These days, more and more people are discovering the tremendous benefits and the potential pitfalls of telecommuting (i.e. being able to work from the comfort and convenience of their own home). Whether you’re already doing this or plan to in the near future, setting up an efficient home office from which you can be highly productive can be a challenge onto itself. However, with the right technology, it’s possible to create a smart workspace that’s comfortable and conducive to your work habits and workflow without having to spend a fortune.MORE FROMFORBES VETTED
The ideal home office starts with a large desk (that’s a suitable height for you), as well as a comfortable and adjustable office chair that nicely supports your lower back (without causing strain on your shoulders, neck, or arms) while you’re working. If you’ll be working from a dining room table, folding table, or kitchen counter, for example, choosing the right office chair, preferably one that’s height adjustable, is even more essential.
When choosing the best location within your home to set up an office, focus on considerations like available space, privacy, lighting, temperature, having ample power (and electrical outlets nearby), the Wi-Fi signal strength and being able to shut yourself off from at-home distractions caused by family members and pets, for example. Once you’ve chosen the ideal space within your home, and you’ve selected a desk and office chair, it’s time to populate your home office with technology that’ll allow you to be productive and stay focused and efficient throughout your workday.
In addition to a computer, you’re about to discover how some of the latest “smart” technologies and devices can save you time, enhance your efficiency, and help you eliminate distractions. In other words, these are technologies that any home office will benefit from.
Fast Internet is essential within a home office. If you can't plug your computer and related equipment directly into your modem, a high-speed Wi-Fi router is an important component. After all, you want to avoid having to “fight” for bandwidth with your kids who are playing online games and other family members who are streaming videos while you’re trying to participate in virtual meetings, collaborate online with your team, or retrieve large files from the cloud.
In addition to having a strong Wi-Fi signal strength that reaches your home office, you can enhance your Internet speed and give your work-related tasks priority over streaming movies and games with the use of a “smart” wireless router that offers built-in security tools.
After contacting your Internet service provider to ensure you’re able to achieve the fastest Internet speeds available, upgrade your router to one that offers the latest security features and Wi-Fi 6 compatibility. While you can pick up a basic Wi-Fi 6 compatible router, such as the TP-Link Archer AX1800, for less than $60, investing a bit more will ensure you have access to a wide range of useful features that’ll allow you to get the most out of your Wi-Fi Internet connection and home network. The following are a few potential options for cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 routers that are ideal for a home office.
This low-cost wireless router supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 protocols and ensures the fastest possible wireless Internet connection, as well as a strong signal that should reach throughout your entire home. The built-in AI Traffic Optimizer puts priority on your work-related tasks (as opposed to someone else in your home streaming videos or playing video games) to help ensure lag-free video calls and virtual meetings, for example. Up to 128 devices can connect wirelessly at once, and you’ll be able to achieve connection speeds up to 1500Mbps.
In addition to providing the fastest possible wireless Internet speeds utilizing Wi-Fi 6 protocols, this Asus router includes lifetime security features, as well as duel-band (2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz) connectivity to ensure a fast response rate and more reliable connectivity when transferring large files, for example. Use this router to achieve Internet speed up to 2976Mbps.forbes.comBest Buy Coupons | 15% Off In December 2021 | Forbes
Offering speeds up to 1.8Gbps, this next-generation Wi-Fi 6 router’s signal covers a 1,500-square-foot radius and allows for up to 20 devices to be connected simultaneously. It also uses 128-bit AES encryption with PSK to protect your home network against hackers and eavesdroppers, plus enables secure virtual private network (VPN) access to your home network.
This cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 router generates a signal strength that covers 2,800 square feet and allows for up to 30 devices and computers to be connected simultaneously. One nice feature of this router is that you can set up separate guest access for visitors without having to reveal your home network’s password. This is a nice security feature when it comes to protecting your work-related data, documents and files. Use this router to achieve Internet speeds up to 5.4Gbps across 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels.
