I remember the first words I heard about this COVID-19 virus. I was at work discussing the rumors I had heard about some crazy, possible mandated quarantine.
Months went by and while companies had temporary solutions to the work from home dilemma, some began to be more permanent.
The second wave of COVID-19 came and a few companies decided that working from home was no longer a bandaid solution, but was rather a permanent solution to our newfound problem.
As employees in this predicament, we set up folding tables, worked from our couches, and utilized our dining room tables as long as we could. Now, we are hearing companies like Twitter, and others, are looking to make this a long-term solution. Personally, I am searching for a better work from home option. No longer do I want to be able to just get by working from an inadequate workspace at home. I want to work from anywhere which allows for a variety of creative inputs, an occasional change of scenery, lots of flexibility, and much-needed fresh air.
What this has boiled down to is an upgraded work from home experience as well as a traveling (or portable) option. Here are a handful of products that I have tested, tried, and love.
Work From Home (Updated and Upgraded)
I don’t know about you, but while working from home, I have gone through an absurd amount of storage. Especially as someone who edits videos, and needs a lot of storage in general. If you are looking to add to your digital storage capacity and also your peripheral connections, look no further than the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual with 3 – Port Hub.
This device allows for up to 32TB of storage, has two USB-A ports, and one USB-C port to connect extra devices all run by this powered hub. Another great feature is that it runs RAID 0, RAID 1, JBOD, or Span configurations. I love having this on my desk at home as it has allowed for a faster workflow and has truly become a desktop centerpiece.
Straining your neck while staring at a monitor all day is a real concern. Most monitors don’t have height adjustments built-in. That’s what makes the Twelve South Curve Riser wonderful.
A fixed-height riser, with a built-in shelf, has never looked so sleek and minimalist. The shelf is designed to perfectly fit an audio interface, USB-C hub/docking station, or even a Mac Mini.
Twelve South even thought ahead to allow for breathability on the shelf including air holes for maximum ventilation. This has been a fantastic addition for one of my monitors at home, allowing for optimal viewing height, with a sleek, functional design.
Continuing on the search for a raised monitor workspace, Fluidstance has released a similar product to the one above. While slightly wider, and without a shelf, this riser fits an entirely different demographic of riser needs.
Designed to fit an entire keyboard and mouse setup under the riser, as well as more room on top with its larger shelf size, Fluidstance specifically designed the slope of the shelf to allow everything to hide under the shelf perfectly. These features allow for a beautifully functional desk system. I love having the shelf house another monitor, as well as my MacBook on my desk. (I change my desk around a lot, maybe too much.)
Headphones are great. I love headphones, especially quality headphones. Yet working from home for a long period, I have found myself wanting to be able to have background music that isn’t in my face. Polk Audio’s T15 bookshelf speakers have been a wonderful fit. I’ve tried them on my desk, next to my monitors, on an actual bookshelf, and in my makeshift office. These are perfect to have as a mid-range speaker and for a wonderful price.
If you are wanting the best of the best for whatever speaker system you have, look no further than the Denon PMA-150H. This receiver has it all. It is slimline, built for a 2.1 channel system, and has smart features. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control capabilities are built-in, so are streaming platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, TIDAL, and more.
For the audiophiles out there, Denon has integrated USB-DAC for up to PCM 384kHz/32bit and DSD file native playback (DSD 2.8/5.6/11.2MHz) from a computer. This is bound to be enough or more than enough for any 2.1 stereo system. I absolutely love having this receiver pushing my speakers for music I have playing in my house.
If you are looking for something a little less glamorous (or simply a smaller price tag) the Lepai LP-2020TI is exactly that. This is built for a stereo passive speaker system and has an ⅛ in (3.5mm) headphone jack in, as well as an RCA input. Lepai’s LP-2020TI is perfect for a budget-conscious minimalistic speaker setup. Lepai also built-in treble and bass tone control in this small footprint receiver. I love having this little amplifier on my desk, powering simple reference speakers, or switched out with my above Denon for my home speakers.
