access my Workona workspaces on the other.

Sarah: Oh, very smart!

I went and asked my kids after their virtual learning day had finished which items made their lives easier in Zoom school, and they had two more recommendations.

First, a straw cup for school days filled with ice water. The straw means they drink more, and the insulation keeps the water cold.

We found one on ridiculous clearance at the end of summer at CVS, but it’s similar to this:

Multicolored insulated tumblers with strawsSimple Modern Classic Insulated Tumbler with Straw, $19

We’ve also seen them at the grocery store, but keeping a cup full of ice water means we’re all drinking water all day.

And my older child said, “Can you talk about monitors?”

I mean, sure, why not?

“I really like my extra monitor. I keep the Zoom on one screen and my work on the other.”

Asus 1080p HD 24 inch Monitor Asus 24″ Gaming Monitor, $199.99

“But not video games during class, right?”

“Well, not during math.”

Heh. Heh.

What about you?  What makes your working or schooling space more comfortable? We’d love your ideas and suggestions!

 

 

Add Your Comment →

  1. 1
    Jace says:

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only one using an aerobic step as a footrest.

    I also have ergonomic split keyboard, where there’s a gap in the middle so that your shoulder and elbow posture while typing is more natural. I think there’s too much strain when you type with hands too close together on the keyboard. The brand that I have is Sanwa.

    For the laptop stand, I bought a Moft foldable laptop stand. I can close my laptop and stow it in my heavy magazine rack along with my keyboard, thus making space on my desk for weekend crafts.

    To fun-up work area, I have my moon mousepad I got off Amazon, my tiny vase and some flowers, and some cute anime keychains stuck on my monitor.

  2. 2
    Escapeologist says:

    All of these sound excellent! I have that same footrest and tailbone pillow too. Ergonomic mouse rec – 3M makes one that looks like a gaming joystick, mine lasted for 10 years of daily use before needing a replacement.

  3. 3
    Penny says:

    Last year when my spouse and I divided up the home work space (he got the bedroom and I got the living room) I took took my little round drop leaf table, removed one leaf and changed the hinges so it folded up rather than down, and attached a keyboard tray underneath. Which has been working fine! But it’s been almost a year and we are going a little crazy in our little apartment, so we are moving out of the city (Seattle which is freaking expensive) for more space (and less rent) and we are both getting a separate workspace. K.J. Charles posted recently about a treadmill table setup and I’m obsessed! I definitely can’t spring for the real deal but I’ve been doing internet searches for diy treadmill office setups and it looks like I can probably put something together inexpensively, especially if I can score a regular used treadmill on Craigslist or offer up. But anyway! Etsy has some very cool people who will make a tray custom for your treadmill for a reasonable price. An I’m keeping my table setup too because I don’t think I can do 8+ hours a day walking… I am not super coordinated and it’ll take me awhile to learn this whole walking while typing or writing thing.

    I did invest in noise cancelling headphones and they have been very important to my concentration. And for my footrest I actually have been using my foam roller lol. It’s been surprisingly handy-I get some nervous energy sometimes and rolling my feet a little helps to dispel that.

  4. 4
    Joy says:

    I bought an inexpensive ($6.99) laptop stand from Ikea which has been such a livesaver that I’ve stuffed it in my bags when I travel. https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/braeda-laptop-support-black-60150176/
    For this price get it for everybody!

  5. 5

    Oooh, footrests! I love seeing these because the wooden one I bought from Levenger’s a lifetime ago has a crack in it. I don’t want to replace it, but if I must, eventually, it’s good to see these options.

    I too am a fan of manual pencil sharpeners and I have two: a Japanese desktop version that’s excellent, and a small Blackwing that I use exclusively with (duh!) my Blackwing pencils.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  6. 6
    gina says:

    I’d be really interested in hearing thoughts on over-ear headphones from folks who wear glasses? (Might apply to the ones recommended above, not sure!) Does anyone have a pair that don’t eventually hurt where your earpieces sit?

  7. 7
    Rachel Alley says:

    I am looking forward to this chair : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bravotribe/beyou-the-transforming-chair-with-10-ways-you-can-sit

    My fancy pants ergo chair from work is nice, but I can’t wiggle in it and due to my office at home set up, I don’t have a lot of reminders to get up and move.

    Oh, and totally second the straw for water use

  8. 8
    Sandra says:

    I have used a Logitech trackball forever. I started way back when because I had a tendency to move the mouse between clicks. And the early mice were really sensitive. (I will admit, I am older than dirt. I remember DOS computers.) I also didn’t have a lot of real estate for mouse movement. I love it and I really don’t know why the trackball is not the norm, instead of a mouse. It’s just so much better from both a practical and engineering standpoint.

