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A year after we all packed up our desks and adjusted to working from home, more and more businesses are opening up their offices — soon, you too might be making the trek back to your abandoned, dust-covered cubicle.
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According to a recent report, a majority of employers in New York anticipate at least half of their employees will be back in the office by late March. While your return-to-office plans may vary, and the idea of what a “workplace” is might involve alternating office time and time spent on your couch for the near future, you should think about stocking up on some essentials before you go back to in-person work.
In fact, LendingTree found that some workers are planning to spend around $700 on purchases including new clothing, shoes, accessories and office decor. You certainly don’t need to shell out your entire paycheck on a whole new wardrobe and supplies, but as you leave your home and return to the office, it might be time for a workspace facelift. Organization and cleanliness should be at the front of your mind too, now that you’re interacting with coworkers on the daily again.
Whether you want to reimagine your entire office space, keep your cubicle germ free, or just update a few old desk items after a long year away, we’ve got the best back-to-work essentials so you’ll be totally prepared when the time comes. From UV phone sanitizers, to ergonomic seat cushions, don’t worry about being uncomfortable back in your office again — that’s what the Sunday Scaries are for.
1. Laptop Dock
If your office hasn’t made the jump to go fully remote yet, and you’re still on a hybrid work schedule commuting back and forth (aka, shlepping your laptop back and forth), then there’s nothing more useful than getting yourself a laptop dock. A laptop dock will not only give you the ability to still use a powerful monitor setup, it’ll also save you precious desk space.
We like Brydge’s MacBook Vertical Dock, which has a sleek and easy-to-use design, that opens up essential space while keep you connected. Simply slide your MacBook into the form-fitting dock for seamless dual-display capabilities. For any desktop, home media center or conference room, the dock connections to most Thunderbolt 3-equipped MacBooks through two USB-C ports at a full 40Gbs. It also has additional vents to keep more air circulating and prevent your laptop from overheating.
2. Business Cards
Coming back to work means back to networking. Whether at the water cooler, or during conference meetings, you’ll likely be interacting with a few new hires face-to-face. Introduce yourself to the newbies, or reacquaint yourself with old employees with some distinguished, classy business cards — Vistaprint has some of our favorites, with customizable, industry-specific templates that will make you look professional no matter what design you choose.
But if you do have a specific idea in mind, we like that you can video chat with one of their designers to create card that best represents, well, you. Put your best foot forward when you return to the office with 100 cards starting at $17.
3. Charging Pad For Your Devices
Now you’ll probably be shuffling your phone, wallet, keys and glasses back and forth between your home and the office. Courant’s Catch 3 is the ultimate tech and organizational accessory, able to charge up your devices while keeping everything neat on your desk.
The charging pad is 11 x 8 x 0.6 in, and can charge up to a single device fast thanks to its three coils — a standard wireless charging pad only has one or two. Not only do devices charge quickly, you don’t have to worry about placing them in the wrong spot, which can be a problem with single-device charging pads. The Catch 3 can charge any QI-enabled device, including smartphones, wireless earbuds, and even smartwatches. There’s also a USB-A port for additional devices.
The premium pebble-grain Italian leather pad also looks just great on any desk, from the smallest cubicle, to the most open shared workspace. If you want to charge your device, and keep accessories on your desk, but don’t have a lot of space, Courant’s Catch 3 Wireless Charging Pad is the right solution.
4. UV Phone Sanitizer
Even if you’re back to commuting, your phone is probably the dirtiest device you touch all day. Using a UV (ultraviolet) sanitizer is one of the best ways to clean your phone, and PhoneSoap’s Pro sanitizer is our favorite option.
In just 5 minutes, it blasts your phone with UV light on the front and back of your device. It can kill up to 99.99% of germs, including bacteria that transmit diseases — half the time as our other phone sanitizers. There is no definitive proof UV light can kill bacteria associated with COVID-19, but it can get rid of other nasty germs. With a larger sanitizing bay than previous models, you can also fit accessories like AirPods and larger phone models like the iPhone 12.
The PhoneSoap Pro needs to be plugged in, but if you have to go to multiple locations for work, or want to clean your phone on the go, we recommend the more portable PhoneSoap Go.
5. Earbuds For the Office
Having wireless earbuds at the office keeps you from constantly reaching for your phone and picking up germs, transferring them to your hands. A good set of earbuds should help you have a more productive day too, with built-in microphones for calls and meetings, and a comfort level that will make them feel almost unnoticeable.
JBL’s earbuds check all our boxes for the best earbuds for the office, with adaptive noise-cancelling technology, to seamless, clear calls for both you and your coworkers, so you never miss any important info on a call, even if you’re commuting. Taking calls is easy due to their compatibility with Siri and Google Assistant. For maximum comfort, JBL’s app also has a “Seal Check,” so you alway know whether you’re wearing the best tips for your ears. With an eight-hour battery per charge, these buds can do everything but reply to that email.