Perhaps your scenario is that you already have a stereo you love. Maybe you already have a great setup in your house you don’t want to let go of. I have a stereo setup that is still phenomenal audio quality. I’ve attempted to find a great way to still use it but I hate having to walk over and physically plug into it in my otherwise wireless world. The AirFly Pro can turn any receiver into a wireless receiver. Meaning I can now share via Bluetooth from any of my devices to my quality stereo. But what makes this unit amazing is not just that it can receive wireless audio…
Working from home can be great. Working digitally can be great. But something we should all be aware of is the effect that this extended time with blue light from our screens can have on us.
The Pixel Blue Light Glasses are designed specifically for blocking computer blue light. These lenses help block out the blue light that can cause macular degeneration, sleep cycle disruption, and eye strain. Not only have these glasses helped me with eye strain and everything else mentioned above, but they look stylish as well! Pixel has a wide range of frame options, ranging from timeless to modern, allowing for the perfect frame for everyone!
Working from home can sometimes mean working at night — either out of necessity or preference. Regardless of the reason, if you’re working at night, odds are you’d love a lamp. Even working during the day I have noticed that a lamp helps to tie in style to a workspace, and eases the strain on my eyes. With my BenQ ScreenBar Plus e-Reading Lamp, I am now able to have a lamp without taking away valuable real estate on my desk, or having a glare on my screen. This lamp mounts to the top of my monitor with ease and is USB powered. I love that my lamp is not only dimmable with a desktop control, but it also has a temperature changing color. I personally prefer a cooler color midday and a warmer color in the evening. This lamp has been a wonderful addition to my desk and I feel like I’m missing something if I don’t have it on.
Work From Anywhere
…the AirFly Pro’s also can send audio. I can plug this into my old iPod Classic, my Xbox controller or anything else with a headphone jack — even those airplane entertainment systems. To add even more, this device can also act as a splitter. So I can go out to a coffee shop and work with my wife, or my co workers and I can share my audio to any two sets of headphones.
“The Fastest USB-C SSD Ever Built.” I first read this while searching for my next portable storage option and I was sold immediately. I’ve gotten so used to the quick writing speeds of my iPad Pro and MacBook Pro that waiting for transfers on my (now dated) external hard drives (EHDD’s) is not something I am willing to put up with any longer. Additionally, as I look to being able to work from anywhere, I needed something durable. OWC has been able to make this drive IP67 rated — allowing for a dust-tight seal and water resistance for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water.
As it is USB-C, it is bus powered and for those working in both worlds, it is both Mac and PC compatible. I absolutely love the slim design, lightweight modern aluminum casing, and speed. I know that I can trust this SSD with even my most important projects.
Portable power is fantastic. I love not having to rely on an outlet or my internal battery to get my work done. But in a world where I rarely plug my phone in, having to pull out a portable power bank AND a cable just to put put my wirelessly capable iPhone on top of a power bank seems wrong. Then I found my Aukey Basix Pro and it answered my problems. I can plug in if I want the speed or ability to hold my phone easier while charging. I can also plug in a multitude of products via the USB-A or USB-C ports. But what’s even better is that I can also wirelessly charge my iPhone. This bank is large enough to charge my items without a problem, yet portable enough to be carried in my pocket. One feature that is unique to this charger is that it has a kickstand so that I can still see my phone or watch Netflix while charging with ease.
If you are looking for something with an added layer of security in your SSD quest, the Samsung T7 SSD is what you want. Yes, you can add passwords and security measures within drives these days. But what if you were able to stop a potential data breach even before it got into the drive? Samsung has found the perfect solution with the T7 Touch Drive. Now I know that I can store even my most sensitive documents and feel more secure about them while on the go or at a local coffee shop.
While on the go, I usually rely on my iPad Pro to get my work done — and for entertainment. The iPad Pro 11” has a great battery for normal use, however, while editing videos, editing photos, mixing audio, or anything else that drains the battery quickly, I realize how handy a portable charger is. I’ve gone through my fair share of portable chargers. I have found some that I love for my iPhone, Apple Watch, and smaller devices — The Mophie Powerstation XL Wireless. But for my iPad Pro, I needed a bigger, more powerful power bank. The Anker PowerCore 26800 is exactly that. It has three USB-A ports for the output and offers a unique dual input. You can recharge this beast of a portable charger twice as fast if you double up on the inputs — duh right? Having the option to quickly recharge this portable charger is awesome and something that I have come to appreciate more than I thought I would.
