How To Optimize Working From Home Right Now

Since many of us are working from home now and will be for at least the next couple of weeks, it is definitely time to get your home workspace or home office in order if you haven’t already. Of course, there are some obvious tips for working from home that you’ve probably already read everywhere such as “have a separate workspace”, “don’t work from your bed”, and “be sure to take an actual lunch and have set hours”.

Granted, right now most of that has gone out the window. However there are some ways you can make working from home better that don’t require purchasing a ton of equipment or having a room that you can renovate into an Instagram-approved office space. It would be nice, but that’s not realistic for most of us!

Accordingly, here are some tips and product recommendations from someone who has worked from home and the road off and on for years.


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How To Optimize Working From Home

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Guide to editing your Zoom background.

Green Screens and Zoom Backgrounds

With Zoom becoming the video conferencing tool of choice for basically everyone right now, you are obviously curious about how to make your background awesome. With Zoom, you can change up your virtual background by uploading images (long horizontal or landscape style images work best) and then you’ll appear like you are on a tropical beach, perfectly designed artist’s loft, or basically anywhere else you want to be.

Here are some fun free Zoom backgrounds via Pocket Lint, but you can use whatever images you already have or that you find that fit the bill. An added bonus? These Zoom backgrounds hide whatever mess you might have going on in the background from curious colleagues. Here’s a guide to editing your Zoom background on a Mac, PC, iPhone, Android, iPad, or any other tablet.

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Elgato Green Screen, $159 and Webaround Portable Webcam Background, $65

Green screens get a little more complicated, since you need an actual green screen. You can get a portable one like this one by Elgato or one that fits over the back of a chair like this one by WebAround. Plenty of brands offer green screens – just search for “Chroma Key Green” screens and take your pick.

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Forest App

Productivity Apps for Working From Home

We’re fans of the Pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes and then take 5 minutes off to drink some water and read blogs, scroll Instagram, check on the kids or pets, get up and stretch, meditate, or whatever else you want to do. Then it’s back to work! Once you’ve completed four of these segments you get a longer 15 to 20 break.

There are a number of Pomodoro apps out there, but we particularly enjoy the Tide app which combines time management with meditation and the Forest app which lets you grow virtual trees to show how far along you are with your projects, which we find very satisfying.

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Trello and its drag-and-drop interface is another way we like to organize projects both for work and our personal lives. You can use it for everything from step-by-step project management to brainstorming to making a meal plan for the week or month – it’s that versatile and very visual if that’s your thing. If you use Trello and like the Pomodoro method, you can use the Pomello app to combine them.

Want something more pared down? Todoist is a simple project management app that lets you make lists, track tasks and get reports on your project.

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Soundance Laptop Stand, $32.99

Computer Risers

Since we’re all on video chat more often, raising up your laptop or monitor can make things much more flattering. Think of the difference when you open the front-facing camera on your phone when you are facing down versus when you take a selfie looking directly at it or when the camera is above you. The latter is usually much better! Try an adjustable riser like this one from Soundance and you’ll see the difference.

If you don’t want to buy an actual riser, you can always stack up some books or magazines for video calls as well. No one will know and you’ll get a similar effect.

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Arteck HB030B Universal Bluetooth Backlit Keyboard, $20.99

Risers can also be better for your posture since raising your screen keeps you from hunching over your computer all day. If they make typing awkward on a laptop, there is always the option to get a secondary bluetooth keyboard to use while your laptop is up on the risers, like one of these brightly colored backlit ones from Artek.

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TaoTronics Foldable Lap Desk, $71.99

Portable Desks And Table Desks

If you don’t have a dedicated office space or if you want an alternative to the risers, a portable desk or table desk like this one from TaoTronics can lift up your laptop on your desk or move to the couch or even the bed with ease.

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OMOTON Aluminum Desktop Cellphone Stand, $15.99

Phone Stands

Do you use your phone for productivity apps, conference calls on speaker phone, or virtually anything else during the workday? Then you need a phone stand to have it pointed up at you instead of holding on it or looking down. This adjustable phone stand by Omoton will fit any smartphone and it even has a built-in charging port.

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COSORI Coffee Mug Warmer, $29.99

Mug Warmers

There’s nothing worse than having your coffee or tea get cold while you’re busy and then either having to dump it or microwave it. Solve that problem with a mug warmer like this one by Cosori that has the temperature built right in so you can keep your beverage at the perfect temperature.

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Rocketbook Wave Erasable Smart Notebook, $25.99

Working from Home Stationery

Although most of what you do is probably digital, sometimes it is nice to get out an actual notebook or pad of paper and pens. While there is so much great stationery out there, we’re fans of taking things a little bit digital with Rocketbooks.

These notebooks are reusable and you can send your notes and anything else you write or draw in one straight to your cloud, Google Drive, and even Slack. Perfect for when you want to take physical notes because you don’t have to transcribe them.

What does your home office or home workspace look like? How have you adjusted to working from home if you haven’t before, and what are your favorite items, apps, or anything else that makes it better for you?

–Jacqueline Zenn

You may like to read What To Wear When You Are Working From Home and How To Deal With Sheltering In Place: Free Resource Roundup.

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