You spend hours at the office. Many of which may be miserable hours. Knowing how to furnish your office to make things easier isn’t a skill you can put on your CV. But it’s important, no doubt.
The right ergonomic office furniture, backed up with scientific evidence, will make office hours much more comfortable.
Whether it’s for your home office or work cubicle, you can improve work efficiency and satisfaction.
Desks and Tables
The desk you work at makes up most of your workspace. If you can furnish your work office (or office at home), don’t scrimp on the desk!
An important term in the ergonomic world is “neutral” or “optimal reach zone.” This is area you can reach with just a sweep of the forearm. Most comfortably, the upper arm hangs naturally at the side.
Keeping objects in the zone reduces the effort of reaching for them. Too much stretching can cause shoulder and back pain.
You can always go for the regular, traditional rectangular table. But different desk shapes determine the surface area of the optimal reach zone.
When looking for desks, also keep the small details in mind. For example, a hole for cables would be awesome!
In terms of optimal reach, an L-shaped desk will probably be your best option.
Compared with a regular desk, the surface area of the optimal reach zone is much larger. Is it because the L-shaped desk is larger itself? Well, no.
A large rectangular desk may require you to move from your chair to reach the edges. But with an L-shaped desk, just swivel to the side.
L-shaped desks are the best if you have many static items on your desktop. Such as computers, organizers and more. If your work area is cramped, you’ll be able to get more desktop real estate with L-shaped tables.
Best for: work areas with a large amount of static items
The benefits of a U-shaped desk are similar to the L-shaped.
However, the curved shape may be harder to fit neatly into your office like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes up a big footprint in the room. But you can have your desk customized and modified if needed.
If you share the office, you can use the middle area for storage (or decoration.) Each person can take a side of the U. Share the desk without fighting for desk space!
A number of features can be added to your U-shaped desk too. For example, more drawers, filing columns and sliding extensions.
Best for: sharing desks with coworkers
The standing desk is definitely not your traditional desk. Aptly named, it is raised, forcing you to stand rather than sit. (You can also DIY one by putting books under your computer.)
The biggest office health concern comes from sitting for too long. Standing at the desk helps counter that.
By standing more often, you reduce risks of diabetes. A 2008 study found that people who sat for longer periods became less responsive to insulin. Which is a prime cause of diabetes.
Those who sit for two more hours per day have a 125 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease!
It was found that just by standing, you can burn 8 more calories per hour than sitting. Imagine the effects if you move around a little while standing and working! Try doing some calf raises, squats, leg shakes and more.
But make sure you also have a standing desk mat. A comfortable surface will be necessary if you’re standing for long periods. An adjustable standing desk will come in handy if you need to rest every now and then.
Best for: reducing risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and more
Utility tables are a versatile piece of furniture for any setting. And can be a great addition to your office.
Utility tables are sturdy and can withstand heavy loads. They are usually made with a durable laminate top. A painted apron underneath adds to the stability.
If you have many machinery or a ton of paperwork, a utility table provides more support than standard surfaces. If you hate rocking tables, go for one that features adjustable floor glides.
But being heavy duty doesn’t mean the table is clunky. Utility tables feature sleek designs. It can complement and enhance a wide range of office interior designs.
They are clean, professional, with no extra frills. But if you choose to, you can attach chrome-plated legs with an easy bracket style assembly.
Best for: strong support for heavy tabletop loads
The drafting table is similar to the drawing board. Both give artists, architects and engineers a surface to draw straight lines and detailed designs.
But drafting tables are like the original ergonomic worktable. These tables have existed since the Victorian era. The table top can be adjusted to a comfortable angle for the artist. You can stand, sit or move the table to any angle in between.
Modern drafting tables come with an abundance of features: rulers, protractors, pre-calibrated scales, computer compatibility, light boxes and more. Choose between different types of drafting tables.
Four-post tables are sturdy and give you enough workspace. Most also come with storage drawers. The downside though is they require larger space.
Pedestal drafting tables can be tilted to easily adjust the angle. However, they aren’t easy portable.
Foldable tables are the opposite. They are small, portable and more affordable. They’re suited for drawing on the go, but aren’t as sturdy as the others.
Best for: ergonomic and scientific table for drawing and designing
Once you have everything on your desk ready, take a seat. Even if you have a standing desk, you may need to rest every now and then.
Some features to think about when choosing an office chair:
Do you need to roll around, lean back or swivel?
Arms or no arms?
What kind of material? (Wood, plastic, leather, or others.)
How much padding for your tush?
The task chair is the most popular office chair.
They are simple, but provide all the basic necessities. Casters, wheels, rotating abilities, adjustable height, foam lining . . . all that good stuff.
Older employees may prefer a firmer and/or more traditional-looking chair. Younger employees can benefit from more flexible designs.
You can’t really go wrong with getting a task chair. They won’t take a big dent from your wallet either! But if you want something more, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Best for: office chair for the budget
Most office chairs are lined with foam and have upholstery covering. Mesh chairs, though, feature a net-like fabric.
The mesh provides much needed air circulation and ventilation. You can work hard at your desk without getting hot and sweaty.
This is extremely important for women. To keep it healthy down there, avoid sitting too long in hot seats.
However, mesh chairs aren’t the best ergonomic option. You get to keep your buttocks cool. But in return, you have to give up padding and support.
For mesh, it’s best to have some chair accessories handy. Like padded cushions or lumbar back supports.
Best for: chair that provides air circulation
The most important feature of an ergonomic chair is the built in lumbar support curvature.
What a lumbar back support does:
Keeps your ears, shoulders and hips aligned correctly
Maintains the natural inward curvature of your lower spine
Just make sure the lumbar back support is in the right place! To test that, try out the ergonomic chair before purchasing.
Sit up straight, with your head, spine and bottom aligned. Then sit all the way against the back of the chair. The chair’s curve should follow your natural curve.
Be sure that the back is flush. This is what supports your lower back. But if it over-accentuates the inward curve, you will feel more pressure.
Best for: ensuring proper sitting posture and back support
Even if you’re not, you can still be treated like the boss. Executive chairs are comfortable and free.
They feature casters and wheels, letting you rotate and twirl.
Padding comes in the form of thick polyurethane foam. There will be thick padding on both the armrest and high backrest. The upholstery material is usually soft leather.
Adjustable backrests, inclination and height allow you to achieve ideal sitting positions.
So you can imagine how comfortable these chairs are. But the comfort comes with a price. Which is why they’re usually for the top executives.
If you can afford one (or are a top executive), consider this chair for the office. Either in the workplace or at home.
Best for: luxurious and customizable office chair
You need to relax during meetings. These sessions are mostly talking and listening. Your sitting position should be comfortable and consistent. And conference chairs will give that to you.
At the same time, conference chairs are an important indicator of your company to others. Spend a little more time on the style. It should fit well with the rest of the interior design. And match the company culture.
Also look at the upholster material.
Leather is a popular choice. The material is durable, easy to clean, and professional. If it’s too costly or the conference room is used infrequently, go for a leather alternative. Vinyl is cheaper, but looks very similar.
Some will come with built-in wheels. Practically all will have adjustable height. But unfortunately, most conference chairs will have minimal other adjustments.
If your meetings last more than a few hours, you should go for a more ergonomic chair (more on that later.)
Best for: comfortable and professional seating for meetings
Remember to provide seats for visitors and guests.
Guest or reception chairs can be a bit cheaper. They do not necessarily have to be flexible or adjustable. However, ensure that they are still comfortable. Your guest will be able to relax and you’ll leave a good impression.
Plastic, metal or wooden chairs would do the job. Some cushioning for the tush would be greatly appreciated.
