Much like most of the nation, we at IndyBest have been working from home in various ways for almost two years. And during those many months, we’ve invested in countless items to make our days more comfortable and enjoyable – some of which have proved far more beneficial than others.
Working from home is obviously a challenging enterprise when you’re not set up for it with the functional kit, but even when you’ve got the likes of ergonomic office chairs and wireless keyboards at your disposal, finding ways to stay focused and motivated without the presence of your colleagues isn’t easy.
Nor is creating a sense of separation between work and home life, especially if they happen to collide in one room (shout out to our fellow tiny-flat dwellers).
But no matter how much – or how little – space you have to play with, there are plenty of affordable buys that can help to improve the time you spend in your home office, even if that office is actually your kitchen table or bedroom.
So we’ve compiled an edit of the buys that we found ourselves returning to time and time again, which have really made all the difference.
Some of our picks have helped us fix common WFH problems – improving our failing posture or making dialling into Zoom calls a whole lot smoother, for instance – while others are simply pick-me-ups that have enabled us to stay positive and productive during the longest lockdown days.
Emma Henderson (Editor)
Ethernet LAN patch 3m cable and TP-link TL-WPA4220 2 port add-on powerline adapter: £43.97, Amazon.co.uk
There’s nothing more annoying while working from home than bad internet, let me tell you. From not being able to hear everyone in a meeting – and worse, not being able to properly speak – to pages not loading while screen sharing to videos freezing and jittering. And as Zoom became the ultimate way for everyone to communicate, you can imagine how frustrating this very quickly became. After putting a wifi booster almost next to my makeshift desk didn’t help much, and spending too many meetings sitting in the corridor near to the router, and calls to the internet provider asking for help (obviously, none received), it was time to buy an ethernet cable.
Not something I’m familiar with, as I’ve never needed my own office setup in my kitchen before. First, I needed a power line adapter, which sends the full-strength wifi signal through the whole electrical system of the house. The ethernet cable plugs into the wall socket on one end, and straight into my laptop with the other giving me a strong signal. Yes, there are ugly wires around the kitchen, but at least I can get through a meeting (touch wood). The best near £50 I’ve spent in lockdown, for sure.
Ellie Fry (Deputy editor)
Apple AirPods with charging case, 2nd gen: £124.99, Amazon.co.uk
I’d avoided giving in to the wireless earbuds craze until quite recently, wondering how much more convenience they could really award me when my trusty wired pair had served me for so long. But they really do make everything so much easier. Despite not being dubbed as noise cancelling (the newer pro models are) they do drown out most exterior sounds, which is vital when you’re sharing a makeshift office space and your new next-door neighbour has a dog that barks incessantly.
Taking Zoom calls feels far more effortless now these little buds are permanently in my ears, and I’ve also found that they help FaceTime calls with friends and family feel more natural, as you don’t even feel like you’re wearing any headphones.
Quay stranger unisex blue light glasses: £39, Quayaustralia.co.uk
Whenever my phone or laptop notifies me of how many hours I’ve spent looking at my screen that day, I wince. Naturally, the figure has become even higher since working from home where all I do is move from one screen to another. I’m used to having two PC monitors in the office too, and since working on a much smaller MacBook screen, I started to get headaches. I always thought blue light glasses were a bit of a fad, and while the research on their effectiveness is mixed, they have really helped me.
My eyes are less strained, headaches crop up less often, plus, they are great to hide behind on Zoom when you’re not feeling so fresh, which is a real bonus. I’ve tried a few pairs at different price points and would suggest spending a bit more on them, as cheaper options don’t help as much. This oversized pair from Quay are the ones I reach for most.
Tal Dekel Daks (Audience lead)
Dellonda single motor height-adjustable electric sit and stand desk with black desktop: £329.98, Dellonda.co.uk
It took me almost a year of working from home to finally bite the bullet and upgrade my tiny square Ikea desk (you know the one) for a motorised standing desk that comfortably holds a monitor, laptop and everything else. After being used to sitting all day, it’s been nice to break up my time hunching over a laptop with a half hour standing here or there. If you're also in the market for a standing desk it's worth knowing that they can vary quite a bit in how they operate.
