Best Quality of Life Items You Have Bought for WFH / Online Learning

It has been years of adjusting and transitioning into working from home and studying online at home since COVID hit.

I'm currently a student at university and would like to hear what items ozbargainers has bought that has significantly improve their WFH environment?

Fortunately I still get to attend on-campus workshops and such but most of my time, I'm at home listening to online lectures and I feel like I'm not well equip to make the experience better..

e.g. laptop stands, comfy office chairs, etc. Smaller more trivia items that made you enjoyed your time at home more are also welcome.

bonus point if you can mention cheaper alternatives too, this is OzBargain after all :)

Comments

  • +42

    ANC headphones are a must!

    • +1

      not sure why you're downvoted, this is one of the few items I have and it is a must, especially when im renting a small 2 bedroom apartment. It makes a huge difference when you can shut out 90% of the surrounding, especially when I have to be in a lecture and my roommate is cooking in the same room.

      • +16

        I didn't downvote, but, I think for most WFH means not needing to use ANC headphones.
        At least that's my experience.. it really depends on each individual situation.
        WFH for me means using speakers or open planar headphones ;)

        • +2

          My neighbour has been having construction going since October - I'd've gone bonkers WFH without them.

        • +2

          Nah tons of people are WFH and have kids or other adults in the house.

        • +1

          def needed it when your housemate isn't as considerate as you'd hope for! their speakers are blasting..

      • +11

        Maybe get your room mate to use the kitchen to cook.

    • I didn't know I need it for my life, not just WFH, like that neighbour who mow their lawn every Sunday early morning, or that housemate with their midnight phone calls next room.

    • Maybe this is obvious, but also wireless earphones/headphones just to be able to roam around while plugged in. Then you can be the one cooking. :)

      The most extreme version of this is waterproof earbuds so you can take a shower while attending a lecture/meeting. (This only works if you're not expected to speak)

    • +1

      whats a good value ANC brand name headphone that's comfortable asf?

    • Too bad they don't filter out kids,,,,,

  • +35

    Logitech MX Keys keyboard paired with a MX Master 3 mouse……it makes moving from the work laptop to the home pc/laptop a breeze.

    • +3

      This. Best keyboard and mouse ever.

      • except for the stupid creaking space bar from day one.(common issue for MX keys keyboard)

        • Yep mine had that. I replaced it only the other week.

    • Any experience using it through a VPN?

      I considered getting this combo but ultimately didn't because the company I was working for had a really tight VPN and I had read some complaints it may not work. I did buy the mouse though so the option is still there.

      • +1

        I've used the MX Keys with a VPN with no issues. I've not extensively tested, but haven't had any reason to.

      • +1

        No issues using with the VPN

      • You can't use Logitech flow if it's over a VPN. I installed it on my work laptop which uses a VPN and it didn't detect it on the same network. So you need to manually switch the keyboard/mouse between the two devices over Bluetooth or the unifying receivers.

        I have to use a KVM switch to go between the two easily, which was a great investment

        • -2

          This is a lie. It works with a VPN.

          • +1

            @rlf: My work computer uses Cisco AnyConnect which blocks local network traffic. It's a common issue that people have asked Logitech to fix. e.g. here

            If you're using your own laptop with a VPN like Nord etc then of course it'd work.

            Would love to know if you had luck getting it working.

            One suggestion said you could enable local traffic but I didn't have the option

            • @booboo: Ok fair enough, I didn't know some work places were that restrictive with their VPNs.

              You could fix this if you use both a wired and wireless connection.

              • @rlf: More work places should be this restrictive. The idea is that they have control over what's connecting to their network and they don't want the VPN connected device being used as a stepping stone by another compromised device on the home network.

        • I went and purchased the MX Keys and Master 3 mouse and can't get the mouse to work through the kvm for some reason.

  • +22

    Herman Miller Aeron

    • Full price?

      • +1

        I paid 1690 on 28 degrees , and managed to price match it to $1590

        • nice, they are usually 2 k Ish?

          • @Alasdair: from 2022 I think that's about the standard price

    • +9

      For a student? While they might be a good chair, I think a cheaper but still decent chair and a bunch of other items would give a far better improvement to their workspace than just a single chair for about 2 grand.

    • +2

      Same, bought it when I started WFH, best investment.

