The COVID-19 crisis has forced professionals and companies to adopt new measures to push forward with their business. Apart from the everyday heroes who keep our communities running (grocery store clerks, street sweepers, and medical personnel, to mention but a few), those of us lucky enough to carry on with work must adapt to new settings. From language and movement teachers to corporate employees, even people who didn't favor remote work are doing their best to adjust. What's more, many will want to keep those adjustments in place after we've beaten the virus. But why?
A recent survey by Airtasker revealed that besides boosting employee happiness, remote work tends to raise productivity. 1,004 US-American workers participated in the study, which supplied data on what most of us already knew: zapping the daily commute increases leisure time (by a whopping 17 days per year) and can make for more motivated professionals. Yet, home office circumstances also pose challenges – maintaining a healthy work-life balance and finding tools to perform old and new tasks adequately are two of them.
Prioritizing our mental health, meditating, exercising, having a defined routine, and taking the time to enjoy meals and connect with loved ones are some actions most of us can take to improve work-life balance. However, when it comes to remote performance and workflow improvement, you might want to consider the help of a few gadgets.
1. Logitech C930e
Besides profound reflections on our societies, economic systems, and the environment, some of us have had breezier realizations while working from home during the pandemic. One of them is that webcams are not a thing of the past (which plenty of gamers already knew). Compared to laptop cameras, high-quality webcams may offer improved image and sound, dynamic background alternatives, as well as multiple framing possibilities for meetings and streaming.
Teachers, (home) office workers, mental health practitioners, and movement instructors have been exploring the advantages of a fine webcam. While you don't need to splurge on a pricey product, you want to make sure that you're investing in an upgrade from your current setup. Marketed as a business webcam, the Logitech C930e can be very useful for all kinds of business – from corporate meetings to online yoga classes. The user can choose between a standard and wide field of view at full HD resolution (1080p).
The C930e has autofocus, pan, tilt, and digital zoom features, and its adjustable clip lets the user easily mount the webcam on a notebook, monitor, or tripod. Quite importantly, the cam comes with a privacy shutter, as well as two omnidirectional mics. If, however, you're looking for a webcam with a background removal option, you may want to check out Logitech's C922 Pro – an earlier, but also excellent model with standard field of view.
2. Yeti by Blue Microphones
Inbuilt mic systems often leave much to be desired, and with many of us now recording meetings and classes, USB mics have become quite popular. Named after the mythical "abominable snowman" from the Himalayas, our recommendation has been the top-selling product for podcasters, gamers, online teachers, and YouTubers since 2009.
California-based Blue Microphones pledges to provide "pristine, studio-quality recordings," which has made Yeti the go-to microphone for musicians recording at home. Users can choose from four pattern settings:
The Yeti is available in multiple colors and covered by a two-year limited warranty. The mic offers driver-free operation and is compatible with Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10) and Mac OS (10.4.11 and higher).
3. Logitech M570
Most of us don't think about keeping our hands and wrists healthy until there's something wrong with them – as a writer, I speak from experience. Chances are, you're already using an ergonomic mouse if you've suffered from wrist and hand issues before. This is a home office must-have, especially if you're using your laptop's trackpad, and even if you've never dealt with this kind of pain (what a bliss).
With myriad excellent options, choosing an ergonomic mouse is no easy task. Our pick is the Logitech M570, a right-hand-shaped wireless, trackball-style ergonomic mouse. The trackball provides extra hand support, and a scroll wheel makes it easier to browse through the web. The M570 has adjustable cursor speed, programmable buttons, and can run for up to 18 months on a single AA battery. Keep in mind that, as it's a wireless product (I refuse to deal with wires if I don't have to), you'll need a free USB port for the receiver.
To those who use mice with their left hand: it's unfortunately quite difficult to find a left-hand-shaped ergonomic mouse. However, you may want to consider an ambidextrous product like the M560 (also by Logitech). I confess this is something I had never given thought to – I'm a lefty, yet I use mice with my right hand. Go figure!
4. Jabra Talk 30
Yoga, dance, pilates, and other movement instructors had no time to prepare for the transition to online teaching. The first weeks were rocky, as professionals tried their best to keep supporting their students in a time of so much need for community and embodiment practices. Tech-savvy or not, teachers had to quickly figure out how to set up camera-friendly practice spaces in their homes, payment methods, streaming and recording tools, as well as tech equipment. Figuring out that laptop and smartphone mics don't perform so well didn't take long. However, many are still struggling with finding a budget-friendly audio solution. Regular headphones and earbuds tend not to be suitable, and mono Bluetooth headsets that stay put are sought-after.
Our pick is the Jabra Talk 30. Although there are fancier (and pricier) options on the market, splurging is hardly a choice for most, and considering cost-effectiveness is critical. Discreet and uncomplicated, the ergonomically designed headset looks polished and stays firmly in place (thanks to a gel tip and ear hook). Lasting for up to five hours per charge, the Talk 30's battery is powerful enough for most needs. Finally, the product's spoken battery status updates help users avoid unpleasant surprises.
5. Jabra Evolve2 85
A one-piece Bluetooth headset may not be the best choice for mental health workers, neither for some teachers nor professionals who may want to listen to music when they're not in online meetings. If this is the case for you, the Jabra Evolve2 85 may be what you're looking for.
Released just a few weeks ago, the Evolve2 85 has everything you'd expect from top-notch headphones, in addition to a sophisticated 10-microphone system for high-quality calls. The product packs both passive audio isolation and active noise cancelation for ideal concentration (those with kids at home know this can be a struggle). Additionally, the Jabra Evolve2 85 has a "busy light" that signals you're on a call and can be seen from any direction. You can also activate it yourself whenever you want to give a little hint that you'd rather not be interrupted. Finally, these headphones offer 37 hours of battery life per charge (which takes 2.5-hours), and their 40mm speakers make for a powerful sound experience.
6. Dell UltraSharp U2413 24"
These days, office workers are pretty used to having at least one external monitor to help with multitasking and working with data from various sources. External displays are particularly valuable if you use a laptop with a smaller screen. Additionally, some professions rely on multiple monitors for optimal performance: think of developers, designers, photographers, and video editors.
Unless you already had a multiple-monitor setup before COVID-19, chances are your external monitor is still back at the office. Whether you're an employee or self-employed, an extra display can make your job more comfortable. Besides, not having to switch between tabs and apps always saves some time.
If you consider purchasing a monitor, we'd recommend looking into the Dell UltraSharp U2413 24", a highly rated product with a mid-range price tag in most markets. Although Dell has since released newer models (Dell UltraSharp UP2716D 27"), you're likely to find the UltraSharp U2413 for almost half the price of its successors. The U2413 has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200px, and its hue precision and high color gamut make it a suitable choice for color-critical work. You can pivot, swivel, and tilt your monitor, and also adjust its height as it better suits you. Finally, the U2413 has USB 3.0, HDMI, and DVI-D ports, as well as a mini-DisplayPort.