This pretty average-priced option from Amazon comes with a little control panel attached to the front, underside of the desk and with it you can control the height directly, pressing down the button for a few seconds to go either up or down. It’s got quite the range too if you’re blessed with height, going from 710-1,210mm. Overall, if you’re looking to improve your posture and upgrade your desk, it’s a good-quality, no-nonsense option that’s easy to use and pretty easy to assemble.
Eleanor Jones (Executive editor)
Papier notebook: £21.99, Papier.com
Could you just write your notes on a sheet of A4 grabbed from the printer? Of course. Would I recommend spending this much on a fancy notebook anyway? If budget allows, absolutely. Not only is the quality of the collection lovely – sturdy hardback cover, lined pages, even personalisation, if you wish - the fun choice of designs make Papier’s offering a really consistent mood lifter. I find myself looking forward to reviewing my to-do list, and making notes in meetings in this beauty is a pleasure, not a chore – I’ve gone through a couple of these already and when my current one is full, I know I’ll place another order.
Made knox office chair: From £79, Made.com
While this isn’t a full bells-and-whistles ergonomic chair, the knox is a sturdy, comfortable seat that I can happily spend eight hours in without exacerbating my lower back pain – and at this price, that’s a big win. I love the retro shape and chunky metal frame, which makes it feel like more of a statement piece than a functional necessity, and the fact it doesn’t have arms means I can roll easily under my small desk, which other larger chairs have repeatedly bashed into. The foam padding is firm but offers good support – my only slight critique is that it takes a while to puff up again after a long day of sitting, but it does eventually reinflate to its former glory, so there’s no permanent damage done. The version I purchased (the orange, which was in the sale) adds a welcome pop of colour to my otherwise fairly drab home office, but is sadly out of stock at the time of writing, so you can check out the more neutral options, or sign up to receive an alert when the burnt orange hue comes back into stock.
Sarah Young (Writer)
More Water bottle with straw: £10.99, Amazon.co.uk
We all know that drinking more water is good for us but, while it might seem like a simple task, most of us fail to have a sip of anything other than coffee before lunchtime. If, like me, you struggle to meet your daily quota of H20, I highly recommend investing in a motivational water bottle. Since purchasing mine, staying sufficiently hydrated has felt like less of a chore and more of a triumph, as the bottle marks every one-hour time period with a goal line and various affirmations, such as “you’ve got it” and “keep going”. And the results are noticeable. After drinking 2l every day for a few weeks my concentration has improved, I feel less tired and my skin looks better – just be prepared for more toilet breaks.
Patch Plants rapunzel devil’s ivy: £15, Patchplants.com
The kind of environment we work in can have a major impact on not only productivity but also our mental health, and making even the smallest of changes can make a big difference. One easy way I’ve found to make my workspace feel more zen (and look seriously chic) is to add plants, like this devil’s ivy from Patch Plants, which hangs gracefully from a bookcase by my desk.
Aside from adding a nice pop of colour to the room, studies have shown that plants help us better manage anxiety and refocus our energy and, while I can’t say I’ve noticed it having much impact on daily stresses, it certainly brightens the space. A word of warning to any fellow owners of plant-guzzling cats – this particular one isn’t pet friendly so be sure to keep it out of reach from pesky paws.
Eva Waite-Taylor (Senior writer)
Nespresso vertuo plus coffee machine: £89.99, Currys.co.uk
Give or take a couple of trips into the office over the past two years, we’ve predominately been at home and there’s no denyingI’ve saved myself so much money by not visiting Pret daily for a coffee. Instead of forgoing my morning caffeine fix, I’ve fallen back in love with my Nespresso machine. It’s meant I’ve been able to create barista-style (well nearly) coffee at home, with each one setting me back a mere 60p.
