The 11 Items I Bought with My WFH Stipend to Increase My Productivity

updated Jun 14, 2023
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Credit: Erin Derby

You know those rooms that get so little natural light you can’t tell if it’s rainy or sunny? That was my home office. For the last few years, I’ve avoided working there at all costs. Each morning, my husband and I would race to start our computers, knowing that the one who logs in first would inevitably gain control of the shared living and dining room as a workspace for the day. The loser would end up in the dark afterthought of an office.

But when I started a new job this summer, one of the perks I received was a WFH stipend to spend on whatever I needed to make my small office space comfortable for a fully remote role. 

I knew my office wasn’t functional. It was a rag-tag assembly of discarded pieces, interim furniture, and less-than-ergonomic desk accessories. But I also had no idea where to start. I’d never loved any of my in-office setups, and buying office supplies isn’t quite as exciting as hunting down my next vintage find.

So I took to the internet for advice. And yet, every recommendation I found suggested getting the basics I already owned. I wanted to use this stipend to make my office somewhere I wanted to work, rather than a mostly overlooked, multi-functional room. Here are 11 of the items that now make the space feel welcoming and invigorating, and the reasons why you should add them to your WFH routine.

1. Sconces

I wanted to add a styled touch to the room without adding clutter to my main work surface, so I picked up these sconces instead of a desk lamp. Plus, since they’re in front of me on the wall, they illuminate my face on Zoom calls.

2. Hourglass Timer

It’s so easy to let the day slip away with Zoom calls, emails, and keeping up with Slack messages. When I have focused work I need to get through, I use this hourglass timer to break it into 30-minute chunks. I set a goal for the half hour, flip over the timer, and go.

3. Humidifier and Diffuser 

I wanted to make my office a retreat that put me in the zone to work. Dropping a bit of peppermint oil into this humidifier-diffuser combo makes the room feel like a stress-free space where I can write, brainstorm, and get my best work done.

4. Webcam

The minute I turned on my new Macbook, I knew the camera wasn’t going to cut it. I was shocked by what a difference this small webcam makes in giving my Zoom calls a more professional, polished look.

5. Gorgeous Notebooks

I have the best recall when I take written notes, keep to-do lists, and come back to pen-and-paper brainstorming. Of course, a gorgeous notebook never hurts. These are certainly not cheap, but why not splurge on one you love?

6. Sound Machine

Two people in one small condo who are both on conference calls can make for a distracting scene. I’ll turn my music up to give my husband privacy, but sometimes I need white noise to cancel that out. A sound machine with options beyond fan gives me a gentle, soothing background.

Credit: Erin Derby

7. Wireless Chargers 

I always thought, why do I need a wireless charger — doesn’t the plug in work just as well? But, in a home office, a wireless charger can be incredibly efficient. I just toss my phone on it when I sit down at my desk and I can grab it without getting tangled up in a power cord. It seems like a small upgrade but, trust me, it makes a difference.

8. Bamboo Shade

One of the reasons my space was so unappealing was that it looked out directly on our neighbor, just a few feet from their window. Doing a WFH overhaul gave me an excuse to get a shade for the window to add a bit of privacy to my workday. If it makes the room more functional, that’s reason enough to consider it a workspace upgrade in my book.

9. Laptop Stand

I’d spent years stacking my laptop on coffee table books — or looking down at my computer and wondering why my angles were so bad. When I finally got this easy-to-use laptop stand, it was like my entire world changed. All of a sudden I felt like I was actually looking at my colleagues at a normal level. My neck wasn’t straining. Is this what ergonomic means?!

10. Rug

It’s unbelievable the difference a rug makes. It made my home office actually feel like a room, and it helps with both the acoustics within the room, as well as buffers sound from traveling down the hall.

11. And, Yes, a Second Monitor

Even though I said I already had my basics covered, I did end up getting a second monitor. But I opted for a portable version, which makes more sense in a small office where I don’t have room for a large monitor on permanent display. This one can travel with me, and I can stow it away in my desk when I’m not using it.