Depending on your office and service though, you may want to put more thought into guest chairs. Some companies have custom-made chairs. This can help reflect the company’s culture or offered services.
If you rarely have guests, you can use more mobile or light seats. Stacked chairs can be easily stored when not being used.
Best for: temporary chair for visitors
Now, beanbags aren’t just for kids. If you’re allowed to have these in the office, do it. If not, nothing’s stopping you from putting a beanbag in your home office.
There are definite medical benefits to molding yourself into the bag. The “beans” that fill the bag are shredded foam. Like memory foam pillows and mattresses, the bag shifts according to your weight. And helps support your body.
Relax on the bean bag if you suffer from aching joints. You’ll feel the tension diffuse from your body. Bean bag chairs can also alleviate chronic back pains and headaches.
Plus, bean bag chairs are extremely low maintenance. There’s no need for assembly and they are environmentally friendly.
Best for: relaxing chair for aches and pains
Yoga ball chair
Nearly 70 to 90 percent of people will experience back problems. More the reason to try out more ergonomic seating options!
The yoga ball chair is one of those. Some people swear by it, some see it as nothing but a fad. The medical community is also divided over the effect.
There have been studies that found patients experienced improvements in back pain.
Some are worried that these chair aren’t very safe since they can roll away. If that’s a concern, make sure to get a ball base.
What’s the selling point for these exercise ball chairs?
Well, it forces you to sit up straight. And you can work in some ab exercises.
You can also bounce when you’re bored or frustrated. Bouncing can stimulate your thinking if you’re a kinesthetic learner. If you need to stretch, you can lean to either side.
Do note that there isn’t any lumbar support. Which ergonomics find very important. If you do use a yoga ball chair, be sure that you maintain a good sitting posture.
Best for: exercising and stimulating thinking at work
Portable lumbar back support
Regular ergonomic chairs do not have adjustable lumbar back supports. If you can’t find one that fits, just use a portable back support.
This will ensure that your lower spine is fully supported and curving correctly. In addition, lumbar back supports have been found to release pressure on your buttocks.
You can also bring it with you to enhance regular office chairs. Or even to be used in cars.
Just manually place it into the seat back where you need it. Some products are inflatable and can be adjusted.
If more than one person will use a chair, having an adjustable seatback is a good option. The back can be positioned to support the curves of many people. This way, you can have a more versatile ergonomic chair.
Best for: adjustable chair with ergonomic benefits
It goes without saying that it’s more comfortable to sit on a padded seat.
To sit with the best posture, your hips should be slightly higher than your knees. If you have an un-adjustable office chair, you can change the height with a thick cushion.
A study posted in the journal Physical Therapy found more benefits to sitting higher up.
Two different chairs were studied—one with a seat height of 0.43 m, the other at 0.64 m. Participants were either healthy or had extreme lower body disabilities.
It was found that the higher chair decreased joint movements and range of motion needed to rise from the chair. It’s less stressful for your joints.
If you’re using a mesh chair, you can use cushions for temporary padding. Then switch it out when you need the ventilation.
Best for: adjusting chairs, alleviating stress on joints
As with cushions, footrests aren’t just comfortable. The comfort is a sign that stress and pressure is taken off of your joints.
Footrests encourage active sitting. This promotes blood circulation and decreases risk of circulatory diseases.
In addition, footrests ensure that you can sit all the way back and still have support under your feet. There’s no point in a lumbar back support if you can’t sit that far back!
Be sure to use a footrest if your feet aren’t resting on the floor. The entire foot should be supported. Footrests are also helpful if you experience pain in the back of your legs.
Best for: improving blood circulation, back support and overall comfort
Office furniture: storage and organizers
Being in a cluttered environment is just stressful. According to surveys, you lose one hour to disorganization per day.
You’re less stressed when it’s easy to find and retrieve things. And you’re more efficient. Being organized can also reduce risk of accidents in the workplace.
It may be hard to get started. But getting into the habit of organizing definitely works better in the long run. And having the right equipment makes things easier.
Filing cabinets are the most commonly seen type of storage organizer for lateral storage. The files are sideways, or in front of one another.
You can choose how many drawers it includes. Those with two or three drawers can fit with your desk like a drawer or pedestal. Taller ones can line your walls.
Filing cabinets are usually foolscap. Meaning they are larger than A4 dimensions. You can fit paper and folders that are bigger than the typical size.
The lateral storage allows you to easily sift through the folders. However, this requires good labeling. To help, you can color-code folders.
Best for: lateral storage of paperwork
We all know what a bookshelf or bookcase is. But is a bookshelf the best addition to your office?
They are usually larger than filing cabinets. This makes them less mobile. But you can get more creative with how you store things.
Books, binders and small pieces of equipment fit better on the shelves. It’s up to you if you want things side by side, or stacked. To make things more interesting, you can add some figurines and décor too!
Depending on your space available, you can choose between different styles. There are corner shelves, wall-mounted shelves, and more.
There are some drawbacks though. Everything is out in the open. This gives you easy access. But dust and grime get easy access as well. And if things get messy, everyone can see.
Best for: organizing books for easy access
If you add doors to a bookshelf, it turns into a cabinet.
Being enclosed helps keep the dust and grime out. A closed door can make your office look sleeker and neater as well.
Compared to bookshelves, cupboards are multifunctional. They can come with standard shelves and lateral filing shelves (like filing cabinets.) But they can also feature pull-out shelves.
You’ll need space to open the doors though. So if you have limited room, consider a tambour cabinet. These feature sliding doors that resemble curtain blinds. To open, roll the door sideways.
Some have doors that go up, but those are more fragile.
Common materials for cupboards include metal or wood. The slatted doors for tambours are usually made of plastic.
Best for: protective storage for smaller offices
Built-in storage wall
Built-in storages are best at saving space.
You can take advantage of a whole wall without making the room more claustrophobic.
You can tailor the design to meet your style. It’ll create a cohesive look throughout the office too. It has the functionality of a wall of cabinets. But much more visually pleasing.
Lighting can also be integrated into the storage to aid with finding the right things.
Best for: take advantage of wall space for storage
It’s the sad truth that your co-workers can be thieves. A simple search shows that many people are troubled by co-workers stealing their possessions. Money, clothing, jewelry, and even car keys!
The most common is probably people eating your food from the fridge. But for other objects, it’s best to keep them in a safer place. A locked up space.
Lockers are no strangers to us. They’re usually seen in schools or gyms. But take advantage of their security if you can have lockers in the office.
Store valuables and whatever you bring to work in them. Lock it up and be rest assured that everything’s safe.
Best for: keeping valuables safe in the workplace
Small waste and recycle bin
An office should have a public trash and recycle bin. But to make things more convenient, have one for yourself by your workspace.
For waste bins, you can choose from a variety of materials: plastic, metal, stainless steel, natural materials and more.
And be sure to have separate containers for recyclable waste.
De-clutter your desk, increase productivity. Keeping a clean and orderly environment creates a better impression for others as well. It shows attention to detail and good hygiene.
Leftovers from lunch go into the trash. Files go into the recycle bin. Remember to shred paper if it contains confidential info.
Computers and electronics contain toxic material. Most can be recycled. But be sure to check if they need to be disposed of specially.
Best for: keeping your workspace clean
The amount of light you get is crucial to your vision and work productivity.
As you age, the brightness you require doubles. A fifty year old with normal vision needs twice the amount of light as a young adult.
To make sure you see what you’re working on, spend some time on choosing the right light. And more science goes into lights than you think!
Ambient light is overall lighting. Track lighting and others give the room its natural light.
At your desk, you should use task lighting. This type provides focused light onto your workspace for your task at hand. Which would be using the computer, writing and reading.