Along with your computer and smartphone, a printer will probably be one of your most used pieces of home office equipment. You can save time and space by investing in a printer that also offers the ability to scan documents (to create PDF files), serve as a photocopier, and potentially even send/receive faxes.
The latest inkjet printers that are suitable for a home office no longer use ink cartridges (which run out of ink quickly and are expensive to replace). Instead, they rely on refillable ink tanks that will print thousands of pages before needing to be replenished. These all-in-one inkjet printers, from companies like Epson, Canon, HP or Brother, are relatively inexpensive, and most offer wireless printing capabilities.
To print wirelessly from your computer or Android-based mobile device, any wireless printer will work. However, if you’re using an Apple Mac, iPhone or iPad, look for a printer that’sAirPrintcompatible to ensure you’ll be able to wirelessly get full use of the all-in-one printer you purchase. The following are a few examples of feature-packed all-in-one printers that’ll be useful within your home office.
This EcoTank ET-2850 printer from Epson is designed to handle all of your home office printing, copying and scanning needs. Instead of using ink cartridges, it relies on refillable ink tanks that allow you to print approximately 7,500 black-and-white pages or 6,000 full-color pages before the ink needs to be replenished. As you’d expect, the printer allows for a cable connection or wireless connection, so you can print directly from your computer or mobile device.
This Epson all-in-one printer also supports a variety of paper sizes and offers the ability to generate professional-quality photo prints when used with photo paper. Print speed is 10 pages-per-minute (B&W) or five pages-per-minute (full-color). It also offers a two-sided print feature and its input paper capacity is 100 sheets.
The MFC-J995DW is one of Brother’s answers to an inkjet printer that uses refillable ink tanks as opposed to ink cartridges. With a print speed of up to 12 pages-per-minute (B&W) or 10 pages-per-minute (color), this printer’s paper tray holds 150 sheets, and wireless printing from computers or mobile devices is supported. As an all-in-one device, this printer can print, copy, scan and fax.
If you want to take your home office printing to the next level, instead of relying on a lower-cost inkjet printer, you can upgrade to a full-color laser printer. While this technology is slowly coming down in price, the printers themselves (as well as the required toner) continues to be more expensive than purchasing and maintaining even a higher-end inkjet printer.
This full-color laser printer from Lexmark can print color or B&W at up to 35 pages-per-minute using a print quality and resolution that’s superior to most inkjet printers.
This particular model is ideal for a home office that needs to print between 1,500 and 8,500 pages per month. It supports all wireless printing using any computer or mobile device, and offers AirPrint compatibility for Apple users. The toner cartridges allow you to print up to 3,000 pages (B&W) or 1,400 pages (color) before needing to be replaced.
Having theright lighting in your home office is important for multiple reasons. It can prevent eye strain as you’re staring at a computer screen or reviewing paperwork all day. It can also enhance your mood, help you concentrate and assist you in staying focused on the task at hand.
Utilizing different types of smart lighting in your home office will allow you to keep the area well-lit, easily adjust the lighting throughout the day, and control the lights using your voice or a smartphone app. The following are several examples of different types of smart lighting solutions for a home office that serve as stand-alone lamps or that can replace the traditional lightbulbs in your existing light fixtures.
Whether you’re using smart lighting or traditional lightbulbs, consider wearing eyeglasses that block fatigue-causing blue light, and adjust your computer and mobile device screens to reduce the time spent looking at this type of light. Also, make sure you’re not positioning any strong lighting directly behind your computer screen, as this will increase eye strain.
This smart lighting kit from the Philips Hue product lineup includes everything needed to set up and install smart lighting in your home office. A required Hue Bridge 4 hub, wireless switch and three E26 smart white lightbulbs are included in the package. Additional bulbs (which replace traditional lightbulbs in your existing light fixtures) are sold separately.
This kit supports bulbs that display white light that can be dimmed and adjusted, as well as set to timers using the Philips Hue mobile app. If you want to create ambient lighting and be able to generate more than 16 million colors with the bulbs, you’ll need to use the Philips Hue White and Color Ambience Starter Kit (priced at $199).
