2020 has been an interesting year and it has introduced a lot of new people to the idea of working from home. I first started working remotely in 2016 and learned a lot about how to work from home more effectively through remote work hacks like products and services.
Becca joined me to travel in 2018 and we started working remotely together, around the world!. We learned a lot about working remotely as a couple and how to balance our days better with remote work schedules.
In 2020, we settled down in Brooklyn, and started working from home full-time from our small apartment during spring.
If you’re interested in learning more about our work-from-home story, check out some of these related articles:
- The difference between working from home and remote work
- Learn about our story
- Work from home with a partner
- How to build a home office in a small apartment
Along the way, we’ve come across a few tools, products and services that have helped make our remote work journey easier. Now that it’s Black Friday, we want to share some of the best Black Friday deals with you! All of these products have been hand-picked specifically for work-from-home professionals. We created a Black Friday landing page to track other deals as well.
Subscriptions and online tools
All of the subscriptions and tools in this category will be helpful as you continue your work-from-home journey. Some of these tools may offer direct efficiencies to your workflow, while others may provide professional development. Who knows – maybe you’ll find something that you didn’t know you needed!
Grammarly has helped us countless times writing our blog content and helping catch errors when we write cover letters. Grammarly has caught a few errors in emails that we’ve sent to coworkers and clients – phew! Give Grammarly a try if you’re looking to catch embarrassing errors in your writing. Remember, no one’s perfect, and that’s why Grammarly can help.
If you want to learn more about how we use Grammarly, check out our guide to Grammarly.
Krisp helps us on our Zoom, Google Hangout and Slack calls by eliminating background noise. Sometimes I run the coffee grinder when Becca is on a call and she has to toggle with mute so that her client doesn’t hear the super-loud coffee grinding, but not when we use Krisp!
Sometimes we’ll be having calls with coworkers or clients who live on noisy streets in NYC. Krisp helps block out this background noise, like sirens, loud trucks or cars blasting music that drive by. In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about how Krisp can block out background noise from calls and meetings, check out our guide.
Spotify is a given for anyone who works from home. Spotify has a free version that a lot of people use. It’s free because Spotify will serve ads to its users on the free version. We use Spotify to listen to music and podcasts as we work. When we’re not working, we’ll also listen to Spotify when we’re doing chores around our apartment or running and jogging after our days of work are done.
If you’re using the Apple ecosystem, Apple Music might be right for you. You can integrate Apple music with your Mac, iPhone, iPad and more.
Dropbox has been a great way for us to share files with clients; we can share entire folders of large files with clients by sharing a simple link in an email. I also use Dropbox as a way to back up all of my files. It’s important to keep multiple backups of various different files so that if one of your backup methods fails, you have a Plan B. This is so crucial for any professional, or student! Becca and I both subscribe to the paid tier of Dropbox and it has been an incredible boost to our professional work styles.
Squarespace is the go-to choice from lots of professionals. It can help you create a personal portfolio, a resume site, a blog, a specialized cover letter and more. The options are pretty limitless.
Becca uses Squarespace on her own to promote her other business and professional skills. Her website is like a portfolio, an ‘about me,’ a resume and an explainer of her freelance services.
I’ve been using Backblaze since 2017 and I enjoy it because of its helpful features. Backblaze easily runs in the background of all your apps and is perfect for backing up your laptop and an external drive. I have a 10GB drive on which I keep all of my photos and video projects. That drive is backed up to Backblaze, in case it stops working one day. This is my proven system for file backups.
Once, I had a hard drive fail and I used Backblaze to recover my images. I would have had many years’ worth of images deleted if I didn’t have Backblaze!
If you work from home, Amazon Prime can help you in several ways. Amazon Prime members get access to Amazon Photos. We’ve written about how to use Prime Photos before, and how it’s part of my workflow.
Aside from Photos, Amazon Prime members get discounts at Whole Foods, access to Prime Video for streaming content when you are not working, and of course, fast and free shipping with Amazon. It’s services like these that make your professional – and personal life – tons easier, so that you can worry about bigger things.
I use Trello professionally to keep track of my weekly tasks. Becca and I have used Trello in the past when we were developing our website (this website!). You can learn more about our website process here! During early development, we would keep a few boards around to track ideas, new articles, bugs and more.
If you’ve watched any YouTube videos or listened to any podcasts, chances are that you’ve heard about Skillshare. I first joined Skillshare when I was interested in learning more about SEO and video editing. It was helpful to be able to bounce around the content from different instructors and learn from their expertise. In our remote-friendly world, Skillshare is one of the best ways to access talent, learning and new ideas, all without leaving home.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Photoshop and Lightroom are a big part of my photography and design workflow. Depending on your career, Adobe Creative Cloud can be a huge asset to you. If you do a lot of work with PDFs or if you need a way to manipulate images, then Creative Cloud will help. If you’re into photography and video, Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry standard for all these types of apps.
I’ve been using Canva for several years to help make our social share images for this website. You can very quickly create templates and host your images to make graphics for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and more. You can save your brand colors, logos, type settings and more. It’s incredibly flexible.
