The Handbook
The Handbook

You’ve gone from working in a high tech work environment, where management consultants have planned every aspect of your workspace to be productive and cohesive, to your kitchen table, laptop balanced on last night’s dishes and sharing the space with your foghorn of a partner. Here are some of the pieces of tech we’ve found invaluable as we adjust…

Google Nest Wifi

The chances are the first thing you noticed as you started WFHing was that your internet simply doesn’t stretch to the bit of your house you’ve decided to convert into your work den. It seems that being out of reach of three screaming children means being out of reach of Virgin-sodding-Media too. You need a boost…

Thanks to Google, the process is relatively simple. I’ve been through a fair few wifi boosters over the years, and generally they sit there twinkling like my Christmas lights, and about just as helpful. The ones I rate are Apple’s Airport Express and Airport Extreme, which are getting a little long-in-the-tooth but can be picked up at reasonable prices on eBay, and Google’s recent offering: the Google Nest Wifi.

Setup is relatively painless, you go it through a phone app, and the speeds are super quick (your actual internet speed withstanding), it’s also good at finding all those one-bar tough spots in your flat. It’s a little on the expensive side, but it also doubles as a smart speaker and comes with Google’s assistant and unlike pretty much all its competitors it actually looks attractive!

The Varidesk

We all know someone who uses a stand-up desk, and to be honest you’ve always thought they were a bit of an attention-seeking prat. There they are, peering across the room from their vantage point, a self-appointed beacon in the centre of the office. But, buried away in your cubical, avoiding the limelight, you’ve always been a little bit jealous of Neil and his bizarre contraption.

Now’s the time to strike, nobody can see you at home and the Varidesk is a serious neat bit of kit, perfect for the WFH revolution that’s coming. Given chances to escape the confines of your studio apartment are limited, to say the least, even the slightest workout is welcome and standing at your desk all day is great for burning calories and not hunching over your desk for ten hours like Quasimodo.

I used this in the office and, frankly, felt like a bit of a plonker at first, but the advantages were so clear that I’m sold. Just make sure your computer has enough slack on the power lead before you raise the desk, otherwise your iMac’ll topple backwards…

Sonos Amp

When you’re on a deadline the last thing you need is music pumped through tinny phone speakers to keep you on the ball. You want to fill the room with sound (not to mention your block’s WhatsApp group with complaints) and Sonos have the solution. Although famous for their range of standalone speakers, the Sonos Amp offers something a little different.

If you’ve got a great set of speakers already, then you can simply wire them into the Sonos Amp and connect to an existing Sonos system. You can also use it to bring in an old school record player, or even MiniDisk player (remember those?) or the telly as Amp allows you to input from external sources, particularly helpful if you’ve Sonos’d up your entire home.

I’m listening to Spotify over my Sonos amp as I type over a pair of Bowers & Wilkins speakers which far outplay the regular Sonos speakers. If you’re wincing at the cost of something that doesn’t even come with its own speakers (fair) then opt for the older Sonos Connect, which you can find pretty widely. They’re just as good for most uses, though Sonos have threatened to make them obsolete in future software updates.

Price: £129.99
Find it on Amazon…

SanDisk iXpand Wireless charger

Having been through enough Apple Lightning cables to stretch to the moon and back, I was the first to jump on the wireless charging bandwagon as soon as the iPhone 8 came out. Every iPhone since (and, indeed, pretty much every other smartphone on the market nowadays) comes with the capability to suck up those sweet battery percentage points through whatever witchcraft enables this, but there’s wireless chargers and there’s wireless chargers.

Firstly, some simply don’t work, not sure why they just don’t. I had to road-test about four different models before I found one that would reliably charge my phone through its existing case (too much faff to be constantly taking a case on and off). Furthermore, there are different speeds of charging, 5W, 7.5W and 10w (you can also get 15W but your iPhone can only take 7.5W). Whichever brand you go for, opt for the faster one as it’ll make a difference.

And get the SanDisk iXpand Wireless Charger. It looks and feels good (a bit rubbery, in a good way), but it will also go the extra mile as it sits on your desk merrily charging your phone, it’ll back up all your photos and contacts. It’s a little glitchy and has took rather a long time to upload my photos, but it’s a real encouragement knowing that if I ever again leave the house for long enough to lose my phone, my most important things are backed up in yet another place.

Ember Mug

I love it when someone solves a problem I didn’t even know I had. The Dyson hairdryer that’s a little bit less loud, the electric clothes horse and now the Ember Mug.

It looks like a regular mug, it feels vaguely ceramic, but its party trick is the reason I’m obsessed with it, it’ll keep your coffee warm all morning.

Controlled via a phone app, you decide what temperature you want your drink and it keeps it steady until you remember it’s still on your desk and sip away. It sounds ridiculous, but this is only second to my computer in terms of ensuring productivity during the WFH day! It’ll also heat up your orange juice, which was a weird and unpleasant mistake…

Price: £129.95 (yes, for a mug, I know)
Find it on Amazon…

Herman Miller Aeron Chair

The bane of tech startup CFOs the world over as the first thing any recipient of investor money immediately haemorrhages cash on hundreds of these things: the Aeron Chair. The ubiquitous chair isn’t itself ‘tech’, but it’s what everyone who’s anyone, from Allen to Zuckerberg, sits on while creating their world-beating sites and apps.

And while you might not be coding the next WhatsApp, why should you write you conditionally format your spreadsheet sat on a fold-up deckchair from Argos?

I can’t recommend them more, they’re incomparably comfortable and designed for work. Make sure you get the right size (there are three, depending on your height and size) and if the exceptionally high cost is off-putting (which it probably is) then they are always on eBay and you can probably get one for between £150 and £300.

Netgear Ethernet Switch

Finish on a high, leave them wanting more. Probably don’t write about the least sexy thing in my home office… Wires are a thing of the past, they’re messy and limiting. But, annoyingly, they’re still necessary. Working from home meant that the already crowded ethernet ports on the back of my router, already jammed with a telly, booster, hard drive and a mysterious other wire I’ve not been able to trace, were now jostling for space now with a printer and work phone now added into the mix.

Rather than decide what to jettison this gizmo added another five (though really four because you need one to connect it) ports. The wireless revolution can’t come soon enough, but in the meantime this is a neat solution.

Price: £15.99
Find it on Amazon…