20 gadgets for working from home

So many of us work from home nowadays. Freelancer or teleworker, here are 20 gadgets you will need for your home office.
1 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

It may sound frivolous but you would be lost without it. Whenever you're heading out the door, you need to know two things: where your phone is and that it is charged.

Docks allow you to keep your device charged but also in one place, so you don't lose it or find yourself scrabbling around to find it. Also when a device is docked, it can be remote controlled (depending on the device). Plus, more often than not, it's great for the bedside, even if you don't use it in the office.

Depending on the kind of phone you have, you may need to shop around. But always be sure to get a genuine dock from your manufacturer directly even through Amazon, as others can make cheap knock-offs.

Source: Apple.

2 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

When working from home, one of the hardest things to do is detach yourself from your home life. It's easy to slob in your pyjamas around the house, but make the distinction between the two.

Many of your favourite programs might be broadcast during the day when you are 'at work'. Record them, keep your time schedule strict and do not falter. Plus, it's a great way to keep yourself entertained during the 'lunch hour' by catching up on your latest TV show. 

Make sure you get a DVR that is compatible with your home cable or service provider, though. Whoever said working from home has to be all about 'work'? It's not: it's about work/life balance.

Source: CNET.

3 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Many assume that home offices have a desktop computer, such as one with a tower box whirring with fans and clicky noises. When, in fact, most home offices -- wherever they might be, even in the spare room -- are centered on laptops.

Laptops are great because you can take your work with you -- literally. But they can end up causing pain in your back and neck over time if you use it regularly at your desk . What's the cure? A laptop stand, that allows you to modify the height and screen of your laptop to make it easier on reading and writing on-screen.

You could also make the working experience easier by buying a USB keyboard and mouse to turn the laptop into a fully-fledged 'desktop' computer.

Source: Matias.

4 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

No matter what laptop (more on that later) or desktop you have, it only comes with so many USB ports. And you will always, always have too many USB sticks or devices that you have. 

A USB port, particularly one that plugs into a high-speed port -- like an Apple-compatible Thunderbolt port -- will give you super-fast speeds so you can transfer data around in seconds, and run a plethora of devices from webcams to printers. Plus, it keeps all of your USB devices in one place and connected, saving you time and energy when you shift them around.

Source: CNET.

5 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

If the kids are running amok around the house and driving you crazy, or your partner thought today -- your busiest day of all days -- way the day to vacuum the house and repair the boiler, or anything else involving pure noise, then headphones are for you.

But considering you will no doubt already have enough wires trailing across your desk, consider wireless headphones. They give you the freedom to pace around or sit freely without wires following you everywhere. Sure, they cost often considerably more than wired headphones, but the convenience alone will pay off in the long run.

Not only will you be able to block out the sounds from the background, you can listen to your favourite tunes at the same time. Working from home can be a treat rather than a necessity with music by your side.

Source: CNET.

6 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Regardless of the kind of work you do for a living, you can't get everything done, let alone get all your thoughts down for the moment you're in.

If you are in the 'creative' industry, consider a voice recorder. You can instantly get something down on 'paper' so to speak, without having to write anything. Thoughts can come and go in an instant. So, instead of writing everything down, which takes time (for which you may have already forgotten your point), record it - and come back to it later.

Plus, it's handy to have on hand for other purposes. Whether you are a journalist, or simply forgetful, your voice recorder will act as your second brain. Treat it well, and you shall deliver.

Source: Amazon.

7 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Working from home is all good and well, but you may still need to get about places and see people, or head into the office to catch up on 'regular' work.

You may have a company laptop or tablet that you are liable for, or your own device that you need to get from one place to another unharmed. Besides from being in an actual explosion or a Western shootout, a laptop case will really help prevent it from getting scrapes or suffering bumps and technological bruises -- especially if you have bought an expensive Mac.

Plus, if you buy a 'discreet' laptop case, it can also serve as a vital anti-theft mechanism. Who would think a laptop or tablet is inside that innocuous looking 'envelope'?

Source: Amazon.

8 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Skype is good. In fact, Skype is great. You can call international numbers on the cheap, set up your own "online number" as a professional looking business number, and even participate in a conference call. But Skype alone can be a pain if you don't have headphones, a headset, or a microphone.

What you need is something that will turn your landline phone into a Skype phone. Oh, wait. There is. It plugs into your landline jack, and that's it. No more setting up headsets, or keeping your callers on hold whilst you fiddle around with microphones. It just works, and it works an absolute treat.

Source: Skype.

9 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Working from home often means you need to take your documents with you. Sure, they can be on your email, work storage drive, or even in your work luggage. But you will need to print out stuff to take back into work. Unfortunately, you can't take the photocopier or the industrial-sized printer with you from the office. So what's the next best thing?

In my experience, a fast, energy-saving and cheap-to-run laser black-and-white printer will do the job nicely. Laser printers are better quality than home inkjets, and are cheaper in the long run to maintain. Small enough to sit on a desk, or even besides it, and one with Wi-Fi also means you can print directly from your laptop from downstairs. 

Source: Amazon.

10 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Dropbox is not for everyone. Not only is there a risk that your data could get lost (like Megaupload), or accessed by third-country law enforcement, you need an Internet connection to access your files more often than not. 