Depending on the nature of your work, Canva might be beneficial in helping you save time while creating creative assets.
When you subscribe to Canva Pro, you get access to a lot of great stock photos that you’re able to use in your social posts and graphics that you make. Super cool!
I wouldn’t be able to use the Internet without 1Password, seriously. I store all of my passwords using 1Password. If you’re a professional, it’s important to make sure that your online accounts stay secure. 1Password helps you achieve that level of security by helping you to maintain a unique password for every site that requires a login. If your email, other accounts or social platforms have ever been hacked, this will be a great deal of use to you, moving forward.
You can use a VPN if you are not using our own WiFi and you want to secure your data and browsing history. This is useful while on business trips and if you are working while you travel. Also, if you’re taking an international business trip and want to watch the US (or your home country) version of Netflix, a VPN can also help with that.
If you have questions about VPNs and travel, check out our guide on why you need a VPN for travel.
Our top picks for VPN services are ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
When we work from home, a day doesn’t go by when we don’t log into Zoom for one-on-one meetings or group calls. Currently, the free version of Zoom lets you meet with one person for as much time as you want, but, when it comes to meeting with two people, or three, or more, the time limit is a narrow 40 minutes.
Have you ever gotten hit by the Zoom time limit? Do you need more time on Zoom?
Laptops and tablets
Laptops and tablets are famous for having the best Black Friday deals. Most people wait until Black Friday to pick up a new laptop. Becca has been using her 13” Dell XPS and I have been using my MacBook Pro for several years. We’ll do our best to track some of the best deals below!
Apple iPad (7th & 8th Generation)
I currently own this iPad and it’s great. Apple released the 8th generation iPads that support a new processor. The 7th Generation iPads are still excellent if you’re looking for an additional screen and tablet to work with.
I use my iPad as a second monitor using Sidecar that comes with the latest version of the Mac OS. We also use the iPad instead of a TV. It has been a great asset to us, especially when we’re working out at home and need a little screen for yoga or a HIIT workout.
If you’re looking to pick up some accessories for your iPad, the Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are also on sale.
The iPad Pro can function as a computer for some people, if you’re mostly on the go and communicating via email and doing a lot of writing. If you’re doing a lot of writing, the smart keyboard is a must. The Apple Pencil 2 works great with the iPad Pro. The pencil can charge wirelessly when magnetically attached to the iPad.
It’s easy to look past upgrading the accessories that you use every day. Becca’s wireless mouse broke, and she got used to using a broken mouse that didn’t right-click correctly! I struggled to find a mouse that worked well with my setup, because I sometimes use one mouse for two computers. Whatever the case, take a look at our computer accessory Black Friday roundup to see if anything that you currently use needs an upgrade.
If you use any type of laptop stand or computer monitor, you’ll need an external mouse. If you use a Mac and are used to using the trackpad on your laptop, then you’ll enjoy the Apple Trackpad. I currently use one, with a more classic mouse. I like the ability to pinch, zoom and scroll with a trackpad. I also like the ability to control a mouse pointer with something other than my finger.
Apple Magic Mouse
I used an Apple Magic Mouse for almost four years. I have the version that has the AA batteries. The only reason why I stopped using this mouse was because it had connection issues. I had a spare mouse, and decided not to upgrade my Magic Mouse. I still stand by the fact that it’s a great mouse!
Logitech MX Master Series
The MX Master has been my go-to choice for a computer mouse. It’s designed to be comfortable and provide a lot of customizable buttons. When you use the MX Master Series with a Mac, you can customize some of the buttons to do common Mac functions, like switching spaces or snowing mission control.
Logitech M720 Triathlon
Because I use two computers, switching a mouse can be tedious. It’s especially tedious if you connect the mouse to Bluetooth. You can use a unifying device that Logitech sells, but if you use two computers with different ports, that creates another challenge. Luckily, Logitech has a mouse that allows you to connect it to multiple devices. That’s where the Logitech M720 really comes in handy.
I’ve been using mechanical keyboards ever since I set up my work-from-home desk in my apartment. When I was in an office, I was hesitant to bring in a loud keyboard, as I didn’t want to cause too much noise around myself. I specifically picked a keyboard with brown switches, because they are quiet.
Now that you’re home, if you wanted to get into mechanical keyboards, I recommend checking out a keyboard from Keychron. When I buy my next keyboard, chances are it will be from Keychron.
Check them out You’ll get 10% off when you use this link.
A second screen can help you be productive, as you can tile several windows on your screen. The greater your resolution, the better the tiling capabilities! For designers and developers (or really anyone), a big monitor will help you organize all of your different design files, browsers, email clients, chat apps and so on.
When I was traveling full-time and working remotely, I had to learn how to adjust my workflow from a big monitor, down to a single 13” screen. I wanted to be prepared for cases when I wouldn’t be able to plug in to a monitor.