Unlike ambient lighting, your desk lamp should have a controlled beam of light. For best results, find a lamp with a beam spread of 30 degrees. This ensures that stray light won’t disrupt the others in the room.
Another feature to look for is an adjustable arm. Make sure the lamp is tall enough for the bulb to be above your head and out of your eyes.
Best for: focused light for office tasks
LED light bulb
LED light bulb’s used to be like a luxury item. But now, these energy-savers are more affordable than ever. And still more efficient than incandescent light bulbs. They are also durable. Lasting up to three times longer than CFLs.
But regardless of what lightbulb you get, look at the wattage, lumen and Kelvin ratings.
Lumens, often confused with watt count, is how bright the bulb is. The higher the lumens, the brighter. Task lighting for reading should be a minimum of 98 lumens.
Wattage, on the other hand, is how much energy used. A ratio of high lumens and low wattage means energy and money saved.
Kelvin gives you the temperature and color of the light. A higher Kelvin rating means cooler light.
Choose the one best for you!
Best for: energy efficient and long-lasting light bulb
Or, in other words: windows.
These are a rarity in office buildings. Unless you have a nice solo office, you probably won’t be able to have one.
Like all things natural, sunlight is superior to any type of artificial lighting. Many studies show that natural light increases workers’ satisfaction and work productivity.
Natural sunlight has been shown to lead to:
Decrease in employee absenteeism
Increase in employee turnover rates
Decrease in stress, headaches and eyestrain
The sun makes you more alert and awake, especially for mundane tasks. Or that drowsy period after lunch.
Unfortunately, windows and exposure to natural light isn’t always possible. But try your best to score a window (especially in the home office.) And set your table perpendicular to the window.
Best for: increasing alertness and productivity
To decrease eyestrain, there should be minimal differences and contrasts. Ensure that the office is uniformly lit.
Layer lighting as needed to fill the room with balanced brightness.
For overhead lights, go for lensed indirect lights. Corrective lighting aids in correcting reflected glare from computer monitors.
Low intensity ambient lighting can fill in the holes. It’ll also suffuse the office in a peaceful atmosphere.
Best for: achieving uniform overall lighting
As you go searching for printers, remember to also check the cost of replacement supplies. Ink cartridge expenses can add up to more than the printer.
If you need to print often, it may be more cost efficient to buy a more expensive printer. If it means the cartridges are cheaper. It would be even better if you can refill your own cartridges rather than buying new ones.
All-in-one inkjet printer
Inkjet printers spray ink droplets directly onto paper. This gives you rich color and crisp text. They are suitable for a large variety of paper types and sizes. You can print brochures, documents, labels and more.
A three-in-one inkjet printer includes printing, copying and scanning functions. A four-in-one printer also faxes. Most printers come with Wi-Fi capability and memory card readers as well. This provides easy sharing.
However, the high quality printing is more expensive. And can mean variable print speeds. So inkjet printers are more suitable for light printing. You can use it in the home or in small businesses.
Best for: rich color printer for light printing
If you need to print in bulk, such as for the work office printer, go for laser. Especially if most of the printing is in black and white.
Unlike inkjet printers, laser printers use static electricity and powder. They’re more like copy machines. They print at high speeds and you don’t have to wait for powder to dry. The low cost per page makes it more cost efficient.
Color laser printers also exist. However, they’re actually less cost efficient than inkjet printers.
Best for: bulk black and white printing
Specialty photo printers give you professional quality, but without the price. It’s more convenient too. You can print pictures right in your office without going to the store or ordering them online.
To print directly from a camera, you need the PictBridge, a special type of USB. Other models also accept SD cards. More advanced photo printers allow you to make minor edits to the pictures right from the printer.
This printer will come in handy for home use to preserve memorable pictures. You can also print out flyers, CD and DVD covers and more.
Best for: convenient printing of high quality pictures
More and more people are using 3D printers nowadays. As the technology becomes more widespread, it becomes more affordable too.
The printer melts material (usually plastic, resin or powder) and stacks layers on top of each other for a three dimensional model. The possibilities are endless as to what you can make with a 3D printer.
You can make kitchen gadgets, decorations and even small tools. If your table is wobbly, you can even print something to even it out, if you wish.
Best for: printing three dimensional objects
As the name implies, you can print labels with this printer. You can print labels with everyday printers too. But industrial label printers are special in that you’re actually printing on adhesive paper or tags.
Most are designed for use in warehouses and distribution centers. But there are other uses for them too.
Depending on the industry you’re in, you can print barcodes. You’ll also have the ability to print labels on demand when an order is fulfilled and ready to be shipped. You can also create original and customized labels.
In addition, you can consider thermal transfer printing. This type of print is more resistant to fading and can go on different materials.
Of course, your own labels will be your best friend for organizing your office. Stick a label onto folders, binders, boxes and drawers. And label your lunch so that no one can steal it!
Best for: printing labels for organization
The different types of printers mentioned above can also be wireless printers. Being wireless makes them much more convenient.
They’re easier to use. Multiple computers can print with the same machine without a large hassle of setting up the system. You don’t have to download the files first. The printer can receive the files directly.
Since you don’t have to plug anything in, you can put the printer wherever you have space. It doesn’t necessarily have to be next to your laptop. If you have a bit of OCD, you don’t have to worry about messy chords and cables either.
But before purchasing your wireless printer, make sure the printer is compatible with your main computer. Check that the wireless connection is strong enough too.
Best for: convenient and accessible printer
Laptops are mobile, light but powerful. But also not the best for your body.
You want the screen an arm’s length away for minimal eye strain. But that would most likely mean your keyboard is in at an uncomfortable distance.
This is where a portable or add-on keyboard comes in. You can plug it in or connect to your laptop wirelessly. And position it where necessary.
Your typing position should be as natural as possible. Your hands should be lower than your elbow. Be sure that your wrists aren’t turned inward (pronated) and instead are tilted slightly upward.
The best keyboard should also have sensitive keys. Some people like the click-clacking feeling. However, all the finger strength can put a toll on your hands.
If possible, get a keyboard that separates or can tent in the middle. These ensure sufficient typing area so your hands can be elbow width apart.
Best for: mobile keyboard for more comfortable positioning
Negative tilt keyboard tray
If you have a separate movable keyboard, you’ll want to put it on a tray.
A negatively inclined tray allows you to tilt the front of the keyboard up. This may seem unconventional to you.
But the typical keyboards that prop up the back is actually harmful to the wrists. Having to tilt your wrists down leads to extreme wrist extension.
With an adjustable and negative tilt keyboard tray allows you to position your wrists comfortably. All trays should have a minimum 15 degree decline.
If you have a standing desk, you can go for a 20 degree angle. The sharper angle will be better if you’re up on your feet.
But while standing is good for your overall health, sitting is better for your wrists. As supported by a study on height-adjustable work surfaces, sitting with a negative tilt tray maintains the most neutral wrist posture for typing. There’s least wrist extension, leading to most comfort.
In addition, be sure that the tray doesn’t wobble or shake when typing.
Best for: most ergonomic wrist posture for typing
Many jobs require you to look over paperwork while using the computer.
Those documents should be placed as close to the monitor as possible. To make things easier on your eyes, place them at a similar angle. So you don’t have to keep looking back and forth.
There are a few types of document holders to choose from.
An in-line holder goes between the keyboard and screen. It is aligned with your body. This means that you only have to move your eyes up and down.
A screen-mounted holder attaches the document to the side of your monitor. You can choose the side of your dominant eye. If that eye tires, you can switch to the other side.
Lastly, you have the freestanding document holder. As the name implies, you can place it anywhere. Choose the most comfortable position for you. Then slightly angle the holder so it follows the screen’s curve.
