So, you’re new to the world of remote working. Or perhaps you’ve been doing this for years – before it became fashionable – and you’re looking for some new gadgets? Whatever your situation, if you’re a modern remote worker then you have come to the right place. This comprehensive guide to remote working essentials explains everything you need to work from your home office or anywhere in the world. We cover all areas including your work setup, electronics, remote working accessories, travel stuff and mobile apps.
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In this article:
Your work setup: electronics and gadgets
First we dive straight into some of the best electronics and gadgets for your perfect remote working setup. Whether you are working from home, taking a short workcation or living the digital nomad life, the following essential items will equip you for productivity.
1. Lightweight laptop
Without a doubt, the most important piece of equipment for any remote worker is your laptop. Luckily, we’ve created a complete guide to the best laptops for working remotely, including the criteria to look out for and our recommendations on the top current options.
Personally I use a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which ticks all of the boxes for working from anywhere. It’s lightweight at just 1.37kg, fast, has good battery life and great functionality. Not the cheapest, but well worth the investment if you expect to be working flexibly for many years to come.
2. Laptop bag
A good laptop bag is a must-have if you will be carrying your machine around with you a lot. Ideally you want something that is lightweight, fits your laptop snugly and has plenty of pockets for your accessories.
Lisa and I both use a MOSISO laptop shoulder bag. It is versatile for most models – my MacBook Pro fits a treat, as does Lisa’s HP Envy. There are separate compartments where you can stash your chargers, phone, leads and other vital accessories. The rear also has a bigger pocket that can neatly accommodate a few important A4 documents.
3. Screen protector
The more you carry your laptop around, the more likely it is that you’ll get into a few scrapes with it along the way. Spending a few bucks on a screen protector can save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run. Because who wants to be contending with a cracked laptop screen when you’re on a working trip?
I bought a three-pack of MacBook screen protectors, which have done the trick. I’m one of the most accident-prone people I know, and my screen has remained intact. Whatever machine you’re using, grab yourself the relevant-sized screen protector and you can worry a little bit less.
4. Portable laptop stand
Working remotely often requires being prepared to work in many different environments, and not all will be kitted out to your liking. Coffee shops and hotel rooms can be relaxing places to work, but rarely will they be completely workstation-ready with ergonomic accessories.
A portable adjustable laptop stand will enable you to make any remote workspace that little bit more comfortable. It’s much better for your posture for your line of sight to be level with the upper part of your laptop, rather than hunching over it to type.
There are many decent models out there – ivoler’s lightweight laptop stands are solid and reliable.
5. Wireless ergonomic keyboard and mouse
I don’t usually take my keyboard and mouse with me if I am heading on a workcation or working while on a business trip, but they are an absolute must for working from home. Not only will a good ergonomic keyboard and mouse set make your workstation more comfortable, but they will also reduce the rate of wear on your laptop, as you won’t be hammering away on it constantly.
I have a Seenda slim rechargeable keyboard and mouse combo, which is good value for money and gets the job done.
6. Multiport adapter hub
There is nothing more annoying than working away from home and finding that you don’t have the right port or cable input, and can’t plug in the device you need to use. Bringing connectivity options on your next remote working trip will help to avoid this, and also equip you better for working at home.
The StayGo Twelve South hub is a great piece of kit with multiport connections including HDMI, USB A, USB C, Ethernet, SD and micro SD. I also have a smaller USB C multiport adapter hub for my MacBook, which is convenient and doesn’t take up much space.
7. Mobile wifi hotspot
Ideally, the places you choose to work remotely will have strong wifi. But you never know when there will be interruptions to the service. A good mobile hotspot will mean you always have a backup. It also gives you flexibility to work in many more locations, such as outdoors, on the beach, or when travelling between locations.
8. Portable power bank
Battery life is always a concern when you need to work while travelling. If it’s one of those days when the power goes out, you’re on a long journey and need to write up a report, or you can’t find a plug-in spot in your favourite café, a portable power bank can be a lifesaver.