      Used to get lower back and shoulder pain, both disappeared after like a month.

      I also got a sit/stand desk to go with it though, which is just as important imo.

    • +1

      Yup, I've had mine for - jees - 15 years? It's still going strong.
      I originally bought it because of the number of hours I would play WoW.

      • Wow are these chairs actually worth the $2k price tag then and aren't just hype? Is it coz they're much better designed than cheaper chairs? What makes them so great?

        • If you break it down over its warranty period of 10 years, that $2,000 becomes $200 a year.
          For me, it's the only chair I can sit in for longer than an hour and I've gone through a fair few cheaper chairs, even a HM Mirra.
          There is a reason that the design hasn't really changed since 1994.

        • Yeah 100% worth it. I used some at a job years ago and nothing else compares. I use a regular office chair at home and its ok, but not even close. I'll eventually save for a high end herman miller, and if I have to pay 2k I will.

        • My company has about 15,000 of these around the country, they get thrashed about, and some are 10+ years old and still going strong.

          They’re about the only things in our fitout that we bother keeping when moving or refurbishing buildings!

      • … are you me? :o

    • Had mine since 2012 and it's as good as new. Best chair ever.

    • +1

      Picked up a second hand Herman Miller Mira for $450, big spend on a students budget for me but soo worth it.

  • +12

    The things you directly interface with make the biggest difference IMO so chair, footrest, monitor arm and monitor are my top 4 closely followed by keyboard, mouse and speakers/headphones.

    I spent $1k on a Aeron 15 years ago and my family and friends thought I was crazy yet I've never regretted in for a second. I've been working from home at least one day a week for a decade before covid and worked full time at home prior to that and that chair was a lightbulb moment. I could sit in it for 12 hours and remain comfortable, it didn't squeak or rattle or sink down, the padding never frayed or cracked or peeled unlike the $100 office chairs I'd buy every year before hand. I recently bought another one, paid almost $2k this time and I don't care.

    To go with a good chair a proper footrest also makes a big difference. I'm currently using a Humanscale FR300 rocker and while it's not perfect, it does ensure I'm properly seated and comfortable.

    The next key item is the monitor and just as, perhaps even more important, is a monitor arm. Having a monitor with no flicker, good colour and a sharp, clear picture is worth it for your eyes but the stands they come with are rarely ideal. I good monitor arm will allow you to position the monitor just right and those 4 items together are key to you being comfortable and being comfortable is key if you do long hours at a desk.

    • +3

      curious about footrest, does it apply to people of all heights or certain height? I'm 6ft tall.

      yeah I definitely need to invest in some proper chair and stand for my laptop……I'm using my dinning table as a study area, with dinning chair and laptop on those cooling fan stand which is not high enough…. my neck, back and my butt are not really enjoying the comfy level lol.

      • +1

        my wife needed a footrest as she was too short for the desk. I don't think it's always necessary..
        I ended up buying her a lower desk so she didn't have to use a footrest. It's annoying to only be able to put your feet on the footrest, takes away from swivelling etc

        • This is why you buy the cheap mechanical height sit stand desk from Officeworks. Good quality (for the price) and don't have fixed desk problem.

      • Personal thing. I have a tall desk as well so for me it's necessary. The one I have has a rocking feature so allows you to get some movement in your ankles and calves while sitting. Look into desk ergonomics and it'll give you some guidance but I'd say your biggest issue is your laptop screen height.

        • i just ordered an ergo chair from one of the bargain page, from ErgoDuke, I simply cannot afford a Herman chair at this point in my life so figure I would give the cheaper much cheaper option a go for now and hopefully it will save my back and neck until then.

          • @PuntyBrah: Some people don't like the Aeron anyway. Main point is a good comfortable chair is worth the expence.

      • When you sit down, can you rest your foot flat on the ground and still use your keyboard with straining your arms and monitor without straining your neck? Then you don't need one.

        Ideally your legs should bend 90' or your thighs should be parallel to the floor while do this - for example if you can rest your foot on the floor but your legs are slanted to do that, that's not ideal for long periods.

    • +1

      Not actually a purchase, but the best thing I did for comfort working from home was cutting 2 inches off the legs of my desk. Works better for me than a tall chair and a footrest.