This single smart table lamp is designed to light up a small space with bright white light, or create ambient lighting using any of more than 16 million colors that are fully dimmable and adjustable. The light comes with everything needed to connect it to your home’s wireless network and control the light using Govee’s own mobile app.
Because the light has a built-in rechargeable battery, you can position it anywhere you need several hours worth of cord-free lighting, although it can also be left plugged in for continuous lighting. The Ambient Portable Smart Light is compatible with many of Govee’s other low-cost smart lighting products that can all be programmed and controlled simultaneously using voice commands or the company’s own mobile app.
This smart table lamp from Ezvalo is designed to be a low-cost desk lamp that can be controlled via a smartphone or with voice commands. It displays white light (at three different color temperatures) that can be adjusted and dimmed as needed, plus set up to turn on and off using pre-programmed timers. It also has a built-in motion sensor that’ll activate anytime you enter the room (and turn off 15 minutes after you leave the room). The adjustable light bar rotates 128 degrees, so you can set it at the perfect angle based on the work you’re doing at your desk.
While not a “smart” light in the traditional sense, this Lume Cube Desk Light is a “must have” if you regularly participate in video calls or virtual meetings. The light clamps onto your desk and has an adjustable arm, so you can position it at the perfect angle to properly light up your face. You can also adjust the brightness and color temperature of the white light as needed, so it can also be used as a desk reading light or simply to brighten up your workspace, for example.
Being able to remotely control an electrical device or appliance from your smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, smart speaker or computer—from virtually anywhere—is one of the biggest benefits of upgrading to smart home equipment. If you have a traditional lamp, fan, or something else that’s not a “smart device,” when you plug it into a smart plug and then plug that adapter into an electrical outlet, it can easily and inexpensively be transformed into a smart device.
As you’ll see, smart plugs are very inexpensive and easy to use. Once something is plugged into one of these adapters, it can be controlled using voice commands via a digital assistant, such as Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant. Check out some of these affordable smart plug options that’ll work nicely within your home office.
Instantly Transform Any Four Outlets Into Smart Outlets
This pack of four smart plugs from Wyze are easy to set up and use with any “non smart” device or appliance that plugs into a standard electrical outlet. Once set up, you can use voice commands to turn on or off the plugged in device, or remotely control it from anywhere using your smartphone. It's also possible to set up pre-programmed timers.
This is Amazon’s own answer to a low-cost and easy-to-use smart plug that works with any device or appliance that plugs into an electrical outlet. Once set up, use your Amazon Echo smart speaker to issue voice commands (via Alexa) to turn on or off the appliance or device that’s connected to it. You can also set up timers.
What’s nice about these smart plugs is that no separate hub is required, You simply plug them into an outlet and they're ready to be used. The main drawback is that this particular smart plug only works with Alexa, not Siri or Google Assistant.
Wemo offers this low-cost set of three smart plugs that work with any electrical outlet and appliances or devices that typically plug into an electrical outlet. They’re also compatible with the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri digital assistants, so they can be controlled via voice commands or the free Wemo app.
Instead of using smart light bulbs, it’s possible to transform any light or light fixture into a smart device by replacing the traditional wall-mounted light switch with an Iotty smart light switch. These sleek, modern-looking and touch-sensitive switches (and backlit glass wall plates) come in a one ($78), two ($108) or three ($128) switch configuration—in a black or white color option. The switches are easy to install. Once installed, they can be controlled remotely using a mobile app or using Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri voice commands.
Having to leave your home office and drive to a Starbucks or Dunkin’ location to enjoy a fresh cup of gourmet coffee prepared just the way you like it can be a huge time waster and become an expensive habit.
By taking advantage of a state-of-the-art “smart” coffee maker that’s set up within your home office or kitchen, it’s possible to brew a fresh cup of gourmet coffee whenever you want it, and prepare it just the way you like it. In fact, you can even set up timers to ensure hot coffee will be waiting for you first thing in the morning when you wake up, or at specific times during your workday.