This model, unlike the OG machines that only produce espresso shots, offers five different cup sizes, ranging from espresso (40ml) up to alto (414ml), making it ideal if you like a longer coffee in the morning, but also enjoy a shot to get you over the mid-afternoon slump. If you’re tempted, I’d also suggest investing in a milk frother (£75, Nespresso.com) – I don’t think I could get through lockdown life without this duo.
Daisy Lester (Production journalist)
H&M cotton seat cushion: £3.99, Hm.com
While some may have the WFH luxury of a cushioned office chair, others have endured three lockdowns sat at the kitchen table, tapping away at the keyboard as our derrière slowly numbs. Without the living space for any kind of ergonomic desk chair, in comes the seat cushion. For just £3.99, I get through the nine-hour day in (relative) comfort with this circular example from H&M. Coming in muted black, light beige and my favourite yellow-beige, it even looks nice thrown on the sofa at the end of the working day.
Bush classic mini DAB radio: £32.99, Argos.co.uk
There’s been no better sanity saviour for me while working from home than radio, and this Bush mini DAB model is a steal at just £32.99. Groundhog Day seems less monotonous when listening to one of my favourite radio stations and often just hearing a voice in the background can be cheering while in the home office. Coming in a stylish retro cream, it even ups my decor game. Other features include an alarm clock and the option for batteries so you can listen while on the move, albeit just into the kitchen.
Suzie McCracken (Senior production journalist)
Posturite penguin ambidextrous vertical mouse, wireless: £98.95, Posturite.co.uk
Yes, it does look like a dildo and yes, it is heinous. But also, yes, it has stopped my RSI in its tracks. By the end of 2021, homeworking had truly taken its toll and the pain in the back of my hand had gotten so bad I was using voice notes to communicate with my colleagues. Since purchasing a penguin, that pain hasn’t completely gone, but it’s finally not getting any worse because my hand is getting a chance to heal. My digits are now well-supported by the shaft (ho ho), and the vertical position means my muscles just aren’t putting in the same work to go about day-to-day tasks (reading about kettles and arguing over commas). It has honestly completely saved me. I also tried a near-vertical gaming mouse in my search, but I found nothing as good as the adorably named penguin. And if this superbly reliable wireless model is out of budget, you can also snap it up in a wired version instead.
Alex Lee (Tech writer)
Hario cold brew coffee pot mizudashi: £17.72, Amazon.co.uk
Coffee, in particular the cold-brew variety, was a staple of my morning commute. The refreshing, slow infused brew was something I picked up from Starbucks religiously when I went into the office. But working from home, I can either make the half an hour trek to Starbucks, go without (no chance), or brew it myself.
Enter the simple Hario cold brew coffee pot – the very thing my WFH self needed. Just put some coffee beans into the filter, place the filter into the jug and then add water. Leave it in the fridge for about eight hours and boom – deliciously smooth, rich cold-brew coffee. Plus the bottom just twists off so you can dispose of your coffee beans without any mess. Best part? It’s cheap, so it won’t cost a fortune to get your cold-brew kick.
Jasper Pickering (Gaming writer)
Blue Yeti USB microphone: £99.99, Amazon.co.uk
After more than a year of remote meetings and technical problems, I can comfortably say that getting myself a decent external mic was a wise investment. I’ve owned the Blue Yeti for many years to use for voiceovers and video recordings, but up until WFH, it spent most of its time in its original box. Now it sits on my desk as my immediate solution for video calls. As a USB mic, it’s simple to set up as well as adjust gain and select patterns for omnidirectional or bidirectional use. It also has a built-in mute button.
Lois Borny (Freelance)
Califia Farms oat barista blend: £1.50, Asda.com
If, like me, you’re yet to invest in a coffee machine for re-creating those glorious barista-style brews at home, then choosing the right milk alternative can make a real difference. I’ve been adding a dash of Califia Farms’s oat barista blend to my AM and PM instant coffee recently, and it really is divine. Made using rolled oats, it’s sugar-free, seriously smooth and creamy and, for dairy-free coffee drinkers, a real delight – it’s also worth noting that you can steam it too, which I’m yet to try.
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For more working from home tips, why not invest in one of the best stand desks