Best for: convenient placement of paperwork during computer use
NAS stands for network attached storage. A NAS device, simply put, is a hard drive in a box. It contains a motherboard, CPU, memory and a power supply.
Connect it to your router and any other device connected to the Internet will have access to the hard drive. You can also extend file-sharing to people outside the local network. This makes NAS like your own personal cloud that you’re the host of.
Of course, you can set up file sharing directly on a computer. Which is cheaper. But it’s a complicated process. The file sharing is also limited by the power supply and storage space. NAS drives work around the clock and can be upgraded easily.
Network attached storage also makes granular file sharing and media streaming easy. You can share music and videos without having to download it. But also lock confidential and personal files in private folders.
The science behind NAS drives can be confusing. But it will make your life much easier.
Best for: easy file sharing and personal cloud hosting
An SSD does the same thing as a hard drive. They both boot your system and store files and applications. But there are still differences, of course.
In terms of dollars per gigabyte, SSDs are more expensive. You can find SSDs that go up to 4TB. But you can push it down to 128GB for something more affordable.
So why should you get an SSD? One word: speed. A computer with an SSD can boot in less than a minute. A hard drive needs time to speed up to operate specs. But an SSD-equipped computer does everything faster: booting, launching and running apps, transferring files etc.
In addition, SSDs have your back if you’re kind of rough on your equipment. Unlike regular hard drives, SSDs don’t have any moving parts. So if you drop your laptop bag, your data will still be safe. There won’t be big problems even if there’s a minor earthquake.
Best for: speedy computer operations
Say the CPU is the brain of your computer. It controls how quickly it can process information. Then the motherboard is what connects everything together. It’s like the central nervous system and communicates with the other parts of the computer.
A motherboard has a specific socket for the CPU. Each processor family uses a different socket type as well. So make sure your motherboard matches your computer’s CPU.
The size of your motherboard determines how many components you can plug into it. If you’re not going to have multiple hard drives and graphics cards, you can get something smaller. This saves money! But can limit upgrades in the future.
When purchasing a motherboard, ask yourself the following questions:
What type of chipset will you use? Motherboards come with a chipset, but each one has their own features.
As aforementioned, a larger board gives you more sockets. Determine how many graphics cards, non-graphics cards and display outputs are needed.
Also, how many PCIe Lanes do you need? These are electrical pathways. Different GPUs require a different minimum number of lanes to function.
The motherboard is one of the most important components of a computer. If you have a good motherboard, then you’ll have the speed and features you need.
Best for: connecting different parts of the computer
Portable USB monitor
We love everything portable and powerful. Something often overlooked is the portable monitor. Powered by USB, it helps increase your productivity.
For some jobs, you need more virtual desktop space than given by the usual PC. You can divide your tasks and organize between the two screens. It also helps when showing your colleague something. They don’t have to lean over your shoulder.
Most separate displays need at least two cables. But that’s not the case with USB powered monitors. As technology advances, these monitors will get even more powerful.
And as long as you have the ports, you can add many monitors! You can expand your media player. This lowers overall installation and maintenance costs. You don’t need extra hardware or graphics cards. You only need to install a driver into your device.
Best for: separate and portable monitor
If you don’t want the border and space between screens, go for an ultra-wide monitor. You won’t get a break in the display.
This makes it suitable for watching videos, gaming and of course, working. You can fit more programs and apps on the same screen without switching around. You can multitask with windows next to each other.
When watching videos, there are no bezels in the center. With gaming, you see more of the field in your peripheral vision. You can see the enemy before they discover you.
Choose between curved and flat ultra-wide monitors. Curved monitors are more immersive, but can lose some viewing angle. Flat monitors are best if you’re going to share the display with others.
Best for: wider view and increased multi-tasking
Flush-mount USB hub
So your desk has a basic cable management port. It’s a commonly seen hole in cubicles and desks.
Now, use this USB hub to turn it into a flash drive station.
It’s not uncommon for computers and laptops to have around 5 USB ports now. But it’s also not uncommon to need more than that.
There are more USB-based devices than you expect: keyboard, mouse, memory card readers, syncing and/or charging mobile devices . . . the list goes on.
So that’s where a USB hub comes in.
They can be a bit pricier. But don’t go for the cheapest model you can find. On the light side, problems can include poorly wired and insulated products. In the most extreme case, it can be fatal.
And go for the most common and recent standard. They ensure the fastest, most efficient transfer speeds. And are compatible with more devices.
You can also choose between non-powered or self-powered hubs. But the latter might be more helpful.
Best for: space for multiple USBs and devices
External hard drive SATA enclosure
Your computer’s most vital applications and other valuable files are stored in the internal hard drive. But if it becomes damaged, you may lose those files forever.
Thus, it’s important to back up files. You can transfer the data onto an external hard drive or another PC.
An external hard drive helps you:
Transfer large files
Back up data
Hold data during hard-drive wipes and OS reinstalls
Extract files from unbootable drives
Free up storage space
But turning an internal drive into an external is work. The task is usually time-consuming and takes too much effort. But now, you can do it just by plugging the drive into a hard drive docking station.
It may look like a simple USB dock. But it can turn any internal drive into an external drive. This one takes SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) drives.
Best for: using internal hard drives as external drives
Cable modem router
Both routers and modems are used for Internet connection.
A router, put simply, connects different networks. It routes the network traffic between your Internet and local or private network. It determines and directs which traffic goes to which device.
Modems, on the other hand, are like bridges. It plugs into your infrastructure (such as cable, telephone, fiber or satellite). The Ethernet cable output is then plugged into a router or computer for connection.
If you want to declutter, you can go for a combined unit. Get the same functions with only one device. However, separate devices give you more flexibility.
Best for: stable Internet connection and de-cluttered office
Wired connections are more direct, allowing it to achieve extremely high speeds. This is especially true if you have a fiber-optic or fast broadband Internet connection.
Of course, speeds marked by companies are theoretical. Your actual speed will be a bit lower.
For wired connections, you can choose between Ethernet, phone-line and power-line.
Ethernets support up to 100 Mbps (megabits per second.) Depending on the hardware, the phone-line can go up to 128 Mbps. Power-line networking is the least expensive. But it can only support 14 Mbps.
The disadvantages though are that it’s not as portable. Your device must be plugged in to get Internet. It’s better for PCs rather than laptops and phones.
Best for: fast and stable Internet speeds for PCs
Wireless has become more common than wired. But in general, wireless connections are slower than wired. For everyday use, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem though.
Wireless routers use the signal standards below:
Wireless-A and Wireless-G: speeds up to 54 Mbps
Wireless-B: speeds up to 11 Mbps
Wireless-N: speeds should go up to 600 Mbps. However, the actual performance depends on conditions and hardware used.
While wired connections are easier to set up, wireless is more complicated. Place the router where your computer can receive a clear signal. Then set up security settings, network password and possibly additional software.
There are also some security risks, since they’re broadcasted in public spaces. But it allows more devices to connect to the Internet. It’s also accessible all over the room or building (as long as it’s within the router’s range.)
Best for: slower but portable and accessible Internet connection
Wi-Fi range extender
The Wi-Fi range extender is also known as a range expander. It is a type of wireless repeater. As the name implies, this tool helps you expand the range of your wireless LAN or Wi-Fi.
Put it between you and your base router or access point. The range extender connects to the latter. It then retransmits the signal to sends it to you or the target. The speed can go down though. So the range extender is best for those who have a weak signal. And not for those who don’t have a signal at all.
But before buying a range extender, check your router first. Sometimes, to solve your problem, all you need to do is buy a new one. Try connecting your device directly to the router. Or take other devices off the Wi-Fi network.
If you do need a range extender though, keep the following in mind:
It must be compatible with your Wi-Fi.