  9. 9
    ECSpurlock says:

    I’m still in my office (“essential”) but my sister is working from home. She was in a car accident several years ago and cracked several vertebrae, so working on a computer makes her neck hurt after a couple of hours. I bought her a heated neck pad by Sunbeam, it’s like a tiny electric blanket that just covers your shoulders and wraps around your neck. She uses it every day and says it helps tremendously.

  10. 10
    Darlynne says:

    @gina: I have Mpow headphones similar to those Sarah mentioned above and really like them. I wear distance vision glasses, or reading glasses with my contacts, and they still felt comfortable. How long you wear them might make a difference, but the price is excellent for the quality. The uncomfortable part for me with any headphone is the pressure on the top of my head. What’s up with that?

  11. 11
    Meg says:

    I kinda liked the guy on the Amazon video for the MPOW headphones. If he were included, I’d pop it in my cart super fast.

  12. 12
    Tara Churchill says:

    A few years ago I purchased a yoga ball chair because I found myself sitting way too much while I was at home on top of sitting for 9+ hours at work. Now that I work from home I am very glad I have this odd-looking thing as I find my butt planted on it for 12 or more hours a day. https://smile.amazon.com/Gaiam-Classic-Balance-Ball-Chair/dp/B0007VB4NE/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=yoga+ball+chair&qid=1613590992&sr=8-5

  13. 13
    harthad says:

    I bought that very same heating pad for keeping warm in my drafty home office area, and it is excellent! I second the vote for getting a laptop stand. My computer arrangement now consists of my laptop in a stand, a large second monitor, and a wireless keyboard by Logitech. The stand means I’m not hunched over my laptop screen anymore, and the wireless keyboard means my hands aren’t cramped onto its tiny keyboard. I improved my crappy office chair by adding memory foam seat and arm cushions.

  14. 14
    LML says:

    I always read “Stuff We Like” but usually I am yeahyeahyeah. But this one! Whooee. I had no idea there were little electric back heating pads.

    Or that I am not the only person in the world who finds trackballs superior to using a computer mouse. I put off switching from DOS to Windows as long as I possibly was able because I think the mouse is the most ridiculous computer idea ever. Plus I’m uncoordinated and always end up with my arm (& the mouse) fully extended and wondering how that happened.

    I covet that darling little desk. I don’t need it, I have more desks than I can use (I’d rather have a desk than a bed) but I WANT IT. Pity I’m on a different continent.

  15. 15
    denise says:

    I’ve been using a step stool for my short legs for 25 years–I was told to use one when I was pregnant with my first son and I never stopped.

  16. 16
    Elise Staples says:

    I’ve literally been putting my laptop on a small box on my coffee table to raise it high enough. So yeah I just one-clicked that laptop stand. Also, I’m super glad that Sailor Moon Deskmat is out of stock because I’d be the owner of that too right now otherwise.

  17. 17
    Qualisign says:

    The most surprising [home] office tool I love !!! is my laminator. Since I’m printing and using designs and patterns constantly, I always have a mess of papers at my “desk” that are constantly torn, folded, and coffeed (the state where coffee rings make great brown rings that obscure the ink below or worse, make soggy holes in the paper). I got a laminator and suddenly, I can prop up single pages (without having to build a stand that kind of works…) to follow the pattern, can put sticky notes on them that stay in place, and they can be used as coasters when not in use! Who knew I’d love this thing so much?

  18. 18

    I must check out that comfy foot rest. My ottoman just isn’t cutting it when I write. One of my fav office essentials is my Happy Planner! I’ve been using one for two years to layout my publishing schedule, keep track of appointments, etc. I find that having it in writing is more helpful than just doing it electronically.

  19. 19
    Midge says:

    I have the same laptop stand from Ikea that @Joy mentioned. I can only second this – so simple, but incredibly effective!

  20. 20
    Stefanie Magura says:

    @SBSarah:

    I think I have those same blue tooth headphones. If I don’t have the same model, I certainly have the same brand which my mom got me for my birthday two maybe three years ago, and since I have used them as a wired headset, just because I wanted to, they have outlasted the cord which came with them and it lasted a while too.

  21. 21
    Stefanie Magura says:

    @Gina:

    I where glasses, and while I’m not sure I have the exact model that SBSarah mentioned, I do have the same brand, and they haven’t hurt my ears that I’ve noticed. The reason I’m unsure of what model I have is these were gotten for me as a present.

  22. 22
    MelMc says:

    I love my Airdesk. It has such a wide range of adjustments that it’s perfect for any chair I happen to be at. I do find the base a little light (hazard of making it portable I guess) so I pin the base under my chair leg. https://airdesks.com/

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