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Everything you need to work remotely: The best laptops, desks, monitors, and more

Whether you're fully remote or hybrid worker, or you travel for work a lot, ZDNET has found everything you need to create the best remote work setup.
Written by Gabriela Pérez Jordán, Associate Editor
Reviewed by Allison Murray

Slowly but surely, hybrid work has become the new norm. While many companies have strictly prioritized remote work setups during the past few years, return-to-office mandates have demonstrated that the hybrid work model is here to stay. 

I am a hybrid worker myself, and I've found it difficult to adjust to this new norm, constantly switching from one environment to another – that is, until I found the right remote work setup: the perfect combination of tech devices and gadgets that allow me to have an office at home and on the go. 

Also: Everything you need for commuting to work

Just like most things in life, remote work has its benefits and drawbacks, but with the right tools, you can make the most out of every situation--or in this case, every environment--to be your most productive self at all times. As a remote worker for more than two decades, ZDNET's David Gewirtz believes "the more optimized your space is, the more productivity improves." 

ZDNET has tried and tested the following products to ensure you get the best remote work setup possible.

Also: 4 ways to make hybrid setups work long-term

A laptop

Whether you plan to work from a designated area in your house or at the local coffee shop, a laptop is a must-have essential for remote work. A laptop can provide the flexibility to work anywhere without being bound to a specific place, something desktops or PCs can't do. If you are looking for the best laptops to work remotely, here are some of our favorite reviewed and tested picks. 

Apple's 2023 Macbook Pro with the M2 chip is the best choice for writers, creatives, engineers, and even business leaders who seek a powerful top-performing laptop. You can work long hours without needing to charge thanks to its incredibly reliant 22-hour battery life and you can count on its loud speakers to provide the most crisp and detailed sounds while you work. 

Read the review: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 2023): A content creator's dream machine

Overhead shot of an MSI Creator Z17 HX Studio laptop and MSI Pen 2 stylus. The screen shows an open Photoshop project
Taylor Clemons/Netflix/Dreamworks Animation/ZDNET

As a content creator, you need a laptop that has an excellent display, can go from tablet to laptop, and can withstand long work hours while running powerful programs. Tested by ZDNET's Taylor Clemons, this laptop is the "ultimate creation machine." Its incredible 2TB storage capacity, its 13th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, its 64GB of RAM, and its GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card will give you all the power and storage you need to create your best work yet. 

Read the review: This $3,600 laptop is a feature away from being my dream machine

When it comes to business laptops, Lenovo is your go-to brand. The Lenovo ThinkPad has a slick and thin design that is perfect for on-the-go business executives constantly switching between meetings, presentations, and work functions. Its 13th-generation Intel core processor and Windows 11 Pro operating system make it a powerful and reliable laptop to run multiple software applications and programs. 

And its long battery life and affordable price make it an attainable option for many. 

Also: The best Lenovo laptops of 2023

A pair of headphones 

You are unstoppable with a good pair of headphones on your head, especially when it comes to remote work. Whether you are taking conference calls, zoom meetings, or simply listening to some tunes, the best headphones should provide an immersive audio experience. And unless you want to add an external microphone to your setup, we recommend getting a pair of headphones with a top-tier microphone.

When it comes to audio, Sony is your best friend. Whether you are looking for headphones or earbuds, Sony's WH-1000XM5 lineup delivers market-leading active noise cancellation (ANC) technology, incredible battery life, and an "outstanding" microphone quality, according to ZDNET's Matthew Miller. If you prefer earbuds, check out Sony also has an earbuds version of the 1000XM5.

Read the review: Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are basically perfect

If you prefer earbuds over headphones, then the Bose QuietComfort Noise-Canceling Earbuds II are the best choice. These earbuds will comfortably and securely sit within your ears, providing an immersive audio experience while you work, commute, or exercise. Depending on your settings, you can switch between quiet and aware mode and listen to your favorite songs all day. 

Read the review: Step aside, AirPods. There's a new ANC champion in town

Apple users stick to their kind. If you are one of those people (a.k.a me), the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) are the best noise-canceling earbuds for everyday work and play. Whether you are working from home or at a coffee shop, Apple's classic AirPods will deliver. 

With two times more ANC than the previous generation, and an upgraded transparency mode, you can tune to your favorite music all day – or for at least 6 hours, since that's how long their battery life lasts. 

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds for deep work and quiet studying

The Bose QuietComfort 45 are my – and ZDNET's Jada Jones – go-to headphones for all-day listening. For almost $100 less than Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones, you can get an excellent pair of noise-cancelling headphones that perform just as well. They are incredibly comfortable to wear while you work or attend virtual meetings and easily adapt to your surroundings, thanks to their Quiet and Aware modes. 

Read the review: Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones: The perfect headphones for all-day listening

A monitor

Working nine to five on a laptop five days a week is not ideal--there is no denying after several hours, your back, eyes, and entire body just start to hurt from crouching over such a small screen. Besides, you can do so much more when you have two screens to organize your work. For at-home or on-the-go setups, here are the top monitors to work remotely. 

Also: How to choose the right monitor layout for work

Whether you are working from home, a coffee shop, or even the airport, the Duex Plus monitor gives your laptop that second screen you yearn for every time you step away from your day-to-day monitor. Seamlessly connect through USB or USB-C to any laptop model, and have a slick, lightweight second screen to organize your work. Talk about productivity on the go! 

Also: The best portable monitors

When it comes to top-performing monitors, the LG 34-inch QHD IPS HDR 10 monitor is it. Its 34-inch screen accommodates all my tabs perfectly, and its 3440 x 1440 HD resolution display maximizes even the smallest details from my computer. Its curved form immerses me in my work and its blue light filter keeps my eyes from tiring out in the middle of the work day. 

