office

6 must-have, but often overlooked, apps and products for working at home

There are a number of reasons I love working at home. The flexibility of my schedule, hours spent working with a dog in my lap, ease of grabbing a cup of coffee and starting work in PJs. It is stressful at times with due dates and workloads, but for the most part, there are few downsides. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t small ways to make the home office life even better.

When you sit for hours at a time, something as simple as a back pillow can make a huge difference. If you’re like me, short and with arthritis in the knees, a comfortable, properly sized chair can limit pain. With a hectic schedule, nothing’s better than a good old planner or wall calendar. But these are the usual office go-to’s.

If you’re looking to improve your work-at-home space, think outside the box and consider the following products.

6. Lap Desk

Sometimes sitting at a desk all day just doesn’t cut it. But it’s uncomfortable to lean over a coffee table. Plus, laptops get hot when in a lap for long periods. The best remedy is a lap desk, and this one is an upgrade from your basic one.

Recommendation: Sofia + Sam Multi Tasking Memory Foam Lap Desk with USB Light

Sofia + Sam Lap Desk

  • Slide-out side table
  • Memory foam bottom, wrist rest, handle for transport
  • Slots to hold mobile devices (side table) and larger tablets (main table)
  • USB light that’s removable to plug in other USB devices (requires 4 AA batteries)

If you enjoy working on the couch or in the recliner like I do, lap desks like these are practically necessary.

Buy It: Amazon | Walmart

5. Multi-Device Desk Charging Station

Do you have a quite a few devices that you tend to leave everywhere? I do. My cell phone, tablet, laptop, kindle. I move my cords all over the place, too. One place to keep my devices for charging prevents me from wasting time. Like those 20 minutes wasted when I just needed to load my iPad with photography gig details.

Recommendation: MobileVision Bamboo Charging Station & Multi Device Organizer Slim Version for Smartphones, Tablets, and Laptops

MobileVision Bamboo Charging Station

This dock provides plenty of space for devices as large as laptops; because the weight is evenly distributed and there are magnets to keep the top and bottom together, there is no fear of tipping. Word has it that the middle slots are wide enough to fit iPads with OtterBox cases. The bottom has space for a multi-USB charger (not included) so everything can charge in one spot.

Buy It: Amazon

4. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

When you need to concentrate on audio or just need to drown out the noise around you, nothing’s better than noise-cancelling headphones. If you’ve ever worn ear plugs, you know they muffle noise only to a point, and that wearing them for long periods can be itchy, sometimes painful. However, with the right set of headphones, you can shut out even more sound.

High-Price Recommendation: Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones

  • 20 hours wireless use; 40 for wired use
  • Bluetooth or NFC pairing
  • Voice controls
  • Lightweight, comfortable
  • Balanced audio performance
  • Noise-rejecting dual microphone system

Buy It: Bose.com | Best Buy

Lower-Price Recommendation: Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Headphones

Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Headphones

  • Wireless
  • 16 hour battery
  • Bluetooth connection
  • Foldable and rechargeable
  • Blocks up to 23 dB of noise
  • Turn noise cancellation on/off
  • Built-in microphone for use with smartphone

Buy It: Amazon | Paww.com

3. Cup Warmer

I am the world’s worst about getting busy and letting my coffee or tea get cold. That means either trips back and forth to the microwave or lukewarm coffee after topping it off from the pot. Best solution? A cup warmer for the desk! Not only does it save time, it keeps my caffeine intake at the ideal for long days and nights.

Recommendation: Norpro Decorative Cup Warmer

Norpro Decorative Cup Warmer

The Norpro cup warmer holds up to a 3.75-inch cup of coffee or tea. Its nonstick plate heats up just enough to keep your drink warm, and in case of spills, the surface is easy to clean. The wall cord reaches a nice 5 feet.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Task management app

Paper and digital calendars are helpful for keeping up with to-do’s, and everyone’s fell into the lap of Big Sticky Note, but nothing really beats a good task-management app that can do it all.

Recommendation: Wunderlist

Wunderlist

  • Build a to-do, grocery or other list
  • Create reminders, due dates and to-do’s with deadlines
  • Add notes and hashtags, or organize into folders
  • Print, or create push or e-mail notifications
  • Share lists and reminders with friends, coworkers or employees
  • E-mail things to your list, or add websites straight from your browser

Wunderlist is available for any platform you need–Android, iPhone, Mac and PC–as well as with browser plugins for Chrome, FireFox and Safari. You can download the app to your phone and desktop, and they’ll sync as you update them from anywhere. It’s really the best app for organization.

Download It: Wunderlist

1. Portable Scanner

Having digital copies of everything is practically mandatory these days. For one, it’s easier to organize items. Two, that makes it easy to later look them up. Three, it often means you have duplicate copies, so if the paper document is lost, there is a backup. It’s just good policy, both for personal reasons and for business reasons.

For instance, I have a tendency to misplace my business receipts. Once my printer’s scanner broke, I started taking pictures of everything.  Problem is, they’re not always the clearest. Plus, emailing pictures of business documents? That lack of clarity isn’t professional either. So, instead of relying on pictures from my iPhone, I broke down and bought a portable scanner–and it’s been a dream!

Recommendation: Epson WorkForce DS-30 Portable Document Scanner

epson document scanner

Scan your documents directly to cloud services with this portable scanner. With up to 600 dpi resolution, scans up to 8.5″ x 14″ come out clear. The scanner works quickly, and it even can create editable and searchable PDFs. Mac and PC compatible, it features a USB connection, and software such as Epson Document Capture Pro (Windows), ABBYY FineReader, NewSoft and Page Manager (Mac) provide enhanced functionality.

Buy It: BestBuy

Krista

Krista

Krista's a freelance proofreader and writer who spends most days eyeballing medical texts, others crafting stories for teen games. Sometimes she even makes a few bucks with photography. One thing's always true--she's got a hot geek streak for historical and scientific discovery.
Krista

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