6. Portable Sanitizing Wipes
The Honest Company
Keeping your workspace clean and germ-free, whether it’s items on your desk, or your own hands after running out for lunch, is a priority. You don’t have to break out the big guns and spray harsh chemical cleaners all over the place like you’re fumigating—Honest makes it simple to swipe away bacteria with their Sanitizing Alcohol Wipes.
Especially if you’re commuting or traveling and there’s no soap and water around, Honest wipes will effectively remove all the everyday dirt and grime from your hands and common high-touch surfaces. Honest alcohol wipes kill up to 99.9% of germs with 65% ethyl alcohol. They’re designed to not be harsh or your surfaces, with no fragrances, parabens, phenoxyethanol, or chlorine processing. With just a touch of aloe, they’re soft on your hands too. These wipes show that staying clean on the daily doesn’t have to be a chore.
7. Ergonomic Chair Cushion
Ergonomically-designed furniture can help you keep a comfortable posture throughout the day, which will make you more alert. But if your office already has designed chairs (and you’re not ready to shell out thousands for a new one), or if you just spend a lot of time commuting by car and need an extra ergonomic boost, picking a seat cushion can be a simple yet effective solution.
The Purple Double Seat cushion is a cult fave, and one of our personal favorite office upgrades. Unlike other ergonomic cushions that are made from memory foam that will wear down over time, Purple’s cushion uses an even grid-patterned Hyper-Elastic polymer, providing balanced support for your back and spine without putting pressure on your tail. If you tend to overheat too, the temperature control grid also allows for better airflow, allowing you to sit comfortably for hours.
However, if you do get the chance to replace your old, rickety desk chair entirely, we recommend Steelcase’s high-quality Leap chair that actively flexes with your movement to keep your lower back supported all throughout the workday.
8. Standing Desk
But for those of you who do spend your workday sitting, it might behove you to take a stand sometimes. Harvard found that switching your setup can provide health benefits, like lowered back and shoulder pain (from sitting all day), lowered blood sugar levels, and a reduction in the risk for obesity.
Flexispot’s Comhar All-in-One Standing Desk adjustable desk is jam-packed with features, making it an invaluable part of anyone’s return-to-work office plan. The standing desk has programmable presets that let you save specific height settings (like how you’d program seat settings in a car), and we like that the motor moves it smoothly and quietly.
The simple design belies that it’s an organizational powerhouse — underneath the desktop is a handy pull-out drawer for books, stationery, chargers and other desk accessories. We love the built-in power station too, with three USB ports so you can charge your devices while you work. It also features easy up and down buttons that adjust the desk’s height, along with four presets. From the smooth transition from desk to standing, to the sleek, minimalist design, this desk would be the centerpiece of every office.
9. Air Purifier
A small-sized portable air purifier can do a pretty good job of cleansing your immediate surroundings of dust, allergens, or toxins if your workspace doesn’t get good circulation. Especially if you’re using the purifier in an open office space, we like to prioritize purifiers designed for especially whisper-quiet functionality.
The GermGuardian pluggable wall air purifier was designed to filter the air in small spaces, and it’s remarkably small at just 7 inches. As a bonus, the GermGuardian has a UV-C light that helps kill airborne viruses like influenza, staph, and rhinovirus.
This purifier has you covered not only on killing airborne mold and germs, but reducing unwanted odors from smoke, trash, cooking fumes, and more. With a compact air intake design that doesn’t require a heftier fan, you can run it all day at the office without worrying about the noise disturbing your coworkers while providing you fresh, clean air.
10. Portable Printer
Avoid having to get up and use the office printer every five minutes and walking past your coworkers. HP’s OfficeJet 250 All-in-One Portable Printer is a wireless printer that’s compact and slim enough to fit on most desks, at just 14.96-inches long and 7.8-inches wide. The portability is key if you’re still working with a hybrid home-office model.
Don’t worry about capacity, either — it can fit up to 50 sheets of paper in its rear tray. One feature that makes it a true office upgrade is the ability to connect to a WiFi network, so you can send print jobs from your phone, tablet, or computer (or even with Alexa) without plugging in a cable. Small but mighty, the OfficeJet 250 won’t take up half your desk, or require its own side table. The interface has an intuitive 2.65-inch touchscreen display, so you can easily print everywhere.
11. Paper Shredder
When it comes to back-to-work essentials, everyone needs a reliable shredder that can get the job done, especially when you return to the office and find year-old documents all around. The best shredders for your office should fit a few criteria: they should be big enough to handle large stacks of documents, and have enough power to cut continuously through harder items like credit cards and more.
This high-powered 12-sheet Aurora shredder is one of our top picks, with an automatic jam reverse feature, and designed with a safe and functional angled entry feed to help prevent shredder accidents. It can also keep the shredding going for up to five minutes at a time, enough to power paper, paper clips and credit cards without too many breaks. It includes an LED light for overheating, so you won’t have to flag down a coworker if you think something’s up.
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