When you join a remote team or start working remotely, it's easy to think that a laptop and pair of earbuds are all the equipment you'll need to make being a remote teammate successful. But after working remote at Zapier for about a decade, I've learned that while you can get away with just those two items, there's a short list of products that make a positive impact on your work environment.
If you're lucky, your company will cover the cost of these tools. So with that in mind, here are eight items every remote employee should have.
1. High-quality headphones with microphone ($33.99)
After having enough conversations that went south because of audio equipment that failed us, we quickly realized the benefits of every teammate having a high-quality set of headphones with a microphone. Originally, based on a review from The Wirecutter, we decided to buy everyone on the team a pair of Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000 headphones.
The LifeChat was a huge boon to the quality of our discussions, which mostly happen on Zoom. Since that first purchase, The Wirecutter has continued to update its best USB headset list, and it now recommends the Jabra Evolve 40—but the LifeChat is still its budget pick.
2. Spotify subscription ($9.99/month)
A lot of people love to jam out to tunes or have light background music on while they work. Anecdotally, remote workers tend to love music even more.
If you can get your boss to splurge for the premium subscription, you won't have to hear the ads. That's huge, as the ads can disrupt your concentration, especially if you generally listen to lyric-less music.
3. Coffee gift card ($25)
Everyone gets bored working in the same place all the time, so it's fun to switch it up. A favorite of most remote workers is the coffee shop. Here's how to work at a coffee shop like a pro.
4. Wireless hotspot (prices vary)
You already have reliable internet for your home or co-working space. But when you're in unfamiliar territory, like a new coffee shop, or if your internet decides to cut out on you, you want to have a backup. Instead of being cut off mid-meeting, ask for a dedicated wireless hotspot.
We give our employees the Verizon Jetpack MiFi. I've used mine at coffee shops, the airport, and even at home sometimes, like when my power went out. It's been a real lifesaver on more than one occasion.
Tip: I'd suggest getting a dedicated device rather than having your phone double as a hotspot. Using your phone as a hotspot can really eat into the battery.
5. Backup peripherals ($200)
If you want to shift workplaces, packing up can be a bit of an inconvenience. So why not have backups on your peripherals? Think: a mobile set containing a power cord, USB battery pack, headphones, and wireless hotspot, so you don't have to pack up your workspace from home when you want to work elsewhere.
With a bag to keep it together, you can have a "mobile work backpack"—your utility belt of tools to throw your laptop into and go.
6. Good bag ($70)
This is one purchase I made on a whim without doing any research—and it's turned out to be a pretty good one. About nine years ago I bought a Targus CityGear Backpack Case and have had zero problems with it. It's in just as good of condition today as it was when I bought it. No backpack has lasted me that long.
It's a bit on the pricey side as far as backpacks go, but the longevity is hard to beat. It also has tons of little pockets, nooks, and crannies for putting all sorts of little widgets and gizmos. If mine ever gives out, I'd certainly buy this one again.
7. Ergonomic Chair ($200)
Everyone swears on Herman Miller chairs. Their chairs are definitely great, but you'll spend a pretty penny on them.
I snagged this bungie chair with armrests years ago—and haven't looked back. It's simply a great little chair and at a good price.
8. Coffee equipment ($40)
I'll be honest. I don't know a single thing about coffee. But nearly all of my coworkers start their day with a cup—or three.
My co-founder, Bryan, swears by starting the coffee brewing process with the Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton. It requires about three minutes of hand cranking, which has become a good little ritual for him.
Tip: There's lots of great coffee advice in the coffee sub-reddit.
Coffee cup photo courtesy Michael Porter via Flickr