  • +24

    Five suggestions from me (though they're not smaller more trivial items!):

    (i) Large monitor(s) - if you're still working from a tiny laptop screen, getting a 27" or larger monitor (at least 2560x1440) will be really helpful. Will help with multitasking and just general work and getting stuff done.

    (ii) Standing desk - WFH means there's just less opportunity to move around (e.g. no walking to meeting rooms, heading down to grab a coffee, walking from the train station to the office…etc.), so having a standing desk, and possibly even one of those walking treadmills, are a great way to just improve general activity throughout the day.

    (iii) Good mouse (e.g. MX Master 3). This will really help with fatigue and many hours of long use. Similar with a good keyboard, but to be honest, if you're using a laptop, most built-in keyboards these days are quite good.

    (iv) Proper external microphone - if you're doing lots of video calls, a cheap-ish microphone, even ones below $100 are so much better than in-built mics that you'll definitely make a positive impact on people you're talking to. I've got an Elgato Wave 1 and have gotten lots of compliments on how clear it is and how easy it is to hear me. You can probably get something even cheaper and it'll be fine.

    (v) Noise-cancelling headphones, particularly if you live with other people. Get a pair that are comfortable that you can wear for hours. You don't want to annoy your housemates by having your loud meetings on speaker when they're trying to work and you don't want what they're doing to annoy you either.

    Also, bonus tip, but now that we're practically out of lock-down, have a few places outside of your regular room where you can do work, e.g. at a park bench, at a local cafe, maybe even at a library. It's nice to be able to mix up the scenery a bit and will definitely help with writers' block if you ever get that. Sometimes I find myself stuck on things, and just picking up my laptop and taking it to a park bench will help tremendously.

    • +3

      I think using a good headset designed for Skype/Teams/Meet/etc also does wonders - I use a Plantronics Voyager Focus UC.

      The other thing I'd add to your list is a good monitor arm (or multiple) so your desk doesn't feel cramped from the stand, and then getting a desk mat (I use the IKEA one), and if you aren't planning to use your laptop at the same time, a vertical laptop stand to dock it. I do this with a good (gaming haha) wireless keyboard (G915) and mouse (G604) setup and my WFH setup feels great.

      The other thing which changed my WFH life is upgrading my router to an Asus XT8 which improved calls/etc significantly when both my wife and I are online.

      • +6

        The other thing which changed my WFH life is upgrading my router to an Asus XT8 which improved calls/etc significantly when both my wife and I are online.

        Or run some ethernet cables - this was a life changer for me IMHO.

        • +1

          Same, wifi was very flaky for me, and powerline adapters weren't doing much better, so ran an ethernet cable direct, and WFH life is sweet!

        • I actually had ethernet cables but it turned out it was the router which was bottlenecking… maybe it couldn't handle so many devices shrug

    • +2

      Agree on the monitor. Got myself a 27" 4k USB-C monitor fairly recently ($369 in a Dell 20% off sale) and it's a game changer from the old 1080p I was using. The USB-C connection means I can display and charge my laptop with one cable, reducing clutter. As a work/coding monitor, I'm pretty sure I'll get a solid decade+ out of this thing.

      I also bought a good webcam that I can position front-on (on top of my main monitor). Since I position my laptop off to the side, I find the laptop camera is not only lower quality but it gives the impression you're not engaging in the meeting because you're looking a different direction from the camera. That felt like a nice improvement.

      I'd like to upgrade my chair, and desk size, but $$$ and space are limiting factors on those atm

      • I think 1440p is a pretty good resolution for 27". I think 4k would be better from around 32" though.

        I use some software that doesn't really like high DPI, so going 4k at 27" would make some software a bit hard to use.

        I also highly recommend a good monitor arm too. And if you have dual monitors, do NOT get a dual arm - they are too restrictive with positioning relative to each other, and typically mean one or both of the monitors have to be pretty far out from the wall. I'd strongly recommend getting 2 single monitor and instead to give more flexibility. It also allows you to spread the load on the desk a bit too - if you've got a cheap follow IKEA desk, you risk crushing or deforming it. I used two 2mm thick metal plate about 25x12cm between the clamp and top/bottom surfaces to spread the load a bit, until I switched to a solid desk top.