The smart coffee machines from Hamilton Beach and Keurig take advantage of “smart technology” to make the gourmet coffee brewing experience efficient and customizable—while saving you time and money.
This smart coffee maker from Hamilton Beach allows you to brew between one and 12 cups of coffee at a time with pre-set timers, and adjust the brew strength of the coffee using Amazon Alexa voice commands or a proprietary mobile app. This coffee maker focuses on ease of use, convenience and affordability.
This is currently one of the smartest coffee makers on the market—and it’s affordable too. Because it’s from Keurig, it’s compatible with more than 200 varieties of coffee K-Cups. Thanks to the BrewID feature, you can insert any K-Cup into the machine and it will automatically be identified and then adjust the brew settings accordingly to ensure a great tasting beverage. In addition, using the coffee machine’s own mobile app, you can easily choose between five mug sizes, and adjust the desired temperature and strength of the coffee you’re about to brew.
You can even set up the coffee maker to keep track of your K-Cup inventory and automatically reorder the K-Cup beverage varieties you’re running low on, so you’re virtually guaranteed never to run out of your favorite coffee flavors. This coffee maker also offers the option to brew hot coffee over ice to create gourmet-style iced coffee right from your home office or kitchen. In addition to being easy to use, this smart coffee maker takes up very little counter/desk space and allows you to brew your coffee (or tea) just the way you like it.
Once you’ve installed or set up smart devices in your home, like a video doorbell, smart coffee machine or smart lighting, for example, you can typically control the equipment from your mobile devices or computer. Adding a smart speaker to your home office also gives you access to a voice-controlled digital assistant, plus the ability to stream music, podcasts or audiobooks so you can fill the room with high-quality audio.
When you add a smart hub with a display to your home office, you’re able to use it to participate in video calls, or view information streamed or acquired from the Internet (such as movies, weather forecasts or stock market updates). It can also serve as an animated picture frame and showcase your favorite digital photos.
As you’re choosing a smart speaker or smart hub for your home office, choose one that’s compatible with your existing mobile devices and any other smart equipment you already have installed. Here are examples of popular (and affordable) smart speakers and smart hub options that’ll make a nice addition to your home office setup.
Designed for Apple fans, the HomePod mini is a tiny smart speaker that generates 360-degrees of rich and clear audio, so with a simple voice command, you can stream music, podcasts or audiobooks. Because it’s also a Siri-compatible smart speaker, you can issue voice commands to control other compatible smart equipment, or ask Siri questions related to almost anything (such as the weather or stock market performance).
If you pair two HomePods in the same room, you’re able to generate rich stereo sound that’ll fill the room as you’re streaming a TV show or movie on your computer, or listening to your favorite music. The HomePod mini is surprisingly small, yet powerful, and is a smart speaker in every sense of the word. It’s designed to work seamlessly with any Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Apple TV device.
In addition to performing all of the tasks that any smart speaker can handle, thanks to its full-color (7-inch) display, this smart hub can display content streamed from the Internet, so it can be used to participate in video calls or virtual meetings, display TV shows or movies from a popular video streaming service, or allow you to stream videos from YouTube. It'll also allow you to control any other smart home equipment that’s compatible with Google Assistant. When not being used, you’re able to set up the Nest Hub to serve as a digital picture frame and display a continuous animated slideshow featuring your favorite digital images.
Instead of taking up desk space and utilizing a smaller-size display, this new Echo Show 15 from Amazon can be hung on any wall. It offers a beautiful 15-inch display, as well as comprehensive smart speaker (Alexa) functionality, so it can answer your questions, respond to voice commands, control your other smart devices, and stream audio content (such as music or podcasts).
Thanks to its built-in camera, you can also use the Echo Show 15 to participate in video calls or virtual meetings, to watch streamed video content from the Internet, or as a digital picture frame. Of course, you can also order anything from Amazon using a simple voice command, such as “Alexa, reorder five reams of printer paper,” which is particularly useful if you’re an Amazon Prime customer.