Single or dual-band? Single-band extenders are cheaper and have a longer range. But dual-band supports faster speeds.
What other features do you need? For example, Ethernet ports, audio streaming capabilities and more.
Best for: strengthening weak access to the Wi-Fi
Electronic gadgets and organizers
How can you store your electronic gadgets? How can you keep all the cables and wires in order?
The next few items on the list aren’t your everyday office accessories. They’re good finds, great for de-cluttering your workspace.
A power strip splits your outlet into multiple ports. But isn’t only something that helps you plug in more devices.
Maybe you already know what a vampire appliance is.
These devices (cell phones, laptops, TVs, gaming consoles, etc.) suck power as long as they remain plugged in. Even if they’re turned off.
They are responsible for 4 percent of electricity consumption in the U.S. as a whole. If you think about it, that’s a lot.
A lot of energy and money for devices that are just sitting there. It’s also annoying to have to unplug the cords whenever you’re done charging.
With a power strip, you can kill the vampires with just a switch.
Best for: effectively killing vampire appliances
Surge protectors are similar to power strips. But not every power strip is a surge protector.
It helps protect devices from power surges.
When purchasing, check the UL seal. It should be a transient voltage surge suppressor, certified by Underwriter’s Laboratories.
Also check its clamping voltage, which is the voltage that “wakes” the protector on. It should be less than 400 V.
The energy absorption rating shows the max amount of energy that can be absorbed. The higher the better. But the rating should be at least 6-700 joules.
Response time and the type of devices you’ll plug in should be considered as well.
Best for: protecting devices against power surges
Depending on the layout of your office, extension cords may be necessary. But using the wrong type of cord can be dangerous.
According to the U.S. Product Safety Commission, extension cords are one of the most dangerous electric appliances. Due to improper usage. Accidents can be fatal.
How much power can an electrical extension cord extend safely? There are two things to look out for: gauge and length.
Gauge the thickness of the wire. It is given as a number. The smaller the number, the thicker it is.
Length of the cord affects the voltage drop. It’s best to use the shortest one possible.
There are three main types of extension cords. Light duty and medium duty are best for office use.
The former can be used for electrical devices up to 7 amps (lamps, clocks and more.) The latter can handle devices up to 10 amps. That includes laptops and other small appliances.
Best for: increase reach of plugged-in devices
Spy pens include a tiny viewing lens and microphone for recording audio. They look and work like regular pens. Most people know them as being used by detectives and covert journalists. Or kids who want real tools to play pretend.
But spy pens can come in handy in the workplace too!
You can discreetly check on your employees and coworkers. If a colleague is harassing you or breaking the law, you can also record the evidence. The pen can be used to record meetings too.
And for less conspicuous uses, the spy pen works just like a camera. Sometimes it can be more convenient than pulling out your phone.
Best for: discreetly recording audio and pictures in the workplace
VR is seriously the rage nowadays, and getting more accessible. But it’s not just for fun and games. You can use this new technology in the workplace. Most notably for telecommuting and telepresence. In other words, you can work remotely with “smart” technology.
What does this entail?
If you have VR goggles, you can attend conferences and hold meetings no matter where you are. Sure you can hold video conferences. But if there are new products to test and see, VR is what you need.
In the future, you can also interview candidates using VR. It’ll be like you’re in the same room as them. And you can still see their body language and reactions to the questions.
Once hired, VR can be used for complex training sessions. Allow the new hires to look around, interact with objects and people. The session can be recorded as well.
And lastly, VR headsets can help with confrontations. Doing it face to face might be too aggressive. Doing it through email might be too cold. With a VR meeting, you’re showing your face, but it takes away some of the awkwardness.
Best for: telecommuting and telepresence in the workplace
Maybe you know the document camera as the Elmo, or video presenter. It is a common tool in classrooms. But you can incorporate it into the office as well.
The technology illuminates the display platform and projects it with a projector or TV. Practically anything under the lens can be projected, including transparent and opaque materials.
It’s different from using a PowerPoint or other types of digital presentation. You can display:
Paper printouts and slides
Book pages and images
You don’t need Wi-Fi connection or even a computer. Use it for live demonstrations and discussions. Others can come up and show off their own ideas and work as well. The document camera allows for a more interactive and hands-on experience.
Showing something live can trump anything verbal or virtual.
Best for: live demonstrations and presentations
Portable power bank
Power banks aren’t just for the office. Their biggest advantage: they’re portable. You don’t need sockets or a power source—they are a power source (unless they’re charging.)
You can charge your phone anywhere, whenever. You won’t ever have to worry about your phone dying in the middle of an important call.
Portable power banks can be suitable for all types of phones. They can have multiple sockets as well. You can find the power bank that fits your style and aesthetics too!
The only thing you have to worry about is when going on the plane. Some batteries will cause some headaches. But the benefit of charging your phone anywhere clearly outweighs the problems.
Best for: charging your phone without power supply
We’ve probably all used graphing calculators some point during high school. Remember the clunky TI’s?
Like the name implies, they help us graph math equations. They do much more, of course. Many of the functions and features probably weren’t even taught to us.
Nowadays, more than 20 years after the invention of graphing calculators, there are many alternatives to it. Some are even free apps! But we are all familiar with the good ol’ calculator.
You don’t need to charge them or Internet connection either to tap into the world of mathematics.
Best for: solving complex math problems
Office supplies: sound systems
Surround sound system
We all know what’s so good about surround sound systems. You can turn your home office into a great home cinema. Even if you’re not into that, you can still enjoy the surround sound.
They are the best for HD television and films. Surround sound systems usually come as a Blu-ray or DVD player with an amplifier and speakers.
Installation can be complicated. There are many technical considerations. You must position the speakers so the sound won’t be diluted. Wiring and power supply problems can cause static too. Leave it to the professionals, if needed.
Best for: immersive sound system for films
Now, if your office works with music or is a studio, you will need a condenser microphone.
These microphones are more expensive than dynamic microphones. But they have louder output. With a great frequency and transient response, they can reproduce the speed of a voice or instrument.
Because they’re sensitive to loud sounds, they’re more fragile than dynamic ones. Condenser mics are usually only used in studios or music venues.
Choose between small and large diaphragm condenser mics.
Large-diaphragm microphones (LDMs) are more suited for deeper sounds. It warms up the recorded sound.
However, small-diaphragm mics are better at reproducing things evenly. They are best for solid, wide-frequency and transient responses. For example, concert taping and stringed instruments.
Best for: recording high frequency and transient responses
There is actually a lot of controversy over headphones and earbuds in the office.
Some even say that it will lead to the downfall of the entire company. Coming to the office is important in that you can converse with your coworkers. New ideas can be produced and discussed. But wearing earbuds and headphones can block that.
However, if you’re easily disturbed by noise, definitely go for noise cancelling headphones. It can up your work efficiency.
There is some fancy science behind it all (microphones, processing, opposite wave etc.) The inverse sound wave should cancel out any intruding sound waves. Mostly white noise. It’s harder for higher frequency or transient noises.
The good thing is that the ones which work, work very well.
The bad news? It’s hard to find the right headphone. They don’t work for all frequencies. Or cancel the same amount at different frequencies.
So when a manufacturer claims to drop the volume by a dB, it can be at any frequency. Which doesn’t really help. Before buying a pair, make sure to check out reviews. And see if there are any specific measurements.
Best for: cancelling out white noise in the office
A lot of people use headset, headphone and earbuds interchangeably. But let’s just say that headsets are the things with both a speaker and microphone. You can use it with computers, phones, intercoms and telecom systems.
With your hands free while on the phone, you increase your productivity. You can do a myriad of other things while on the phone. You can walk around to grab resources and supplemental material too.
