This fall might seem filled with impossibilities. Instead of backpacks and pencil cases, students now need desks and blue-light blocking glasses. Instead of pressed suits, office workers need ring lights and ball chairs. Going back to work while the kids go back to remote school will be a challenge, no matter how you slice it, but here’s a round-up of products to make your life easier while you’re doing it all at home.
Find a desk, any desk
Let’s start with the basics. You need a surface to work at. Ideally, each person in your household should have their own workspace, but in an NYC apartment, that’s just not always possible. Instead of all cramming onto the breakfast bar or kitchen table, you could repurpose an empty wall space for a simple floating desk like this fully collapsible desk from Wayfair ($130), the rare desk that is in stock these days and that will arrive this month. Maybe you’d prefer to use your bed in the meantime while you wait for your desk to come? I found this lap desk (about $30) from The Desk Dome and am ordering one in beige for our household for sitting on the bed as a practical work option. Also, I’m a big fan of these laptop stands from Ikea ($29.99), but if supplies are low (they are out of stock in Red Hook until mid-month) there are millions of other C side tables out there that you can move around your house for Zoom calls or privacy, working from chairs or couches anywhere. Having a few different desk options allows for flexibility.
Or build your own
With desks sold out and lines stretching out of Ikea for home office supplies, you may want to just make your own desk, using a piece of butcher block or tabletop wood ($61-$347) and a set of hairpin legs ($34-$44) you simply drill in for a minimalist look. You could even drill 2 legs to the wall and slide the tabletop through it, to save even more space.
Get an ergonomic chair
One of the biggest issues of working from home is making sure that you keep your body healthy while you work. My husband’s co-worker threw out his back, ending up at the doctor, and now does two hours of yoga a day to be able to continue his workday. Prevention is the best medicine. A Herman Miller office chair is the holy grail for the ergonomic working conditions, but they aren’t exactly cheap. “I think the Sayl by Herman Miller ($545) is a good lower-cost option,” says Amy Hanlon, Director of Client Development at Gensler, a global design and architect firm. “Ergo chairs cost a lot, but it’s like a mattress. If you get a cheap one, you end up regretting it.” If it’s your core you’d rather work on, you could get a ball chair that should activate back and core muscles and help alleviate back pain and work on posture. The Vivora Luna ($64.99) is highly rated and you can order a separate stand for it so you don’t roll away while you’re working. Or another option is to use a bureau top as a standing desk and do away with the chair altogether.
Block the blue light
Staring at a screen all day is not good under the best of circumstances, but when you have no meetings or lunches to break up your day, you’ll want to make sure your eyes are protected. If you and your kids are working on Apple computers and iPads, the best solution is Eye Just Bluelight blocking screens ($45-56) that just stick over the screen like a protective glass and come with the dust cloth and card for easy installation. For anyone on Chromebooks or for kids who may be using various screens, Zenni Blokz Blue Light Glasses are a reasonably priced blue-light blocking option that also blocks UV rays.
Amp up your wifi
My apartment is old and has cement walls which means I can’t hear any of my neighbors (a good thing!) but also means I can’t use the internet in any other room besides the living room where our router is (a tragic thing!). This was a bit of an inconvenience before, but mostly fine since we didn’t really use electronics in our bedroom. But now that we will be working and schooling from home, we need to be able to use those other rooms. I’m looking into Google Nest for wifi which should “blanket” our entire apartment with Wifi. I found this article helpful in explaining how it works. Basically, it replaces your router and you put these cylinder speakers around your house where they will work together to make seamless Wifi throughout. As a bonus, each speaker is equipped with Google Assistant so you can speak to it to play music, etc. [Ed. Note: I installed 3 Google Nests in my two-family, three-story home and now have wifi throughout, with my family of four plus Airbnb guests all watching movies, Zooming and working remotely on the same network.]
Look good on Zoom
One of the hardest things to get used to during quarantine is the prevalence of Zoom calls. It’s hard to not be vain when you are staring at yourself in a little square of the screen. By now, everyone has their Zoom shirts or sweaters, but the designer Tom Ford has some other tricks for looking good for your calls in this NY Times article, including simply putting your computer on a large pile of books. Additionally, you could make the minuscule investment of a Ring Light (around $10) that you can clip to your phone or computer for superb results. You’ll be ready for your close-up in no time!
Indulge in the little things
Now that you are all home with multiple schedules, it may be beneficial to have an old fashioned planner to write out the family schedule with all the zoom calls, deadlines, and teacher conferences that can be jotted down. This Get It Together Agenda ($10) is simple enough and flexible enough to work every week, no matter what life throws at you. If you work off of a small laptop table and struggle to for a notebook next to you for scribbling on, a Keyboard Notebook ($13.75), designed to fit in the small space in front of your laptop, might be a dream come true. Then, load up on adorable desk accessories, like this cute pencil holder ($32) so you can keep a smile on your face while everything around you dissolves into chaos.