What sets this smart hub apart from others is the size of its display and the fact that it can be hung on a wall. It also includes a function that allows it to serve as a family planner, so it can be used to share a family calendar or reminders with other family members, which can make it easier to juggle your home and work schedule.
Regardless of what type of work you do, chances are you rely on sticky notes and scrap pieces of paper to jot down ideas, reminders, to-do lists, phone numbers and other important information. Or perhaps you’re “old school” and still rely on traditional notepads to document notes and ideas.
A digital notepad is a device that looks like a tablet, but is designed exclusively as a note taking tool. Using a stylus that resembles a pen, you can write, draw or annotate directly on the screen and then store your notes within the device, sync them with a cloud-based file sharing service, print them, or share them with others. Some of these digital note taking devices will also transcribe what you handwrite into editable text.
Most also serve as a PDF file reader (upon which you can view and annotate PDF documents), as well as an eBook reader. Some use also a glare-free display, which nicely replicates a traditional paper writing surface. Unlike a traditional tablet, which can handle a wide range of other tasks too, a digital notepad’s primary job is to allow you to create, edit, view, store, print and share handwritten notes in an easy-to-use digital format. Check out these extremely portable digital note taking options that can help you better organize your paperwork, notes, ideas, lists and documents.
Now priced at $299, this digital notebook is ultra thin (4.7 millimeters), lightweight (0.88 pounds), and its battery is designed to last for several weeks between charges. Using the stylus, you’re able to handwrite or draw on the screen, or annotate PDF files that you load into the device.
Handwritten notes can be translated automatically into editable text, or you can save your handwriting (as is) in a digital PDF file format that can be viewed, edited, stored or printed wirelessly from the device, shared with others, or uploaded and archived in the cloud.
ReMarkable 2 is fully compatible with Google Drive and Dropbox, and offers a truly authentic pen to paper feel as you’re writing. The tablet also serves as an eBook reader (compatible with all ePub and PDF files) and contains 8GB of internal storage. Third party companies offer a wide range of note taking templates for this notepad that can assist with scheduling, project management, creating meeting notes, writing music or creating storyboards, for example.
If you’re looking for a digital note taking experience that’s convenient, portable, reliable and adjusts to your personalized writing style and habits, the ReMarkable 2 will allow you to replace the notepads and sticky notes of old in your life.
This digital note taking device has a 7.8-inch E-Ink display that allows you to use the supplied stylus to handwrite or draw directly on the display, or annotate PDF files loaded into it. Thanks to its built-in front light, you can use this digital notebook in almost any lighting situation, including a dark room. The Book Nova Air runs using the Android operating system and also serves as an eBook reader with 32GB of internal storage.
Moleskine is known for its high-quality hard cover notebooks, but this smart writing set takes traditional writing or drawing on paper into the digital age. Using the special Moleskine pen (which is included) you’re able to handwrite in the supplied paper-based, hardcover notebook. However, using a proprietary mobile app, everything you write or draw is digitally captured and stored as a digital file that can be viewed on a mobile device’s screen, printed or shared as a PDF file.
Using this smart writing set is no more difficult than writing with a regular pen on paper, but you get the added benefit of having a digital file created that’s an exact replica of what appears on the paper. This system is only compatible with Moleskine smart notebooks, which are also sold separately.
Unlike digital notebooks, which are niche-oriented products designed for people who love the feeling of writing on paper using a pen or pencil, the Apple iPad Mini is a full-featured tablet with a full-color touchscreen that can be used for a wide range of tasks—from note taking to managing emails, surfing the web, playing games or watching movies. In fact, with more than one million iPad apps available from the App Store, what the iPad Mini is capable of is almost limitless.
When used with a specialized note taking app (such asEvernote,Notability,GoodNotes 5,Microsoft OneNote,INKredible orNotepad+) and the optional Apple Pencil (2nd generation), the iPad Mini becomes a portable and powerful note taking system. You’re also able to use the Apple Books, Kindle or Nook app to transform the tablet into an eBook reader, or use the Audible app, for example, to listen to audiobooks.
