Working from home — things I've bought
First, let me note that I don’t regularly work from home, so I’m not a pro here about what to buy. At any rate, here are about 10 things I either purchased, brought home from work, or acquired in the past and am using now in a WFH arrangement.
Corner desk. Fits well in a corner nook, and I kind of like positioning myself in the right angle where the two desks meet. This desk is sturdy, smooth, even, and inexpensive. I've actually had this desk for a long time now but wanted to include it in this post since I've seen others working from home at their kitchen counter.
Dell UltraSharp U3417W monitor. Brought home from work. Having a large monitor makes a huge difference in productivity and is a must for technical writing, since it's common to juxtapose your text editor with some system or code you're documenting/running. The resolution is sharp enough and everything is Mac compatible. However, there is one detail I can't figure out. If I take a high-retina-display screenshot on my Mac and constrain it to half its size, it looks sharp on my Macbook Pro but fuzzy on this monitor. Screenshots I take on this monitor, however, look fairly sharp but not necessarily on the Macbook Pro.
Webcam. When joining meetings, I didn't like appearing at a side angle from my laptop camera (my laptop sits left of my main monitor, which is what I look at). This webcam fixes the issue by giving me more of a front-on display. The color is good in low light. In brighter light, I tend to get whitewashed.
Oversized mouse/desk pad. I love this over-sized mouse/desk pad as it seems to give more visual packaging to my work area. It also eliminates the possibility of dragging my mouse off of a small square. The only problem is that it can become a placemat for anything I set in front of me, like coffee. I'm guessing that overtime it will get dirty like a placemat too.
Just Dance 2020. For the kids at home with pent-up energy and who don't want to go on walks or ride bikes (esp. my nine-year-old), this is great as it gets them dancing and moving around. I personally don't play it — it's just a fun way for my kids to exercise at home. I feel way less guilty when they are using devices that have them dancing, especially with each other. I bought Just Dance 2020 through Google Stadia, and as long as the Internet doesn't break, I'm good. You join the game with a smartphone app that measures and monitors how your movements sync with the dance-a-long characters.
Computer desk organizer/stand. I wanted to make better use of my desk space, so bought this organizer/stand. I originally thought I could stack two laptops there but then realized that with all the peripherals/cords plugged in, the computer wouldn't fit into the slots. I'm still looking for productive ways to use it, but so far it's still worthwhile.
Headphones. I love these headphones. They cancel out quite a bit of noise and are comfortable to wear. The mic is removable, but I often just switch the headphones around so the mic is on back when I'm not in meetings. Otherwise, the extended mic cuts into my peripheral vision. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to block out noise when you're working from home with 5 other people in a small house. I highly recommend these headphones. No BlueTooth, so you still have a cord. The USB is detachable so you can use either the mic jack or USB.
The Mentalist Coffee. As I'm making more of my own coffee, I tried some fancy coffee from Sprouts. I was pleasantly surprised at the smooth, low acidic taste of The Mentalist. However, this coffee is probably too expensive to buy regularly, so I have since switched to Jose's Organic Mayan Blend from Costco, which tastes about the same. Overall, I'm not much of coffee connoisseur since I add some milk and sugar — this makes all coffee taste somewhat the same, I think.
Bidet. With the run on toilet paper, I decided to get this bidet. I wanted one that could withstand a lot of tinkering/button-pushing from kids and which wouldn't require me to plug something in (since I'd have to wrap the cord up and around my sink). Plus, I didn't want a heated seat because it would encourage people to camp out in the bathroom. So far, this is great. The bidet experience is a new one for me, but after a couple of days use, I'm already persuaded that bidets do a much better job than toilet paper. I won't be reverting to toilet paper after the pandemic. The plastic seat for this bidet seems a little flimsy, and it fits half an inch short and sometimes gets misaligned, but as this is my first bidet, I have no comparison points. The spray is super easy to activate and you can control the intensity. There are a couple of spray positions to choose from, but you might have to angle yourself for it to hit exactly where you want.
Lumbar support cushion. My back was hurting the first few days working from home, so I ordered this lumbar cushion. It works well but pushes me a good 3 inches forward in my chair. I guess that's the point, as it helps my posture. I only use the lumbar support occasionally. I also started going on a walk each day (about an hour), and I switched out my previous office chair with an Aeron office chair from work, which is much more comfortable. I think I might also need to start doing more core strengthening exercises to fix my back issues.
Pearl Izumi Pants. This has to be my favorite item. I purchased two of these for cycling, and I instantly fell in love with Lycra. This is all I pretty much wear at home now. I used to be a shorts-wearing guy at home, but now I wear these tights. It's still a bit awkward to go out in public with them, but the comfort is so nice I'm just doing it, often with black running shorts over them. I'm sure there are less expensive options than Pearl Izumi. I splurged because I usually bike to work and will wear these for years. But if substituting another brand, my recommendation is to get the Lycra fabric, not Spandex. Pro tip: Combine these pants with a fleece cardigan from Old Navy and some Hoka One One shoes and nothing is more comfortable.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.