An external hard drive -- often small enough to fit in your pocket -- are durable, last for years, and often come with pre-installed security software to encrypt your data. Your data stays with you at all times. And nowadays, they come in 500GB and 1TB by standard, meaning you can take not only your work documents with you, but your movies and music as well.

Source: Amazon.

11 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

OK, so this is probably the most boring thing in this list. But you'll have a handful of devices that all need plugging in, and probably only two wall sockets. The best thing you can do -- particularly if you're in an area that is prone to outages or lightning storms -- is to get one with a surge protector as well. This prevents any of your devices getting well and truly zapped in the event of a power outage.

You won't even know it's there. Once it's bought, you can trail it behind your home office desk and leave it to it. And, they're often incredibly cheap. Besides the paper in your printer, it'll probably be the cheapest thing in your home office. 

Source: Amazon.

12 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

You can have 20Mbps broadband at home, yet when working wirelessly from downstairs, you can be limited to just 5Mbps, making that chunky PowerPoint document upload take forever, or that YouTube video longer to buffer than the time it would take to watch it. 

What you need is Wireless-N. It gives you almost (if not exactly) what your home broadband speed should be, wherever you are in the house, downstairs, in the back garden, and half way down the street as well. Make sure you get a Wireless-N router that is compatible with your home ADSL/2+ or cable provider, though. Sometimes they can be a bit funny. 

Source: Amazon.

13 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Working from home often means traveling around as well; often at your own expense. The trouble is that often you need to access the Web but can't find a hotspot without either forking out money for it, or discovering one that is fast enough. And if you rely on Starbucks and their Web speedy Web connection, you might need to do some work in private. Just think what your colleagues at the CIA would think about it.

What you need is a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. A Mi-Fi device connects to the cellular network under a pre-approved tariff, and allows you (and only you) to connect to it. It doesn't include any fiddly wires, and more often it's a case of 'plug-and-play' -- or whatever the wireless equivalent is.

Source: Amazon.

14 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

With wires trailing all over your desk, you will soon be overcome with wire-madness. It's one of the many reasons why I try and keep my working-from-home office desk as clutter-free as possible by taking advantage of wireless technology. From a wireless Apple keyboard and a wireless Apple Trackpad (I use a Mac, if that didn't give the game away), and wireless headphones, it saves on a lot of hassle.

But for the necessary wires, you can keep them fixed and out of the way. These small adhesive pads clip wires in place on your desk, and keep unsightly cables out of sight or in a fixed location. Again, it's one of those things you will probably never notice again, but something you will never be able to live without.

Source: BlueLounge.

15 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

This has been an utter lifesaver. You can have as many devices as you have, and more plugs and wires trailing across your desk, and taking up valuable multi-socket space. The logical next step is to ditch all of your chargers and to replace them with one, unified device.

It plugs in by USB -- which you should now have at least one spare -- and you can charge all of your devices. It supports BlackBerrys, iPhones, even Nokias, Samsungs and that magic European standard, micro-USB. Granted, you can't charge all of your devices at the same time, but it's a handy piece of kit to have on hand. 

Source: USB Fever.

16 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

A chair is arguably the most important thing in this list of things you need. You will be sat down for most of the time you are in your home office, so you are going to need a comfortable chair that supports your back, but is also adjustable so you can sit at a desk correctly.

For goodness sakes, go out and try them out. You can't just buy one off the web. Try out a few, and should it be an expensive one, expense it to your work. If you can also get one with lumbar support, your back will thank you in the long run.

Source: Knoll.

17 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

There are so many laptops you can choose. You will need something durable and practical, light and that offers excellent performance. If you are not an Apple fan, then try out the Lenovo ThinkPad (yes, they are still in production). Laptops are best for those who work from home, because they are portable and can be taken with you. Plus, all your documents are present and ready on your device wherever you are. More often than not, they are silent -- the MacBook Air is completely silent, for example -- which will reduce stress from erroneous noise.

Again, a laptop can be expensive. But don't think you can cut down the price and go for a netbook. Sure, they are small and compact, but in terms of performance, they are dreadful.

Source: Lenovo/Apple.

18 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

It's something you probably haven't even thought of. A desktop lamp can offer just that right amount of light if you are working late, but not enough to keep you awake for all night. Plus, if you are living and working in a space that does not offer much light, a desktop light is perfect -- particularly if it is flexible and one if you can move around. 

If you are energy conscious (if you are working from home, and using your own electricity -- you should be), then you can always pop in an energy saving bulb. They are brighter, often feel more like natural light, and use far less electricity, saving you on your bills in the long run.

Source: Amazon.

19 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

If you work from home, you will still no doubt have to comply with your company's policy on information security, and protect your own privacy. It is therefore advisable -- and very wise -- to buy a shredder.

Depending on the type of industry you work in, or the job you have, security may be of paramount importance. Some shredders come with incredible speed, and you get others that shred securely -- none of this straight-down-the-middle shredding. We are talking shredding on a scale that would be impossible to put together. It's particularly useful if you're in accounting or law enforcement. 

Source: Amazon.


20 of 20 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Coffee: the life-blood of almost everyone in the Western world and beyond. If you are anything like me, you'll need a coffee machine simply to keep up with the amount of Java you consume (and no, I don't mean the code. I can't code.)

CNET has a selection of really good coffee machines on review; some that include milk dispensing and some that don't -- if you prefer your coffee as thick and black as road tar. 

Source: CNET.

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