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9 home office upgrades to improve telecommuting

If COVID-19 has altered your work schedule and you're now a telecommuter, these products will make working from home more productive and comfortable.

Now that the World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic, working from home is a public health tactic, not a perk. With SXSW 2020 and HIMSS 2020 canceled, the thought of gathering large groups of people looks less and less like a good idea. 

If any of these factors influence your work schedule, it may be time to dust off your home office. You may not have all the gear that you're used to at work. If you're going to be working from home on a regular basis, make the transition easy by upgrading your setup.

Sit-stand desk converter

Image: Vari

Sit-stand desks have almost become standard at most offices, so if you like having more movement in your workday, it's time to invest in one for your home office. If you are serious about adding some standing time to your workday, consider the Varidesk Pro Plus. It has a two-tiered system that lets you lift the keyboard and monitor at the same time. It is pre-assembled and ready to use out of the box. It comes in three models: one for a single monitor, one for a double, and one for anyone over six feet tall. It's not cheap at $495 for the basic model, but it's a good investment if you plan to get out of your chair on a regular basis.

$495 at Amazon

Standing mat

Image: Amazon

This one goes with the standing desk like peanut butter goes with jelly-don't skimp and let your standing plans be sabotaged by discomfort. An affordable option is the Royal Anti-Fatigue Comfort Mat. Reviewers say this mat is comfortable whether you are wearing shoes or not. The manufacturer claims this mat will reduce pressure on a person's knees by 40%. The material can be vacuumed or wiped with a damp cloth and it is waterproof.

$42 at Amazon

Ergonomic keyboard

Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

Even if it feels like an unnecessary expense, your wrists and shoulders will thank you if you invest in an ergonomic keyboard. Logitech's Ergo K860 is a compact, one-piece ergonomic keyboard that is good for your body without being too clunky. The split and curved keyboard is designed to reduce muscle activity and allow for a natural posture whether you are sitting or standing. The goal is to have your wrists in a neutral position, not bent. The keyboard connects via Bluetooth or Logitech's USB-A Unifying receiver and takes two AA batteries.

$129 at Walmart


Image: CNET

This is a good time to trade up to a better set of headphones as well, for those times when your home is noisy or you are working from a coffee shop. You don't have to spring for Apple AirPods to get a nice set of wireless headphones. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 provides top-notch performance for making calls, good battery life, USB-C and wireless charging and nicer matte finish on the buds and compact charging case. At $100, these headphones provide a lot of the benefits of AirPods without the big price tag.

$99 at Amazon

Ergonomic mouse

Image: Amazon

The Logitech MX Vertical mouse is about $100 and has a 4,000 dpi sensor which helps for tracking between an HD and a 4K monitor. The design places your hand in a natural handshake position using a 57-degree angle, which reduces muscular strain by 10%, according to the manufacturer. You can use the mouse with up to three computers using the included wireless USB unifying receiver or Bluetooth smart technology or the included USB C charging cable. The vertical mouse is powered by a rechargable battery that holds a charge for four months.

$79 at Amazon


Image: Firewalla

You also can strengthen your home network with a hardware firewall. Firewalla Blue can safeguard your personal and business data, monitor and control Internet usage, and block ads. It also includes a built-in VPN server and client, so you could spend $179 for this firewall and get a VPN connection, too.

$179 at Firewalla


Image: CyberGhost

Security experts recommend using a VPN at home and segmenting your network. If you'll have work traffic on your home network, consider getting a VPN service. A VPN creates a secure connection over a less-secure network between your computer and the internet. When your computer is connected to a VPN, the computer acts as if it's also on the same network as the VPN. All of your online traffic is transferred over a secure connection to the VPN. CNET's 2020 Directory of VPN providers reviewed paid providers. The assessment considered more than 20 factors, including number of server locations, client software, dedicated and dynamic IP, bandwidth caps, security, logging, customer support, and price. Most of the 16 providers in the directory have monthly and annual subscription options. CyberGhost's service costs a little more but the few extra dollars are worth it: $99 for three years or $88.56 for two. The company has solid Linux support, supports VPN via routers, and has a connection kill switch feature.

$99 at CyberGhost


Image: Amazon

How good  is your Wi-Fi connection? You'll need the best connection you can get to work from home. The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Smart Wi-Fi Router is a good choice. It's rather bulky but it offers great performance on the 5GHz band and is affordable at $200. It's powered by a dual-core processor that runs at 1GHz, which makes it the fastest 802.11ac router from Netgear and among the fastest on the market. Also, the R7000 also has a built-in OpenVPN server, the support for Broadcom TurboQAM for a faster Wi-Fi speed cap of up to 600Mbps, and the official support for third-party firmware, such as DD-WRT.

$150 at Amazon

Natural light lamp


Just like the standing mat and the ergonomic keyboard, this is worth the investment in your health. People who have access to daylight during work hours are more productive during the day and sleep better at night. Adding some natural light to your home office could make a difference in the long run. The V-LIGHT Full Spectrum Natural Daylight Effect Desk Lamp has an adjustable arm and will fit on your desk. It is only $34 on Amazon.

$34 at Amazon