        • It also allows you to spread the load on the desk a bit too - if you've got a cheap follow IKEA desk, you risk crushing or deforming it. I used two 2mm thick metal plate about 25x12cm between the clamp and top/bottom surfaces to spread the load a bit, until I switched to a solid desk top.

          This - it also helps that when you have two single monitor arms, the two weights will be closer to the edges of the desk which are supported by the legs, not in the middle of the desk which has no support.

    • +1

      Monitor depends how deep your desk is.

      If you have a narrow desk then 24 inch is more than enough

      • +1

        Pass 27" 1440p at minimum..

        24 is are mostly 1080 which is just bad for multitasking unless you have a couple of them right next to each other.

        Plus 24" looks bad next to most laptop screens. It looks grainy and pixelated next to a modern laptop and you find yourself just using the laptop screen.

  • +4

    Sit stand desk for sure.

    • Absolutely. Grabbed one from Officeworks for just under $200 and it's made a big difference.

  • +3

    Logitech MX keys keyboard
    Lightweight Logitech gaming mouse
    Buro Metro 2 chair
    SoundPEATS t2 ANC buds
    34 inch WQHD monitor
    Ikea foot rest
    Kmart microphone

    Portable air cond on the side for those 40 degree summer days

    And don't underestimate the importance of a good mouse pad. I'm using a Lenovo Legion XL mouse pad that I got for $17.

    • I want a mousepad like that, but without all the obnoxious branding… Seems weirdly hard to find without being either poor quality, or super expensive.

      Where should I look? I've tried Amazon and office works… Ikea ones look like they are a good width but too long (as in, from the front of the desk to the back)

      • I turned my large mouse pad to portrait orientation, and have the front section hanging over the edge of the desk to prevent it going too far back

      • I got one from linus tech tips, but I wanted it for fanboi reasons. That being said its damn good. Before that I used one off Amazon, just make sure you get 7mm foam and stitched edges.

  • +2

    I don't know what your study entails and where you live, but if possible, spend some of it outdoors surround by nature. You'll feel much better and might be even more productive.

    E.g. run up a hill, go for a walk in between, then do the lectures. Can you do it in the park, on the grass, on a bench?

  • Check out the daily living aids section at Kmart.

    Memory foam bum seats and wedges (for when you're working from bed)

    • when you're working from bed

      This is generally a pretty bad idea - working from bed is just conducive to bad posture and will probably disrupt your sleep cycle and rhythm.

      • Yeah but my one day a week of WFH well…. I'll take that as a semi lie in day 😉

      • -2

        Sitting in a chair is likely much worse for posture.

  • +5

    Hubby and I both WFH, so he has the study/proper desk, and I have the end of the dining room table. I bought a monitor stand with a few shelves under it to stack my work tablet and notepads, and a cable organiser box - both items have made things look a lot more tidy, since the table is in the middle of our open-plan kitchen/dining area, and I didn't want it looking too cluttered. I also got a silent mouse (the clickings were driving us both crazy!) and a wireless Plantronics headset so I can cook lunch, prep dinner, put away laundry, etc, while in boring meetings.

  • +2

    🧻
    Water
    Tea
    Coffee
    Snacks
    Comfy clothes

  • +1
    • $50 Razer Kraken TE headphones
    • $200 Pago computer chair from OfficeWorks
    • $222 sit to stand riser from Kogan (though bought in 2017… it was big and heavy so I never set it up until I moved in with my now Mrs about 6 months before covid hit)
  • +4

    1) Ergohuman office chair - no longer getting up at the end of the day with a bad back. Pricey but worth the investment.
    2) 2560x1440p 27" monitor

    • Ill second that Ergohuman chair recommendation. I got mine second hand for $100 and love it. Mesh is great in summer, winter however….

  • +1

    Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse.

    My wrists were hurting using my Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse.

    They no longer hurt using the Microsoft Ergonomic desktop.

    Also, I've had this since 2006 and it's made a huge difference: a high quality industrial grade Ergonomic chair.

    I paid $650 for mine back in 2006 and it's been a great help to me over the years. Because it's industrial grade the foam in the seat has not gone down, it's still the same as when I bought it.