A high-quality headset with speakers can optimize the sound quality of the call too. For both ends. Some headsets also use noise-cancelling technology.
By using headsets, you can improve your health as well. Users have 35 to 40 percent less muscle tension in necks, backs and shoulders than regular phone users.
Best for: multitasking and less muscle tension during phone calls
Climate and Air Purifiers
There are more indoor air pollutants than you think.
And when you’re in an office without windows or proper ventilation, you can suffer from sick building syndrome. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea and more.
What do you do if your coworker has bad BO? Or if someone’s lunch is stinking up the entire workplace?
There are many air fresheners to choose from. However, many of them emit allergens and toxic air pollutants. The Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs found that even chemicals like formaldehyde can be sprayed out.
These can trigger asthma and allergic reactions.
Don’t put blind faith in “natural” air fresheners either. Many of them don’t label all the toxic chemicals.
But studies have backed up bamboo charcoal. Also known as activated charcoal, this air purifier absorbs odor. In addition, it absorbs bacteria, pollutants and moisture.
Best for: eliminating odors and allergens
If you have room for a plant, bring some life into your office!
It’s common knowledge that plants help clean the air. Not only do they take in carbon dioxide, they also absorb some toxins. The output is clean oxygen.
But the greens can raise your work productivity too. Indoor plants have been found to reduce mental fatigue. They keep you alert, lower stress and give off positive vibes.
Some plants you can choose from:
Best for: natural best air purifier and raising productivity
Electric baseboard heater
As the name implies, baseboard heaters sit near the baseboard. They’re a few inches above the floor, or can be placed directly on the floor.
Either convection or hydronic powered, these heaters are very efficient. The temperature and usage is controlled with a thermostat.
The number one benefit is a lower electrical bill. You can heat up an entire room without using much electricity. This allows you to turn the central heating system lower. You can turn off the heat in rooms you’re not user too.
If you have an older home with an older central heating system, baseboard heaters can be used for supplemental home heating. You don’t have to pile up the blankets and layers.
And of course, baseboard heaters can be plugged into almost anywhere. If you need to, you can get some warmth right next to your work table.
Best for: efficient supplemental heating
Maybe everything for your job has gone digital and virtual. But it never hurts to be ready for any paperwork or brainstorming that requires writing.
Pens and pencils
This should go without saying. Yes, stock up on some regular black pens that won’t run out of ink when you most need them. Blue and red pens would be a nice addition too.
If you fear mistakes or don’t like white-out, make sure to get pencils too.
Best for: basic writing needs
Following 3D printers, we now have 3D pens too. Basically, you “draw” with melted plastic thread and you can build models. The technology is still new, which means the cost may be high. But if you can afford it, the benefits are plentiful.
The use of 3D pens is useful in both the classroom. You can use it in the office for discussions, brainstorming and training. Not only can you visualize things, you can now create and touch something. The hands-on activity makes it easier to understand concepts.
A study showed that reading letters doesn’t trigger students’ visual cells. But the cells do get triggered with 3D images. Our brain is wired to remember images and photos more effectively.
Best for: more effective and interactive learning
Sometimes, your messages need to be permanent.
Buy a pack of Sharpies to keep on your desk or in your bag.
You can use it to label your food and making sure no one steals it. They also come in handy for labeling files or writing on boxes.
It is bold and makes sure everyone gets the message.
Best for: writing important labels
Highlighters are a big deal, with many studies looking into how highlighting affects your thinking.
Color coding helps notes come alive. It breaks up the monotony and makes the important parts pop out. Since they are color-coded, you can easily categorize them in your mind.
Who said what in a meeting? What are the key points that should be the focus?
Highlighters can be a time saver and make you a more efficient worker.
Best for: more effective note-taking
Dry erase board and markers
A good way to come up with new ideas is by brainstorming.
Some people prefer writing everything down in a bulleted list. Others will scribble everywhere. Regardless, you’ll have many changes of minds and erases.
For this, a classic white board is the best option. You can write, erase, start over and repeat. A good way to do free-form thinking is with a mind map.
Write a topic or main idea in the center of the dry erase board. All the tasks and ideas go around it. You can branch off into smaller sub-topics until you run out of room. This unstructured structure helps you think outside the box.
Of course, brainstorming is easy using various websites and phone apps. But sometimes, the action of writing things down can help you with your ideas.
Best for: surface for brainstorming and planning
Notebook or notepad
Technology is turning us paperless. But just as with pens, there’s always a need for a surface to write on.
According to various studies, the physical action of writing boosts memory. It also increases your ability to retain and understand the information.
In one study, two groups were given the same lecture and later tested. Both groups were able to remember numbers and facts. But the note-taking group had a much better grasp on the ideas and concepts.
This may be due to the fact that writing is more complex. With typing, you’re able to transcribe notes verbatim. This mindless activity loses to taking notes.
While these findings might benefit more for students, you can utilize it in the office as well.
Use a notepad to record key points in meetings. Later, you can organize the thoughts and type them up so you won’t lose it.
Best for: processing and remembering key points
There are a myriad of uses for sticky notes. They’re designed for temporary uses.
You can leave notes for colleagues, jot down sudden ideas, bookmark something or write a reminder for yourself. Or use a pack to make a flip book when you’re bored.
But experts have suggested that these small squares can be perfect for brainstorming.
During the brainstorming session, write one idea per post-it. Then stick it to a wall, table or other flat (and large) surface.
It’s easy to move points around or scrap bad ideas. You can also use the sticky notes to vote on the best idea.
Best for: quick messages and brainstorming
Mobile paper shredder
Theft of confidential info and trade secrets is a real threat. The business can lose billions and the thief can end up in federal prison.
The simplest way to prevent it is with a paper shredder. It is actually mandated by the FTC Safeguards Rule of the GLB Act for organizations to shred documents on a regular basis.
Doing so ensures that documents are safely disposed of. It protects both you and your company.
While there are offsite shredding sites, a mobile paper shredding makes things convenient. You can just throw in the large volume of documents. And it will be shredded without effort on your part. Most can even handle binders, folders, staples and more.
Best for: secure disposal of confidential documents
Staple free stapler
The stapler is a powerful and simple way to bind papers together.
But with this gadget, you won’t have to worry about running out of staples ever again. It hooks papers together by creating a perforation. Ribbons of the paper naturally bind with each other.
It looks cool and everything’s natural.
There are some shortcomings though. It’s hard to remove paper, since removing one piece will break up the entire thing. It also can’t handle too thick a packet. But staple-free staplers are still an innovative and convenient gadget.
Best for: binding papers without extra supplies
There’s a lot of debate over which filing system to use.
With folders, you can choose between pocket folders, manila folders, hanging folders . . . A lot of people find binders clunky too.
But a binder would be a better deal. Especially if it contains pocket folders and room for notebooks.
Elaborate filing systems don’t work. They may seem specific, but if it’s too complicated, there’s high chance of you giving up on it.
Instead, just designate a binder for each main area of responsibility or project. Then simply use dividers to split each binder into different tasks.
Use markers, labels or tabs to clearly mark each binder. Then get into the habit to maintain the system.
Of course, if you prefer not having holes on the side of your paper, regular folders will be a better choice.
Best for: organizing and storing papers
Everyone needs to take a break during work. For hardcore gamers, you’ll need the best gaming set: projectors, monitors, tables and all.
The majority of people play video games on the TV or computer.
But if it’s within your budget, choose an actual gaming projector. The larger size allows you to see all the little details. It improves the whole playing experience.
Of course, you also need an empty space large enough for the projector. Choose a screen size that fits your office.
You can choose between DLP and LCD versions. Thanks to technological advances, both versions offer similar qualities. High definition image quality is a must too.
When purchasing, consider the lag time. This is how long it takes for the image to be projected onto the screen. You should look for the shortest delay possible.