The iPad Mini comes in several casing colors, you can choose between having 64GB or 256GB of internal storage, and select between Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular options for Internet connectivity. Pricing starts at $499.
Weighing just 0.66 pounds, the iPad Mini offers a beautiful 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, has several built-in speakers, cameras and microphones, and can be used for all sorts of business, communications, productivity and entertainment-related tasks. It can be held comfortable in your hands for extended periods and will quickly become an indispensable tool while you’re working from a home office or when you’re out and about.
One of the drawbacks of working from home are the endless distractions you’ll likely encounter that are caused by family members, pets and neighbors. When you’re trying to concentrate and shut out the outside world, or if you want to more clearly hear your phone conversations and video calls, consider investing in a pair of wireless headphones or earbuds that offer the latest noise-cancelling technology and that work with your computer, smartphone, smartwatch and tablet. Here are some of your options.
While the water and sweat-resistant Apple AirPods Pro will work with any Bluetooth-compatible device, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet, these wireless earbuds are designed to work seamlessly with Apple equipment—including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac computers. In fact, the AirPods Pro will automatically pair with whichever Apple device you’re currently using as you switch back and forth between them.
In addition to being comfortable to wear, the AirPods Pro earbuds offer superior sound quality, along with features like active noise cancelation, a transparency mode, adaptive EQ, and spatial audio with head tracking. Depending on how they’re being used, expect to get between 3.5 and 4.5 hours of continued usage between charges. The AirPods Pro come with a wireless charging case.
For business people who want to be able to shut out the outside world and focus on the audio they’re listening to for up to 24 hours at a time in between charges, the Bose QuietComfort 45 over-the-ear headphones are a top choice.
These comfortable headphones use synthetic leather on their plush ear cup cushions, and the noise cancellation technology is incredibly powerful. Of course, since this is a Bose product, you can expect superior audio quality that’s crystal clear. These wireless headphones work with any Bluetooth compatible equipment, including a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and the Bose Music App allows you to fine-tune and customize your listening experience.
Using similar technology that's built into the Bose QuietComfort headphones, these wireless (Bluetooth) earbuds also offer superior sound quality and noise cancellation, but fit comfortably within your ears. They’re sweat and water resistant, work with all smartphones, tablets and computers, and offer up to a 6.5 hour battery life in between charges.
While they can eliminate any noise from the outside world and allow you to truly experience the audio you’re listening to in an immersive and satisfying way, you can also use these earbuds to ensure you can hear and be heard when participating in voice calls, video calls or virtual meetings—from your desk or while on-the-go.
These wireless earbuds will work with any Bluetooth-compatible smartphone, tablet, smartwatch or computer, but they’re ideally suited for use with an Android-based mobile device. For example, they’re an ideal companion to the Samsung Galaxy S21, Z Flip 3 or Galaxy Z Fold 3 smartphones.
These earbuds are sweat and water resistant, offer active noise cancellation, and provide excellent audio when you’re engaged in a voice or video call. They’re great for music too, and depending on how the Galaxy Buds Pro are used, expect the battery to last between 5 and 18 hours between charges.
Sure, you can do some pretty amazing things by taking advantage of the latest smart equipment in your home office, however, it’s important to focus on using these technologies in ways that’ll help you save time, stay organized and be more productive.
Based on your home office setup and workflow, you'll likely discover personalized ways to use smart equipment that best meet your unique needs. For example, if your home office is located away from the front door, installing a video doorbell (such as the Ring Video Doorbell 4) will alert you of when someone comes to the door or a package gets delivered, without you having to get up from your desk to interact with the visitor or delivery person.
The Ring Video Doorbell 4 is one of several products that have a built-in motion sensor that will alert you when someone approaches your door—whether you’re at home or away. Use your smartphone to see a live video feed and to interact with people at your door without having to get up from your desk, for example. Thanks to the 1080p camera, you'll get a crystal-clear and wide-angle view of what’s happening outside—day or night—and you can install and set up one of these video doorbells in a matter of minutes.