As someone who likes to switch up their setup, my favorite feature has got to be the monitor's stand, which lets you angle the screen as well as move it upwards or downwards to adjust it to your desired height. 

Monitors can be a hefty investment – and ultimately depend on how much and how long you plan to use your monitor in your remote work setup. If you want a budget-friendly monitor to get started, the AOC B27B2H is an excellent option. 

However, keep in mind that the low price comes at a compromise: while you receive great picture quality and blue light filtering at an affordable price, this display has no integrated speakers or USB-C and DisplayPort interfaces. You will need a good ole' HDMI port to connect your laptop and a pair of wired headphones or speakers to connect to the 3.5mm audio jack. 

A desk and a chair 

I've tried multiple times to work from my kitchen table, and let me tell you, it just doesn't work as a permanent fix. If you are working from home or remotely, you need a designated workspace where you can keep all of your work-related essentials. Not only will your significant other thank you for not hogging the kitchen table, but you will also be able to create a physical distinction between what is work and what is home. Here are some of our favorite office furniture, including desks and chairs.

Personally, I need to stand while working to prevent my head from slamming into my desk after having a meal. Standing desks have become popular options that allow you to raise the height of your desk so you can stand and work (and decrease the negative effects of sitting for hours a day). The Vari Electric Standing Desk has a gorgeous design, programmable height settings, and it is incredibly easy to set up and get working. 

Also: What are the best standing desks, and how often should you stand?

What's better than a standing desk for your health? A treadmill desk where you can walk while you work. The Costway Goplus 3-in-1 treadmill is the best option to keep your energy levels high throughout the day. Walk, jog, or stand while you take Zoom meetings, prepare for your next big presentation, or simply work on mindless tasks. As a remote worker herself, former ZDNET contributor Sherin Shibu tested the 3-in-1 treadmill desk and loved the heightened productivity she felt while working and walking. 

Read the review: I bought a $400 treadmill desk: Here's how my life has changed

Same way you need a designated desk for remote work, you need a comfortable chair to do your work. The Herman Miller Aeron Chair is ZDNET's pick for the best office chair overall due to its customizable features. Choose your chair size based on your height and weight, adjust the armchairs to fit your preference, and choose the design color that best suits your office ambiance. 

While definitely on the pricier side, consider this chair a hefty yet worthy investment towards your back and posture – especially if you are working 40+ hours a week.

Also: The 10 best office chairs: Sit comfortably as you work

Not all good quality chairs need to cost a fortune. If you are seeking a budget-friendly desk chair alternative, the Hbada Modern Comfort Swivel Chair is an excellent option when it comes to value for your buck. For just $130, you get a stylish and modern, yet comfortable desk chair from which you can spend hours at a time.

It features a relaxing rocking function you can use when work anxiety hits and an adjustable armrest so you can tuck your chair into your desk after a long day of work.  

Also: The best gaming chairs you can buy

A keyboard and a mouse

An external keyboard and mouse is definitely up to personal preference, but if you are using a monitor, having a top-quality keyboard and mouse can be more comfortable to use and can provide a better flow of work than performing functions directly on your laptop. Besides, unless you have your monitor higher than your laptop, your screens may interfere, or it may be uncomfortable to type with your computer on the side. 

When it comes to a wireless keyboard, Logitech's MX series provides the best features to optimize your workflow and productivity. With Logitech's Easy Switch, you can quickly alternate which computers or monitors your Logitech Keyboard and Mouse are connected to. And, with Logitech's Smart Actions feature, you can map certain routines or keystroke sequences to a single key in your keyboard.

Read the review: I found the best keyboard for students, and its ChatGPT shortcut proves it

Know for its ergonomic features, the Logitech MX Master 3S is a comfortable, easy-to-use mouse for any user. Compatible with most top-brand laptops, this mouse has four buttons which you can use to customize various tasks or inputs. And with its fast charging long-battery life feature, you rarely have to think about plugging in your mouse – no seriously. One minute of charging with the Logitech MX Master 3S gives you three hours of use, and a full charge gives you four months of use. 

Read the review: Logitech MX Master 3S: The best mouse gets even better

As always, Apple has its own minimalistic, stylish version of a product, and this includes the Apple Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. As an everyday Macbook user, I am used to typing on Apple keyboards, which is why within my own remote work setup I use both – and so far have not been disappointed. They both have an impressive battery life, a lightweight portable design, and pair wonderfully across all my Apple devices.  

You might also need: 

Aside from the tech essentials above, we've included some accessories you might not have thought about for your work-from-home setup. Ultimately, all these products are meant to increase your comfort and your productivity. 

What does remote work mean?

Working remotely is often referred to as working at any location other than a company's central office. This means employees use online forums to meet, communicate, and go about their daily tasks. For some employees, working remotely can mean working from home, while for others, it can mean working on-the-go. 

What is the difference between remote work, work from home, and hybrid work?

Employees who work from home have their offices and work setups at--you guessed it--home. Remote workers are technically those who work at any location that is not the company's central office and, in turn, are nowhere near other coworkers. Hybrid workers work half their time in a company's main office and half remotely -- a trend that has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What should I keep in mind when working remotely?

While working remotely offers immense flexibility, you must be mindful of certain "side effects." First and foremost, the lines between work and play can be blurred. If you want to succeed at a remote job, you must distinguish between your work and home setup. While this can be physical, such as a designated work space within your home or a specific work schedule, it can also be mental; this means creating boundaries of when and where you want to answer messages, send Slacks, or even log into your laptop. 

Secondly, it is essential to keep in mind cybersecurity at all costs. While you may consider you are not at risk since you are in the comfort of your own home or paying attention to your laptop at all times within your local coffee shop, you may be compromising your company's security. ZDNET's Jada Jones shares four ways to secure your remote work setup

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