Remote work is here to stay.
Some employers are willing to give hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in stipends for their staff members to deck out their home office, while others might not be as in tune with what a true work-from-home situation looks like.
Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office setup before it’s work-from-home ready.
So, in this remote world, here are some of the home office essentials and equipment you should at least consider purchasing for your home office space.
The Basic Home Office Essentials for Remote Jobs
1. Computer Setup
Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up on the couch with your laptop on those lazy days. In that case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.
Spending nearly $2,000 on a McBook may not be feasible, even if you write it off on your taxes. That’s why work-from-home reporter James Duren sticks to the basics with his $170 Chromebook.
“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”
This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.
For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.
2. High-Speed Internet
Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must be able to directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.
Though you might be on Wi-Fi most of the time, a hard-wired connection is your backup when the network is on the skids and you have several video calls to make.
Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. Reviews.org recommends at least 50 Mbps download speed and 10 Mbps upload speed for working at home. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.
To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay at least $20 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)
But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.
It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require an office desk. It’s kind of a given.
But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices. So it’s good to consider your space and storage limitations when shopping around.
“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a standing desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.” A standing desk can range anywhere from $60 to $400 on Amazon. It’s all about your preference and price limitations.
What about portability? “A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.
4. Office Chair
If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the right office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when you’re sitting for hours at a time.
“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support office chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive. His go-to ergonomic chair is from Aeron. The cheapest model in this series goes for around $600, but Kinsport says it’s worth every penny.
For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair, which is available for as low as $111 on Amazon. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.
The Extras – Other Home Office Essentials to Consider for Remote Jobs
5. Landline and Phone
If you’re in customer service or sales, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.
If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.
Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over. Less than 32% of Americans have landlines now, according to Ooma, who also says the average costs of a landline is $42 per month. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.
6. Headset and Microphone
Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, noise-canceling headphones can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or video calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.
“For remote work, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the background noise of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.
Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.
“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-canceling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”
The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model. If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.
7. Dual Monitors
Computer screen monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries, but other professions, like writers and designers, find them beneficial as well.
“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”
PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2022, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use, and currently will set you about $250 at Wal-Mart. Consider adding a laptop stand or a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.
8. Other Little Extras
Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable to work in every day may require a few more touches:
- Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
- Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
- Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it. Or simply find a spot next to the window for some nice natural light.
- Warm home office decor. You don’t have to go overboard, but your home office should reflect your personality.
- Storage space or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.
If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover costs on these home office essentials, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.
And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.
Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Robert Bruce contributed to this report.