It’s been a few weeks since working from home became the norm, as opposed to the exception. Living rooms, bedrooms, kitchen counters—any available spaces, really—have become improvised offices, unless you already had a home office set up. Self-isolation measures have been something of a stress-test for remote workplace setups, as you scramble to use your home technology and devices for a full day’s work. However, the same devices are likely also fulfilling secondary roles in maintaining your social connections to family and friends.
For most people, a laptop and whatever headphones you have on hand should work just fine for work and casual use. However, if you feel like current circumstances are an opportunity to upgrade your home setup, here are some options we think are worth considering. We’ve tried to offer a variety of prices for each recommendation but mostly focused on products with the best quality for that price.
Please note: due to supply shortages and high demand as a result of the current pandemic, prices for these products may vary widely.
Now that getting ready for work means making sure your sweatpants are hidden in video calls, being impeccably dressed probably isn’t high on your list of priorities. However, if you do need to look your best on video, you might want to invest in a better grade of webcam. After all, what’s the point of dressing to the nines if every snazzy pixel of you isn’t visible?
All-round upgrade – Logitech C920S | CAD 99.99
The Logitech C920S shoots in full HD, has built-in autofocus and light adjustment, and also comes with integrated mics and a privacy shutter. There’s not much more to say: it’s widely recommended, and really is terrific value for its price.
Portable pick – Logitech C615 | CAD 89.99
Once again, Logitech earns an enthusiastic recommendation for its C615 webcam. Only slightly less expensive than the C920s, this portable version still has superb specs (HD Video, autofocus, built-in mic) but has the added bonus of being an unobtrusive addition to your mobile workspace.
Lighting enthusiast pick – Razer Kiyo | CAD139.99
While they’re better known for their gaming products and peripherals, Razer’s Kiyo webcam is a great choice for gamers and non-gamers alike. It comes with a built-in ring light, which makes clear, flattering video capture even easier to achieve.
Even with the webcams off, you still need to sound your best. With all of us reduced to being disembodied voices on a screen, it helps to be as clear and audible as possible. For those of you using laptops, the in-built mic might work just fine. But if you’re using a desktop, or just looking to upgrade, there are a few options worth checking out.
All-round upgrade – Blue Yeti | CAD 179.99
The Blue Yeti is one of the best-reviewed mics available right now. It offers outstanding sound quality, making it a suitable choice for both voice and music recording. It’s sturdy, durable build rounds out a product that is well worth its price.
Portable pick – Shure MV5 | CAD 129.99
The Shure MV5 is a portable powerhouse of sound, although it comes with a somewhat steep price tag. It’s small enough to take around with you while retaining all of the versatility of a desktop mic. It also comes with a convenient stand, should you need one.
Budget pick – AmazonBasics Mini Microphone | CAD 61.82
If you’re looking for something better than the built-in mic on your laptop, but less expensive than a professional microphone, the AmazonBasics Mini Microphone might be for you. It has fewer bells and whistles than the other options on this list, but it captures great sound and won’t break the bank.
Headphones and headsets
Now that we’ve tackled how the way you look and sound, all that’s left is to jazz up the way you hear everything! You probably already have comfortable headphones, but working from home might require a slightly different solution, especially if you’re sharing your space with other people. Here are a couple of headsets worth investing in.
All-round upgrade – Hyper X Cloud Alpha | CAD 134.99
Hyper X, much like Razer, is know for their gaming products. But the Cloud Alpha headset just happens to be equally great for work and play. The headset is quite affordable for its exceptional quality, something reflected in its numerous positive reviews. Its sturdy construction, comfortable design, and attachable mic make this headset a tantalizing pick.
Portable pick – Plantronics Pro 2 | CAD 149.99
These wireless, noise-cancelling headphones come with exceptional battery life while keeping a portable form factor. The Plantronics Pro 2 is well-reviewed, offering great value for money especially considering that its competition can cost hundred of dollars more.
Headset pick – Jabra Evolve | CAD 114.00
If you need to keep an ear free without sacrificing sound quality, this is what you’re looking for. The Jabra Evolve packs a lot into its sleek form and comes with both USB and 3.5mm jack connectors. Its great mic and comfortable design will easily see you through a full of day of calls and videoconferences.
There are plenty of devices and gadgets that can make working from home much easier on you. Everything from compact, portable scanners to the right kind of blinds can make a big difference in your new daily routine. However, the options we’ve listed here will certainly help bridge the gap between an improvised setup and your dream home office!
Freelance writer and communications professional at the University of Toronto. He’s an avid cinephile, voracious reader, and a terror at karaoke bars.