The best power banks for remote working depend on your individual needs and budget. RAVPower AC power banks are a high-power option with the ability to charge a MacBook Pro. As a cheaper option, a portable charger will provide you with backup for your mobile devices on the go.
9. Wifi range extender
Wifi range extenders can be handy pieces of equipment for working from home. When Lisa started working from home after her office went fully remote, we found that the signal was way too weak in her home office room, which is located at the opposite end of the house to our router.
Investing in a wifi range extender solved the problem in a simple stroke.
10. Noise-cancelling headphones
If your work involves any virtual meetings or listening to a lot of audio, noise-cancelling headphones are an essential piece of gear. We can also tell you from experience that they will make life a lot easier at home if you are working around other people!
Mpow’s noise-cancelling headphones are affordable, reliable and we’ve found them to perform well. We have USB headsets, but it’s on our priority list to upgrade to wireless headphones before our next workcation.
11. Bluetooth earphones
All work and no play makes for an unproductive day. The joy of remote working is that you can set your own schedule, and make time between work stints to take a break and recharge. Bluetooth earphones are great to have handy so you can listen to music or your favourite podcasts while out on a walk, or when doing some chores in your downtime.
My Mpow Flame Lite wireless earbuds might just be my most-used equipment after my laptop. They make a great cheaper alternative to Apple’s AirPods. They might not be as slick, but they’re robust, long-lasting and are a fraction of the price.
12. Cloud storage and external hard drive
Cloud storage provides a solid option in the modern world for backing up your files. We have an Amazon Drive account as our primary source of file storage. However, you can never be too careful, and so we also have a Seagate 2TB portable external hard drive for extra backup.
Even if a camera isn’t essential for your work, it’s still fun to take on remote working trips to capture the experience. Your phone camera might cover everything you need, as the quality of mobile cameras just bets better all the time. But if you want to take your photography hobby a little more seriously, a DSLR camera is a good place to start.
Nikon is our brand of choice for DSLRs – the D3500 is an excellent entry-level camera.
14. VPN service
Virtual private networks (VPNs) have grown in usage as remote working has surged. Essentially, it is a service that gives you secure and anonymous access to a private network connection. Businesses use VPNs to give their employees access to their corporate networks from home or elsewhere outside the office.
They are also very useful for remote workers. For example, a VPN gives you protection when using public wifi services, ensuring your security details won’t be compromised. If you are travelling in countries where certain websites and social media platforms are blocked, then a VPN can give you access to them.
ExpressVPN is recognised as a top global VPN provider, and is our go-to option.
Remote working accessories
Aside from the electronics and gadgets, there are also a few remote working accessories that will help complete your virtual office, whether it’s at home or in an exotic location.
15. Mini stationery set
The jobs that are traditionally suitable for remote working tend to be those done on a computer, such as web development, data management and marketing. However, the pandemic has brought about large investments across many sectors to facilitate remote work. For example, many more teachers and healthcare workers can now do various aspects of their work remotely.
Whatever the nature of your work, there will probably be moments when you want to take it off-screen. Taking a technology break to write down some ideas on a board or plan with pen and paper can inspire creativity. So, it’s always useful to have some physical stationery with you.
For home working, a flipchart or whiteboard along with some markers and rubbers is all you need for a brainstorming session. When working further afield, why not bring a miniature stationery set for those impromptu moments of creativity.
17. Reusable coffee cup
Does your working day involve a much-needed caffeine fix? If so, then a reusable coffee cup is a vital accessory for remote working. If you regularly work in co-working spaces, coffee shops or hotels, then bringing your own coffee cup will avoid needless waste and reduce your carbon footprint. It also brings that little bit of character to your day, replacing your favourite mug at the office.
Even better, if you can get a collapsible reusable coffee cup, it will fit neatly into your luggage without taking up too much space. Silicone cups are great, as they’re lightweight, easy to clean, and are fine to stick in the microwave or dishwasher back at home.
