Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better.
My motto used to be “have laptop, will travel.” I prided myself on being able to work anywhere: on the floor of a crowded airport, at a rowdy bar, in the parking lot of a Walmart. My office was anywhere I had access to an outlet. My work gear was designed for portability, and I only brought along what I was willing to carry on my back.
But when the pandemic hit, those days disappeared like a bad public WiFi signal. Without a commute or upcoming travel plans, my priorities shifted from ease and efficiency to comfort and stability. I invested in a good chair, created a designated workspace, and started caring about ergonomics.
And now that I’ve adjusted to a completely optimized workspace, there’s no going back. Like an outdoor cat that was brought inside, I’ve developed a taste for store-bought food, and there’s no way I’m going out hunting for rodents again. I am more comfortable, have better posture, and am more focused because I’m not hunched over my laptop like a wretched creature damned for all eternity.
These desk accessories rescued me from becoming a desk gargoyle. My former self might judge me for becoming high-maintenance, but I’m too comfortable to care. Plus, what do gargoyles know, anyway?
Orthopedic chair cushion
It turns out, sitting hunched over your laptop isn’t great for your posture. When I suddenly developed an affinity for Gothic cathedrals and started turning to stone, I decided it was time to take action. It’s embarrassing to admit how much I love this butt pillow that promotes proper spine alignment. But it was that or becoming a gargoyle, so here we are.
ComfiLife Orthopedic Office Chair Cushion, $39.95
Yes, a butt pillow is the first item on this list.
Ergonomically, your screen should be at eye level. In the past, I used a pile of books under my laptop to prop it up, but eventually, I decided to invest in an actual laptop stand. This one is height adjustable, and takes up less real estate on my desk than an enormous pile of books.
Rain Design iLevel2 Adjustable Height Laptop Stand, $54.99
Way better than a stack of books
Credit: Rain Design/Amazon
With a laptop perched at eye-level, an external keyboard and mouse is necessary to achieve ergonomic harmony, which means hands at a neutral angle on your desk and your elbows at or below the level of your hands. The ideal ergonomic keyboards and mice are the ones that conform to your natural hand/wrist movement. This one has good reviews for its split design and quiet keys.
Logitech ERGO K860 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard, $124.06; slightly more with ergonomic mouse (for instance, the MX Ergo trackball or MX Vertical)
This keyboard is fully compatible with Windows and MacOS.
Keyboard/mouse wrist rest
All of this ergonomic gear can get expensive. But a great way to provide relief and support for your wrists is a wrist rest. Instead of buying a new keyboard and mouse, use this to supplement your existing setup. This keyboard and mouse combo has gel memory foam that gives cushy support and also ensures that your wrists and hands are in the right position.
Gimars Mouse Pad and Keyboard Wrist Support, $19.98
A cost-effective solution to long hours at the computer
Smart desk lamp
It’s called mood lighting for a reason. With warm, bright light in my workspace, I am energized and productive. I love this smart lamp because of its versatility. Using a smartphone, you can change the lighting by hue or via mood presets like sunrise/sunset. There’s also a setting that syncs with music or movies. The whole thing is completely portable and lasts for up to 18 hours on its “cozy candle” setting. So, when your workday is done, you can set the mood for winding down your day.
Philips Hue Go White and Color Portable Dimmable LED, $79.95
A smart lamp can help you transition from office to home, even when that’s the same place.
I don’t have one of these yet, but I am very interested in trying it out. For those days when you want to put your feet up but don’t want to commit to a full recline, the foot hammock provides a perfect compromise. Plus, instead of just using a plain old foot rest, this way, it feels like your feet are on a tropical beach somewhere.
Everlasting Comfort Ergonomic Adjustable Foot and Heel Hammock, $22.95
Why not fully commit to WFH comfort?
Credit: Everlasting Comfort/Amazon
8 of the best desk chairs for any office
Just a really good scented candle
There’s nothing like a soothing scent to create a relaxing environment, which in turn can lead to being more productive. Plus, in the depths of winter, a flickering candle creates a cozy “hygge” effect. This one from Maison Louis Marie is one of my favorites. It costs about half the price of the high-end ones out there and has an earthy woody scent that’s light yet lasting.
Maison Louis Marie Candle No.02 Le Long Fond, $36.00
Make your workspace smell like a woodland fairytale.
Credit: Maison Louis Marie/Sephora