11 best products to help you work effectively from home
From ergonomic desk chairs to house plants, here’s everything you need to make your home an office
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, many of us will find ourselves working from home for the foreseeable future, which has its benefits, as well as its difficulties.
Sure, the lack of commute will give you more leisure time before and after work, and you can stay in your pyjamas all day if you want to, but turning your home into an office is a tough feat, whether the problem is a lack of space, furniture, noisy neighbours or struggling with the mental challenges that being stuck inside can bring.
To help you make the most of the hard situation, we've compiled a roundup of all our favourite products to help you work from home effectively. Whether that's an ergonomic office chair for comfortable working, a house plant to help you boost your mood and space, a new coffee brand to look forward to brewing in the morning, or a planner to help you keep organised, we've reviewed the best of the bunch.
To turn your household into a working-from-home haven, read on.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Best ergonomic office chair
Herman Miller aeron office chair: £1,099, John Lewis & Partners
The original Herman Miller aeron desk chair is currently on show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In our view, it thoroughly deserves its place there. From the moment we sat down in the aeron, we knew we were onto a winner. The seat and back are supremely comfortable, pleasantly cool to the touch, and with a slight bit of bounce that gives the chair a great sense of responsiveness.
Leaning back into the aeron, you get a perfectly balanced feel, almost as if you’re floating. Furthermore, it can be adjusted in myriad ways – including tilt, height and range of motion – to find the perfect fit for you. We think the aeron looks its best in this graphite finish, with its smart, reflective hardware and subtly contrasting seat and back. A true work of art.
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Best Bluetooth speaker
Sonos move: £398, Amazon
Connections: Bluetooth and wifi
Power: Mains, rechargeable battery
Battery life: 10 hours
Sonos is a powerhouse when it comes to wifi streaming audio, but this is the company’s first Bluetooth speaker. Unsurprisingly, it has added wifi to this too, which allows it to connect to any other Sonos speakers you may have. But the Bluetooth connection and the battery means you can now play music in sumptuous quality when you’re outdoors or away from wifi coverage.
Although it’s portable, it’s also big and fairly heavy – both of which contribute to the excellent sound which has a wide stereo quality, perfectly crisp vocals and solid bass when it’s needed. It also has microphones inside which subtly monitor how the audio is sounding in its current environment and regularly changes its output to suit.
The “trueplay” function found on most other Sonos speakers has morphed into “automatic trueplay” here, with impressive results. This is a solid, hefty speaker with stunning sound.
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Best noise-cancelling headphones
Bose 700 headphones: £299, John Lewis & Partners
On-ear, over-ear or in-ear? Over-ear
Battery life: 20 hours
Wired or wireless? Wireless
Bose traditionally had the best noise-cancelling technology you could find. But when the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones were released, Bose slipped behind. These headphones put Bose back in the lead where noise-cancelling is concerned, able to quell the engine of a 747 effectively or to make phone calls easily heard even in noisy situations. It’s also highly adjustable, with 11 different noise-cancelling settings. Tap the left headphone to reach transparency mode to let the outside world in. Like with the AirPods Pro, here the effect is almost as good as taking them off. They are among the most luxuriously designed headphones you’ll come across, with no visible joints, a stainless-steel headband and adjustable earcups. The build quality of these headphones is also extraordinary: lightweight and comfortable even for long use. A new version has just been announced with a battery in the case, too (£399.95), enough for two full charges, that is, extending battery life by an extra 40 hours.
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Best high-end laptop
Apple macbook pro 16in: £2,799, Apple
Operating system: macOS
Processor: Intel Core i9
Display size: 16in
Price: From £2,799
The macbook pro is Apple’s best-quality laptop line and the new model has a 16in display, which is barely bigger than its 15in predecessor. Like other macbook pro laptops, the top row of keys has been replaced by a slender touchscreen called the touch bar, which changes according to the program you’re using. So, if you’re in a word processor, then the strip has formatting options, and if you’re web-browsing, it’s replaced by a row of thumbnail images of the pages you have open.
Apple doesn’t put touchscreens on its laptops, putting this decision down to an ergonomic deficit caused by raising your hand from the keyboard to tap the display. But the touch bar is the answer to that. The display is high resolution and gorgeous to look at, with thin bezels on each side. The lid is perfectly weighted so you can open the laptop with one finger – some laptops would need you to hold down the base as you did so to stop it overbalancing. The all-aluminium shell is classy and beautifully crafted. It also keeps the machine light, despite its size. The power button has a fingerprint sensor in it so you can unlock it or authenticate online payments with one touch. Macbook pro laptops tend to have large, smooth and responsive trackpads, which is the case here.
The macbook air has a very good keyboard, but this one is downright sumptuous with smooth, springy movements that make it amazingly comfortable to use – which is good because you’ll be using it all the time. Apple’s design is striking and unmistakable, but it’s the sheer usability of this laptop that really makes it stand out. Every aspect is carefully thought through and effectively executed.
All that quality comes at a significant price, though. While the components and configuration of this model mean it’s not bad value, it’s certainly expensive.