When I was at the office, I would plugin into a 27” monitor and it drastically helped my workflow, allowing me to keep track of everything that was on my screen. Now that I’m home, I don’t currently have a monitor, and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to pick one up!
My only criteria for a monitor is that it is 4K. There are plenty of other considerations for different use cases, like gamers and people looking for more accurate color calibration. For those testing criteria, the best monitor roundup from the Wirecutter can give you additional information. I’ve summarized my interpretation of it below!
Dell UltraSharp U2720Q
This is the monitor that I had at my office. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it was amazing. The size and resolution were perfect. It’s 4K and has small bezels, so it’s nice to look at all day long. The resolution is 3840×2160, so there is plenty of room for everything. It has so many pixels!
Dell also has a dead pixel policy, so you don’t have to worry about dead pixels for the terms of their warranty. If you have an older laptop that can’t support a 4K monitor, this won’t be for you!
HP Z27n G2
This monitor from HP will be a more affordable option. It’s still at the 27” size that I recommend, but cheaper than the option above. It isn’t 4K, so it’s great if you have an older computer that can’t support 4K graphics. The resolution will be 2560×1440, which is big enough for most use cases, and depending on your laptop, can double your resolution.
This would be an excellent budget pick. This monitor would be great for anyone who needs a bigger screen, but not necessarily more resolution. If you’re having trouble reading your laptop, have a desktop computer or want a second screen for email and chat, this monitor would work well.
This monitor won’t work well if you need more resolution. At 24,” you’ll only get 1920×1080. This monitor is much more affordable than both options above.
Home office furniture
What is a home office without furniture to go inside of it? Have you seen our guide to setting up a home office in our small apartment? If you didn’t, don’t worry! I’ve added some top picks that we covered in our list that are on sale now.
I really enjoy my standing desk. It helps split up my day between sitting and standing, and while I can’t really work from anywhere else in my apartment, it feels like I’m in a different place. Also, some days, I may or may not work from the couch for too many hours. When I do that, my back hurts a lot! I use my standing desk to stretch out and prevent any additional soreness.
I wrote some tips for using a standing desk, which you can use if you pick one up, below.
I won’t go into too much detail about each desk, so below are some of my top standing desk Black Friday picks.
If you are looking for a budget option, check out my guide to budget standing desk options.
Desk risers and lap desks
If you’re looking to get your laptop raised off of your desk, or have a more comfortable setup while you’re using your laptop on the couch, we’ve got you covered. Check out some of our favorite Black Friday picks for desk converts and lap desks!
We typically don’t recommend chairs, as we haven’t tested all too many. We both use standard chairs from IKEA. They work well, but they aren’t the most ergonomic chairs in the world. If we had a limitless budget, we would consider these options below.
We understand that the chairs above are very expensive! They are targeted more toward buy-it-for-life customers. Here is our budget pick:
Between the two of us, we probably have five pairs of headphones. We both have our favorite headphones for taking meetings. We like Bluetooth headphones so that we don’t have to worry about a wire if we have to get up and move around for a second. When our batteries die, we both have backup sets of headphones.
Sony WH-1000XM3 (and XM4) Bluetooth Headphones
Sony recently came out with the WH-1000XM4 headphones, which offer some improvements. The notable improvements are being able to seamlessly switch devices, and automatic shut-off, when you’re not listening to music. If those features don’t mean that much to you, the XM3 will be a great option. If you want to invest in the newest version of these headphones, check out the XM4.
Bose 700 Headphones
These are the latest and greatest from Bose. I’ve heard great things about these headphones, and everyone I know that has them enjoys them. If you’re familiar with the Bose brand and looking for a great pair of headphones, check these out!
Becca uses the original version of the Apple AirPods. They’re a huge asset for her and help with remote meetings and being easily able to sync with her phone and computer while she works. The second generation of AirPods introduces wireless charging and noise cancellation. Both options are excellent picks for lightweight Bluetooth headphones.
Smart assistants and home speakers
We use our Google Home speaker and portable Bluetooth speaker all the time. Our Google assistant stays in our kitchen and helps us with the current time, doing math, checking the news, telling us the weather and more.
Our portable Bluetooth speaker allows us to bring music with us throughout our apartment. We usually listen to music using the speaker while doing work together on the couch. It sometimes hangs out with us on the kitchen table as we’re eating dinner.
Google Home Mini (1st Gen)
This is the speaker that we have! It would work great in your kitchen to help you as you’re making lunch while you work. It can also go in your office and help with reminders and sync with your calendar.
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
The Echo Dot does basically everything that the Google Home can do. We used to have an Echo and gave it to someone else as a gift when we moved from a different apartment. The Echo Dot will have an added bonus of syncing with your Amazon account, so it can assist you with Amazon order statuses.
JBL Flip 4
I have an older version of this speaker. I’ve had mine since 2016 and it hasn’t shown any issues. The battery still holds a long charge and it sounds great. I’m sure that the newer version still has the same – if not better – sound quality.
You can specifically use this speaker in your home office and to listen to music while you work!
Last updated on January 8th, 2021