    • jm03
    • I've never seen anyone else recommend the MS Ergo kit, but I swear by it at work. I use a mechanical keyboard at home for gaming and Uni, but for 8+ hours a day, I'll use the one that has some thought given to ergonomics

    • Never understood why the ergo keyboards never took off. They are so much better to use! I use the MS Surface Ergonomic keyboard and it is awesome.

  • Even though my employer refused to deal with COVID and dragged its feet on hybrid working, I decided to get a decent chair at the start of COVID and a decent monitor setup raised off the desk. My decision was validated when Delta hit :-) and my LGA was locked down.

    My chair of choice was the AK Racing series although I’m not much of a gamer. In early 2020, there wasn’t a lot of choice as nobody had much stock. Got a good monitor setup all on brackets so they can be moved around, all good. I should have spent a bit of time totally re-modelling the home office space but these little steps helped anyway.

  • +7

    standing desk

    some cats

    • +4

      I'm not convinced that cat is a net positive for WFH.

      Mine stretches out on my desk and has deleted a dozen emails before I stopped her… other times she will try to chew on my headset cord.

      But she's pretty good to have around when she's asleep.

  • +5

    Decent grinder & coffee machine.
    Standing desk- latecomer to this, but what a game changer.
    Decent size, high res twin monitors.
    Get out of house for at least 90 mins for walk/exercise every day (this last one is free!)

  • Over last couple of years I've bought

    New webcam (Logitech somehting other)
    38" 21:9 monitor with 1600 vertical pixels
    Herman Miller Mirra Chair (actually bought for office as alaready had for home and couldn't go back to work supplied chair)
    Breville Barista Express machine (since I'm not going out for coffee)
    Upgraded NBN to FTTP (back when they were charging a bomb for this) :/

  • +1

    My 38in ultra wide monitor, mechanical wired keyboard & wired mouse and ergonomic chair.

  • Macpac halo for those cold days not moving but WFH.

  • Might not qualify for quality of life item, but getting Starlink as a backup internet for my HFC NBN has saved me quite a few times when my NBN was down for the whole day.

    • +2

      "Starlink as a backup internet"

      Sounds expensive.

      Much cheaper would be Telstra internet so that you get their NBN modem with 4g wireless as internet backup.

      No extra charge.

      I received my modem for free.

      • Probably in a rural area where Telstra is rubbish.

        • +1

          Which areas have both HFC and rubbish 4G?

          Been pretty happy with Telstra 4G backup for unreliable HFC, not the cheapest option but it's a godsend while WFH. Previously we had to tether off our phones using up a ton of data, which really sucked as we only use streaming services for TV

          I'll usually only notice an outage after getting a Telstra alert about it, but if I'm in the middle of a call (or a game after hours) it'll drop me then reconnect while it swaps, so not 100% seamless, but it's close

          • @Jolakot: Oh yeah, I forgot they said HFC. I've got HFC and rarely have an issue, it's very reliable. On the rare occasion it does have an issue I just hot spot off my phone but the 4G connection is way slower.

      • Had this for years and 4G backup was next to useless. It only kicks in if your internet is ‘down’. If the HFC has slowed to an unusable crawl due to rain etc but is still ‘connected’ then the backup won’t kick in. Not worth the hassle of dealing with Telstra.

  • +3

    My Suggestions are:

    Office furniture:
    - Herman Miller Aeron Chair - an Ozbargain staple.
    - Monitor Arm
    - Good quality LED Lamp
    - Good quality Table made from actual wood and not the laminated ikea stuff that shit falls apart and starts to peel.

    Computer
    - Bigger monitor - 27" would be the suggestions has to be atleast the 2k resolution
    - Mechanical keyboard - Keychrons or AKKO (rebranded Ducky)
    - MX Master 3 mouse
    - Mesh Wifi for better wifi signal. Game changer as i was using ethernet over power. Mesh got me 5x the internet speed since the PoE was capped cassing drop outs during MS TEAM/Zoom calls

    Coffee gear
    -coffee grinder and Aeropress.
    -cold brew gear if you want to get fancy

  • +10

    A koala mattress for when you take your work naps

  • +5

    If you do a lot of talking, Kmart has a microphone that you can't beat for the price. It's a rebranded neewer microphone and costs $39.

    https://www.kmart.com.au/product/professional-gaming-microph...?

    • wow thanks mate! looks like a good deal

    • How's this for WFH Teams calls?

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