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Best portable charger
Moshi porto Q 5K: £79.95, Moshi
Battery size: 5,000mAh
Output connections: USB-A, wireless charging
Input connection: USB-C
Moshi makes a big range of beautifully designed gadgets from headphones to smartphone cases, adapters to elegant cables, even. This battery is especially versatile because along with a USB-A socket so you can plug in most gadgets, it also has a wireless charging pad so, if you have a phone that recharges wirelessly, just placing it on the pad starts the charging process. The soft material is pleasing to the touch and a subtle silicone ring ensures the phone doesn’t slide off.
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Best independent coffee brand
Dear Green – a roastery taking its name from its Glasgow home, a city known as the Dear Green Place – roasts and supplies speciality coffee alongside training baristas and coffee lovers alike in sensory and technical classes.
Ethical sourcing is a big focus, as is organic and Dear Green tries to visit every coffee farm to see that the beans are sourced fairly and sustainably with each smallholder. As with most truly ethical coffee brands, Dear Green pays over the odds for beans to encourage further sustainable agricultural methods and benefits for the coffee communities. Coffees are super seasonal and may only be on the site for a short while, so grab them while you can.
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Ponderlily weekly planner: £35, Ponderlily
This is one of those products whose quality must be seen to be believed: the photographs, although lovely, don’t do it justice. It’s heavier and deeper – there’s much more to it than meets the eye.
We are mad about the cover – the texture and muted shade are both so sophisticated. But, as with most things, it’s what’s inside that really counts. Each month kicks off with an encouraging quote and there’s a page dedicated to a “monthly road map” where you can loosely plan out the next four weeks in your mind. What are your intentions? How can you achieve them? This space is for inspirations, hopes and ideas – and this directive, to think about what is coming next, feels like a really positive thing to do.
Lastly, it’s good for your eco credentials as its pages are made of recycled paper.
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Best house plant
Design House Stockholm Xlarge glass grow terrarium: £60, Trouva
Designer Caroline Wetterling and Design House Stockholm have created this singularly lovely terrarium especially for housing very small plants, or for nursing larger plants through the first stages of life – a purpose we dare say is referenced in its oval shape. There’s more to this terrarium than meets the eye at first glance. It consists of two halves: a lower section that holds the soil for plants to grow in, and a larger upper section which serves as a moisture trap and window on to the plant. The upper section also has a tiny spout, and so can be removed and used as a watering vessel. You couldn’t hope to find a more inherently caring and clever terrarium than this.
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Best standing desk
Flytta 2 standing desk: £731.94, Sit-Stand
This is a full desk replacement that uses electronic motors in each leg to move the desk up and down. A little control panel is attached to the front, on the underside of the desk and with it you can control the height directly or save and recall up to four preset heights. The movement is smooth and precise, if a little loud – 51dB going up, 46dB going down – but it only takes a few seconds to move. Also, we like that you have to hold down the button to move to a preset, rather than just tap it once which makes it inherently a little safer than some alternatives.
The frame is made up of thick, sturdy steel resulting in a desk that’s very stable no matter what height you have it at (60cm – 120cm). Powder coated in either black, silver or white, there’s also an elegance to the whole thing that puts it above some slightly chunkier looking rivals. Available either on its own or with a desktop, the tops provided are sturdy laminate offered in various sizes and colour variants – white, beech or maple.
The greater overall versatility of having a full desk plus the easy electronic adjustability, great build quality and very competitive price make this our go-to choice for a standing desk.
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Best plastic-free tea
Clipper organic everyday tea: £3.49 for 80, Clipper
It might look most like an ordinary teabag, but this is far, far from it. Each teabag is unbleached (hence it’s more earthy colour), organic, fairtrade, plastic free and non GM. It was the world’s first pillow-shaped bag to meet this criteria and was launched in 2018. And if that’s not enough, it was even the world’s first fairtrade tea. The teabag is made from abaca plants – a type of banana – and the plastic that sealed the bag is replaced with a material made from non-GM plants and it's become our new go-to every day tea. Just like it says. And it's by far the most affordable on the list. Although Clipper has ticked many boxes with its teabag, it's now working on making the inner foil packaging recyclable too.
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Best thermos flask
Thermos super light direct drink flask in rose pink, 350ml: £21.99, Lakeland
This diminutive Thermos holds an impressive 350ml of liquid despite its size and is super lightweight too, making it brilliant for squeezing into a handbag on your commute or a suitcase even. The clever flip-lock airtight design ensures this will never leak or spill (it didn’t!) and there is an insert inside the mouth of the flask for easy sipping on the go. All Thermos products are brilliant for keeping things hot or cold, and this model keeps soups, coffee etc piping hot for eight hours and drinks cool for 24 – it’s best to get the flask to temperature first with hot or cold water before pouring away and adding your desired contents if you’re going to put these claims to the test. We’ve opted for the metallic rose colour, but there is also a graphite option too. It’s a little fiddly to hand wash all the components of the lid after something like soup (again, not dishwasher-proof) but overall a brilliant and reliable buy.
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