18. Eco water bottle
Staying hydrated is vital for staying focused at work, and just for looking after yourself in general. That’s why we always keep a non-plastic water bottle handy while working remotely. Get one that is insulated, so it keeps your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold.
19. Daily inspirational flip calendar
A good working space has more than just the gadgets and accessories you need to do your job. The setting is important too, and a few decorations will create a positive environment and help you find the right headspace for working. At home, this might be a lick of colourful paint, photos of loved ones, or (like I have) inspirational quotes on the wall.
It’s not as easy to recreate such an environment when working away from home, but a couple of tricks will help. One idea is to bring a daily flip calendar of inspirational quotes to give you some bitesize motivation and bring some familiarity to your workspace.
20. Back support cushion
When so many hours of your life are spent working, looking after your back is essential. I have to admit that I have always struggled with my posture. One of the most effective things I’ve done to remedy it is buying a lumbar back support cushion.
This adds comfortable support to my office chair at home, and I can take it when travelling for work too. It’s not the most compact of gadgets, but it’s lightweight and useful for journeys, as its fits neatly onto plane and bus seats.
21. Inflatable pillow
Ever take naps at the desk? I’ve definitely been in a few Zoom meetings when it’s been tempting to switch the camera off and catch a few Zs… For moments like this, or when you just need to rest a while, an inflatable pillow can be a godsend. Camping pillows double up as excellent desk pillows as they are compact, portable, comfortable, and great to use for journeys too.
Remote working essentials for travel and workcations
Here we take a look at some of the items you need when your remote work involves travel. You can also check out our long-term travel packing list for more ideas.
22. International plug adapter
A versatile international plug adapter is a top-of-the-list travel essential. Buying one of these is an absolute must if you intend to plug in for work, and we’d also recommend bringing a backup just in case. Keep one in your hand luggage when flying, as it might just come to the rescue in airport waiting lounges.
23. Lightweight laptop-secure hand luggage
Remote working gives you the flexibility to explore new places and mix up your surroundings. But frequent travel presents challenges too. If you are often on the move with your work gadgets and accessories, you need to carry them safely and securely.
Luggage is a classic example of when buying the cheaper option is a false economy. Budget suitcases and backpacks are often prone to damage after just a few uses. So, if you plan to travel regularly, investing in some quality luggage will work out safer and more cost-efficient in the long run.
Samsonite luggage is great for remote working travel as it is lightweight, sturdy, and designed to protect laptops. Buy one of their carry-ons and it should last you for years.
24. Packing cubes
A logistical challenge of packing for remote working trips is that electronics and gadgets take up a lot of the space in your luggage. Once you’ve packed your laptop, adapters, headphones, plugs, and all the other bits and pieces, there’s hardly any room left for your clothes. Especially if you like to travel light with carry-on luggage only.
The best way around this is to invest in some packing cubes. They’ve been one of our most useful travel accessories over the years, and made life so much easier while on our travel career break. You can pack your clothes neatly and compactly into these mini compartments and optimise the space in your luggage.
25. Hand sanitiser
Not so long ago, hand hygiene wasn’t always a top consideration when preparing for travel, but we are living in a different world now of course. If you will be working remotely in public spaces, then keeping your hands sanitised will safeguard your own health as well as other people’s.
To avoid churning through a lot of single-use plastic, buy a 5-litre jerry can of hand sanitiser and then decant it into a small container whenever you travel. This works out much cheaper in the long-run too.
26. Small day backpack
When working remotely in a new destination, it’s amazing to have the freedom to intermingle your work time with some exploration. It’s one of the many benefits of taking a workcation. We love to get up early, finish up work after lunch, then head out for an afternoon hike or some city sightseeing.
Bring a day backpack that can pack down small into your main luggage, and you can unfurl it whenever you want to get out and explore. We swear by Zomake’s lightweight packable backpacks. They’re really cheap, and ours have lasted for three years and counting, having been with us on numerous trips. They fold and zip down into a compact pouch that can fit into your pocket or a tiny luggage compartment.