Infinacore was able to create something that has blown my mind. This wireless charger plugs into the wall, wirelessly charges, and is also a portable battery. When I first read the description of this device, I thought there was no way this could be done well. I’m happy to say I was very wrong. I have loved using this as a quick recharging base for my devices at night or when I get home. Then, while out at a coffee shop I can lay it on its side and then wirelessly recharge my iPhone. It’s so simple and works so well, it makes you wonder why it took so long to make this —and why more companies don’t follow the lead
I’m an Apple lover. If you’ve read any of my articles you’ve probably picked up on this by now. When I started to work out of coffee shops, on the couch or laying in bed (that’s right, I admitted it), I knew I needed to find a better mouse solution. I needed something that worked on all surfaces — that was for sure. I couldn’t carry around a mousepad everywhere I went, nor could I put up with a mouse that is skipping due to the duvet pillow not sufficing as my mousepad.
The MX Anywhere 3 has helped me work more efficiently from anywhere and everywhere — even glass coffee tables. I love the scroll wheel from the Master Series (review coming soon) and the buttons as well. I can recharge with USB-C, making it the perfect travel companion — because who wants to have to worry about changing batteries.
Continuing in my work from anywhere quest, Logitech has a fantastic portable, lightweight keyboard with the Keys-to-Go. Now even if I don’t have my keyboard case with me, or I need to reply to something quickly on my iPhone, I can pair it with the Keys-to-Go and get work done. This keyboard is so light that I don’t notice it in my daily carry bundle until I need a keyboard. Then, it becomes my secret weapon of productivity. The Keys-to-Go is perfect for a coffee shop or makeshift set up as they are waterproof and wireless. My Keys-to-Go won’t be leaving my daily carry for quite some time — they’ve become that essential and easy to carry.
I love having multiple monitors. Even with my iPad Pro, there is something about being able to put something, anything, on another monitor that helps with productivity for me. At my desk at home, or back when I had an office to go to, I had monitors, but they were big and AC powered. Lenovo solved my quandary with the ThinkVision M14T USB-C Mobile Monitor. I was expecting this to be thin and light, knowing it is designed to be portable. But this blew my mind with just how light, portable, and easy to use it was. I could turn a table at a coffee shop, my dining table, or an airport desk into a full, multi-monitor workstation with ease and a simple USB-C connection. What this means is that I can connect any USB-C device and utilize the screen. I am having a hard time imagining a time not having this as part of my arsenal of productivity.
ANYWARE took the same idea put forth by the Lenovo team for the ThinkVision and made their own version. What’s unique about the PhonePad is that it comes with built-in speakers, audio output, and even three USB-A ports. When it comes to productivity on the go, a portable monitor is next level. When you have a monitor that is also a hub, productivity skyrockets. I will always have a portable monitor in every scenario that I can.
KeySmart saw the struggle that so many glasses wearers, like myself, are struggling with — fogged up glasses. Masks have made wearing glasses incredibly difficult. While no solution is perfect, the Fog Block from KeySmart has dramatically helped me while in public places when I need to wear a mask all the time. I simply need to spray it on my glasses and let it dry. Then depending on how long I wear the mask, reapply as needed. Simple and sweet.
When traveling back and forth between coffee shops and my house or the park bench and my couch, I like to keep my MacBook Pro protected. InCase has been a go-to favorite of mine and this is no different. Their new BIONIC laptop sleeve is a perfect choice if you are considering a way to keep your beloved laptop safe from scratches and simply protected from wear and tear during travel.
While working on the go I have learned that having a very capable and easy to carry adapter for my USB-C devices is vital. I have tried a lot and still one of my favorites is the Hyper 6-in-1 hub. This device can connect to any and all peripherals I use and is designed to work seamlessly with both my iPad Pro and my MacBook Pro. I love the ability to have my Hyper adapter as a dongle or as a hub attached directly to my iPad Pro. Having this ability to turn my one USB-C into a headphone Jack, USB-A port, SD and Micro SD card reader, USB-C Passthrough and HDMI in such a compact device is truly remarkable.
To carry all of your gear while working from anywhere, check out some great gear backpacks in my past review!