Most gaming projectors are made to be permanent fixtures. Some are portable and versatile though. If you want to stream movies or play at your friend’s house, go for integration projectors.
Best for: high quality and detailed display for gaming
If you don’t use a gaming projector, get the best gaming monitor you can. In most cases, bigger is better.
If you have the room and budget, go for a UHD (ultra-high-definition) monitor. Otherwise, you can choose WQHD (wide, quad high-definition) or FHD (full high-definition.) The higher the pixel count, the higher the resolution.
There’s a variety of display technologies you can choose from. All have their pros and cons. TN (twisted pneumatic) panels are the most affordable. It offers the most important features: fast pixel response and refresh rates.
The lower the pixel response, the faster it is. Refresh rates are measured in Hz (Hertz.) Try to find a monitor with a refresh rate of at least 120 Hz.
If you want to research deeper, look into VA (vertical alignment) or IPS (in-plane switching) panels.
Best for: high definition screen for PC gaming
When choosing a mouse for computer games, go wireless. Your moves won’t be limited by the cable. Even if you connect your laptop to your TV or gaming projector, you can still use your wireless gaming mouse.
You can also choose between laser and infrared mice. Both give you accurate control over movements. Laser is more responsive, while infrared works better with uneven surfaces and dust.
Some more considerations when purchasing a gaming mouse:
DPI (dots per inch): this determines the sensitivity of the mouse. The higher the DPI, the higher the sensitivity and range.
Acceleration: this is how fast the cursor moves on the screen.
Lift off distance: this is the maximum distance you can lift the mouse from the tracking surface for it to still work.
In addition, be sure that the mouse is comfortable and won’t put strain on your hands.
The way you grip the mouse is important too. The least stressful is the palm grip (placing the entire hand over the mouse.) The fingertip and claw grips allow for fast moves, but places stress on your hands.
Best for: comfortable and accurate cursor movement for PC games
It’s a tradeoff with gaming laptops. The more powerful ones are generally less portable, and vice versa. Still, don’t sacrifice too much for the portability.
You should have a high-res display (at least 1920 x 1080), solid storage and an up-to-date processor.
Don’t go for touch screens, even though they’re all the rage now. They’re expensive, drain battery, and don’t help much for games. You don’t need a mobile chip either.
Instead, invest in a powerful GPU or graphics card. A discrete GPU with its own VRAM (video memory) will be able to support your gaming. The casual or average gamer only needs around 4GB of VRAM.
Matte screens can have washed out colors. However, just like regular laptops, glossy screens are susceptible to glare. This is both annoying and bad for your eyesight.
For the best gaming experience, also take note of your laptop’s:
Key travel: the ideal is anything close to or over 2 mm.
Actuation: this is the force needed to press down a key. Sixty grams is the optimum, giving you’re a springy bounce.
Anti-ghosting: this allows you to press down a bunch of keys and have all of them register. Totally necessary to unleash a super move!
Best for: more portable PC gaming device
Computer gaming desk
A good ergonomic work desk from the first section of the article can double as a computer gaming desk.
To maximize usage of room space, go for the L-shaped table. You can take utilize the corners in your room. And make life easier by separating your work and game supplies.
However, do note that an L-shaped desk might not be the best at supporting bulky monitors.
Since you’ll be hunched in the same position for hours, ergonomics are more important than ever. Ensure that the table is at a comfortable height and there’s clearance for your legs. A standing desk can work as well.
Best for: ergonomic PC gaming surface
Unlike the table, your gaming chair needs to provide something different from your regular office chair.
With work chairs, you’re working on the computer. You need to be more upright, with the chair supporting your natural spine curvature.
When you’re gaming, you might want to relax and recline more. Regardless, you still need support. A locking backrest is important.
A seat pan slider is another helpful feature. It allows you to position your bottom relative to the backrest. If you’re tall, your legs can get more support. If you’re short, you can adjust the seat to fully sit in the chair.
Best for: adjustable seating while gaming
Xbox steering wheel
A typical controller is good for most games. But when it comes to racing games, a steering wheel takes on an advantage.
With the controller, it’s almost impossible to have throttle control and good launches. It’s easier to under or over steer too. All of this can hinder your performance.
On the other hand, a steering wheel makes you feel as if you’re actually driving. Quite logically, it ups your performance too. Using the wheel is much smoother. You can round corners more precisely.
The better speed and control mean better results. If you want to win and enjoy the game, the steering wheel should be part of your ammo.
Best for: racing games
When choosing a sewing machine, test some fabric samples. Use a variety of fabrics and settings. Ensure that the machine you purchase can stitch evenly.
In addition, be sure to use the right needle. If it is unsuitable for the project or is dull, both the fabric and machine can be damaged. Needles should be changed when switching fabric types. And at least every two years of use.
Mechanical sewing machine
Mechanical sewing machines are your most basic machines. They do not offer the science and technology of electric or computerized machines. They are also rarely made nowadays.
However, many sewers actually prefer these. As mechanical machines, you must put in physical work to power the wheel. This can give you better control. And because they are made of metal, traditional models are more durable.
Mechanical machines are great for beginners and basic projects. They are suitable for most fabrics. However, light to medium weight materials are the best.
Best for: basic projects with light fabric
Electronic sewing machine
The electronic sewing machine is powered by a single motor.
It’s easy to control the speed—all you need to do is press down the foot pedal. This way, your hands are free to guide the fabric through the machine.
Electronic sewing machines are very versatile. They can take on a wide range of projects and sewing needs. You can feed many different fabrics through the machine.
Most sewing machines will come with a dial on the side. You can control and adjust the stitch lengths and types. More advanced features include automatic tension setting, thread cutting and buttonhole stitch.
Best for: basic but versatile sewing machine
Computerized sewing machine
For something more customizable and tailored to your needs, consider the computerized sewing machine. They include a digital screen rather than buttons and dials. The screen can be LED, LCD or touch screen.
Basic computerized machines can memorize your most used stitches. It can then automatically set the tension needed. More advanced machines allow you to program more complex patterns.
Some machines contain USB ports. So you can link designs from your computer or download designs from the web. They are definitely more expensive. However, the versatility, speed and convenience it offers make up for the cost.
Best for: fast sewing of complex designs
Overlock serger machine
The serger is a special sewing machine. It’s sometimes called an overlocker or overlock sewing machine. It is specialized to finish hems and seams.
Serging the edges will immediately give your garment a more professional look. Without it, the edge will also fray with time.
These machines work differently from other sewing machines. Two to 9 threads and multiple needles are used for the overcast stitch. It trims away excess fabric at the same time.
Though there are fewer functions (they can’t sew zips or buttonholes), sergers can stitch and trim at much faster speeds. Sergers can go up to 1700 stitches per minute!
However, do note that you shouldn’t replace your regular sewing machine with a serger. Instead, the serger should be an addition to your sewing set.
Best for: creating professional hems
Embroidery can upgrade any fabric or garment. The projects you can do are limitless! It can be daunting to choose an embroidery machine.
When searching, keep the following questions in mind.
First, what is the largest design that the machine can handle? And what size will you be making? Look at the inner size of the machine. The largest embroidery width is determined by the distance between the needle and the machine’s body.
Ask for the size and amount of the embroidery machine hoops. Don’t assume that all the different hoops you need will be included.
A machine with a color touch screen will have more advanced options and functions. Test things out and see if it’s user friendly for you. In addition, consider how you can transfer designs to the machine. Using a USB is the most common way. Newer ones may use the Internet or cables.
Some embroidery machines can sew as well. If you want to save some money, be sure to check that out.
Best for: helpful tool for embroidery projects
For best results, use the telescope only for astronomy, rather than land viewing. If you want to see further on land, consider a pair of binoculars.