27. Cable lock
A cable combination lock can be used in a variety of scenarios to secure your valuables. You can use it to fasten your luggage when it will be out of sight, or to affix onto lockers in accommodation places and storage rooms, giving you an extra layer of protection. A small investment that brings peace of mind.
28. Silicone ear plugs
We’ve all been in that situation. You’re trying to catch some sleep on the flight, but the people in the row behind have other ideas. Just your luck that you picked the noisiest spot on the plane, eh? Next time, bring some reusable silicone ear plugs and you won’t have to worry about it. (These can also be useful for getting some work done in a busy café if you don’t have noise-cancelling headphones.)
29. RFID-blocking document wallet
When travelling for remote work, your passport might not be the only important document you need to carry. Remote work visas are becoming increasingly common, and you may also have coworking memberships, space reservations, or – in these strange times – vaccine documentation.
Keep all of these safe and secure in a RFID-blocking document wallet while you travel. This prevents criminals from scanning your documents and potentially stealing your identity.
30. Remote working insurance
With flexible working now so widespread, many insurance companies have been tailoring their policies to the needs of remote workers. SafetyWing, founded by two entrepreneurial travellers from Norway, was one of the first to pioneer such a product, and it’s one of the best on the market.
SafetyWing works on a subscription basis, meaning you pay monthly or at other intervals, and is geared towards medical cover for remote workers. It is affordable and flexible – ideal for anybody working overseas indefinitely, such as digital nomads, or on short-term trips, like workcations. Check out our SafetyWing insurance review for more details.
Remote working apps
Has a company ever become a household name at such incredible speed as Zoom did in 2020? It’s hard to think of one. Like many people, we have a bit of a love–hate relationship with the platform. It has helped us get through such a difficult time, but it can also be the bane of our existence. Oops, forgot to mute! Oh, and to change that inappropriate screen name before the next meeting. Zoom fatigue is a real thing too.
Despite its irritating quirks, Zoom is a must-have piece of software for virtual meetings. Even if it’s not your go-to choice, its widespread uptake means you will be unable to avoid using it at some point. Zoom can be used via a mobile app as well as on bigger screens – just look it up on your app store to download.
One of the most common challenges that remote workers face is finding focus among the multitude of distractions. And what is more distracting than having the entire world wide web at your fingertips, with nobody looking over your shoulder? Serene is a really cool app that can help with this.
Serene enables you to cultivate a focusing environment by blocking apps and websites during work sessions. It also comes with day-planning features, as well as phone silencing, countdown timers, deep-focus music and productivity tracking tools. At just $4 for an entire year’s subscription it’s a tiny investment that can bring big rewards.
33. Digital banking
If your remote work travel often involves going overseas, then a digital banking app like Monzo or Revolut is fantastic for managing your money and keeping withdrawal costs down. We use both of them – we tend to use Monzo at home in the UK, but Revolut when travelling, as it has a slightly better fee structure and savings features.
For more on this topic, read our guide to how to manage money when travelling.
34. Google Drive
Since jumping aboard the Google Drive train, I’ve never gone back to Microsoft Office. Google Drive is free to use, and is built for working online and on the move, and so it has tons of great features for remote work.
You get 15GB free cloud storage, and you can work on your documents and spreadsheets offline if you lose signal. What’s more, it’s compatible with Microsoft Office, so you can save Google Docs as Word files if you need to share them with others. It comes in app format too, so you can access and edit your files on mobile.
35. Podcast player
Finally, no remote work setup would be quite complete without a way of playing podcasts. Whether you listen to work-related podcasts for inspiration and ideas, or in your leisure while on breaks, a podcast player is a must for the modern remote worker.
There are many different podcast player apps out there offering different features. The best choice will depend on whether you use iOS or Android, and the kind of functionality you are looking for. This rundown of podcast players in 2021 will help you make the right decision.
Did we miss something on this list that you couldn’t do without? Let us know about your remote working essentials in the comments below.