The most important feature of a telescope is the aperture. The higher the aperture, the more light captured. And the better you can see. But if you want a portable telescope, something powerful but with a smaller aperture might be better.
The most common telescope is probably the refracting telescope. It is designed similarly to binoculars and spotting scopes. Rather than mirrors, lenses are used. The eyepiece is also at the bottom.
The refracting telescope is best for beginners. It is simple and easy to use. It requires little to no maintenance. But it’s excellent for binary stargazing, lunar and planetary stargazing.
However, these telescopes usually have smaller apertures. Better quality refractors cost more than other telescopes, in terms of cost per inch of aperture.
You also see mirror images. To correct this, you can use an erecting prism. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the casual telescope user.
Best for: simple astronomy telescope for beginners
Also known as a reflector, the reflecting telescope uses mirrors. The eyepiece is also on the side of the tube, rather than the end.
The best thing about reflectors is the price. Compared to the other types of telescopes, reflectors cost less per inch of aperture. In addition, they usually have larger apertures. There are also low optical irregularities. This ensures bright and high quality images.
You’ll be able to see faint deep sky objects. This includes other galaxies, star clusters and more.
However, this means the telescope isn’t suited for terrestrial (land) viewing. The tube is also open to the air. Even if you wrap or cover it, dust can get onto the optics. It requires a bit more maintenance.
Best for: affordable telescope for faraway sky objects
The Cassegrain is also known as the Catadioptric telescope. It combines both reflectors and refractors, using mirrors and lenses. They are more modern and have larger apertures.
This makes it the most versatile telescope. You get excellent observations of lunar, planetary and deep space objects. Use fast films or CCD’s for best astrophotography. At the same time, you can also do terrestrial viewings. And even photography.
It has the highest near focus capability. It uses a closed tube design. This reduces air currents that degrade images. The telescope is also compact and durable.
All of this comes with a price though. Cassegrain models are more expensive. The design may not be aesthetic for everyone.
Best for: professional quality astronomy and terrestrial viewings
12 Office ergonomic tips
1. Desk at the right height
After choosing the right desk shape and design (scroll up for a review), make sure the height is right. Or that it’s adjustable.
There should be enough clearance for your knees and thighs. Don’t use the space under your desk for storage. Make sure there’s room to stretch your legs.
2. Keep your treasures close
As aforementioned, the optimal reach zone is where you can reach without stretching.
Put the most used objects within that zone. By reducing how much you stretch, it puts less strain on your muscles.
Your most used objects can include pens, papers, important documents, water bottle and other necessities.
3. Position the computer
Your desk lamp (or brightest light source) should be to the side of the screen. Not directly over the monitor. That can cause uncomfortable glare.
Position the keyboard so that your upper arms are close to your body and hands are slightly below your elbows.
The weight of your arms should be supported at all times. And keep your wrists straight. Otherwise, you’ll be feeling the pain in your neck and shoulders.
4. The monitor is your equal
The monitor of your computer or laptop should be an arm’s length away and slightly below eye level.
When you’re looking at the screen, watch your head position. Don’t jut it forward. Keep your head right on top of your neck! Otherwise, you’ll be putting a lot of strain on your neck muscles.
Try it now. You’ll be surprised at how often you’re craning your neck. (Lower those shoulders too!)
In addition, try to keep your monitor directly before you. Minimize the amount of neck turns. Also, use the scroll bar to keep whatever you’re looking at in the center of the screen.
5. Get rid of the computer hunch
While you’re at it, fix your sitting posture and get rid of the computer hunch.
You don’t want your back to be stick straight, but don’t slouch either. Both put a lot of pressure on your spine. Instead, take up the entire seat. Follow the curve of your ergonomic chair or lumbar back support.
Make sure something has your back!
6. Be computer savvy
Get comfortable with keyboard shortcuts so you don’t have to use the mouse too much. If needed, write hard to remember shortcuts on post-its and stick them to the side of your screen.
If you do use the mouse, make sure it’s within easy reach. It should be on the same surface as your keyboard. So you can use it while keeping your hands and arms relaxed.
If you can, increase the mouse’s sensitivity so you only have to use a light touch.
You can practice your ambidextrous skills too. Occasionally move the mouse to the other side to give your main hand a break.
7. Relax your hands
Most typing isn’t continuous. Between those bursts of furious typing, what are you doing with your hands?
When you’re not typing, keep your hands relaxed. Rest them in a flat and straight posture.
If you think about it, your fingers do a lot of work. Make sure they get the rest they deserve!
8. Put the phone down
If you need to call and type (or write) at the same time, know that nestling the phone between your head and neck is a definite no-no. You can feel the strain.
Instead, use a headset, headphones or earbuds. You can also place the phone down and put the call on speaker.
9. Protect your eyes
Unsurprisingly, digital eye strain is becoming more common.
Studies have found that we blink a lot less when we’re using the computer. This causes strain and dryness of the eyes. Some symptoms of digital eye strain include:
Headaches when viewing 3D
Sensitivity to light
To protect your eyes, use a matte screen to reduce glare from your monitor. If you wear contact lenses, switch to glasses more often. Computer or blue light glasses can help, but are not necessary.
10. Give your eyes a break
Good work! Now reward yourself with a quick break.
We all know the benefits and importance of resting your eyes and getting up to stretch. But how many of us keep up the habit? So it’ll never hurt to get reminded again.
For eyes, try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 seconds, look off into the distance (20 feet) for 20 seconds. You can try some eye exercises and massages as well.
Or simply lean back and get a few minutes of shuteye.
If you’re feeling the eye strain, it’s probably too late. But better late than never!
11. And take care of your body
Obviously, we’re all doing this ergonomic stuff to protect our bodies. But remember to actually take care of it too.
Keep it hydrated and nourished. Every now and then (30 to 60 minutes), get up to stretch. To work out your body and reduce workplace injuries, try some strength training basics.
It can increase metabolism, improve mental functions and decrease stress.
12. Micro-breaks and power naps
You don’t have to be working constantly in those 30 to 60 minutes between breaks.
Micro-breaks are less than 2 minutes. All you have to do is stand up quickly, stretch and shake out your legs. Or you can take a break from that particular task.
If your hands are tired from typing, switch to something else. Make a phone call, for example.
If you’re feeling drowsy, take a power nap. Closing your eyes for a few seconds can make you feel much more energized!
13. Get some decor
You don’t want to clutter your work surface, but don’t make things to cut and dry either. Place some decorations that can lift your mood.
As mentioned up above, small potted plants can do the job. Keep some pictures of loved ones, your dream vacation spot and more.
Anything to make office hours more bearable!
Office computer ergonomic checklist
The most important piece of furniture is probably the computer. Now, answer these questions to make your office ergonomic.
What kind of computer are you using?
A desktop computer is more customizable.
For a laptop computer, don’t forget a separate keyboard and negative tilt keyboard tray for maximum comfort.
A docking station may also be necessary.
How is the computer used?
How do you plan on using the computer? For most people, it’ll just be yours. And you can customize and optimize it. Make it the right height and size.
But if multiple people will share the computer, try to find the one that satisfies the most needs. Or make sure the chairs, tables and others are adjustable.
In addition, consider how long the computer will be used. One for checking information won’t need to be as ergonomic as your own personal work computer (or one you use for more than four hours per day.)
What kind of work will you do?
Different computer tasks will require slightly different workplace arrangements.
If you’re mostly typing, your priority should be the keyboard quality and arrangement. For data entry, a numeric keypad or keyboard should be in the best position.
Graphic designers and those who research on the web, position your mouse in the most comfortable place. Try to use as many keyboard shortcuts as possible too.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.