Ready to Work Remote? Here Are the Home Office Essentials You Need

As work-from-home jobs become more ubiquitous, so do requirements for home offices.

We’ve noticed some trends in home-office requirements — some very reasonable and others… not so much. For example, some employers give thousands of dollars in stipends to deck out your home office while others require specific 17-inch dual-screen monitors without providing reimbursement.

Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office before it’s work-from-home ready.

This list of home office essentials is based on common remote job requirements and advice from remote employees. It will give you an idea of what items your home office might need and how much it will cost to transition into a work-from-home career, particularly in the sales, customer service or IT fields.

Typical Office Requirements for Work-From-Home Jobs

Computer Setup

Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up in bed with your laptop on those lazy days. If that’s the case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.

Work-from-home reporter James Duren agreed.

“Spending more than $1,000 on a MacBook, for example, isn’t always feasible, even if we write them off [on taxes],” Duren said.

He uses a $170 Chromebook.

“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”

This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.

For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.

High-Speed Internet

Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.

Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. The sweet spot seems to be 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.

To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay $30 to $50 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)

But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.

Landline and Phone

In the customer service and sales industries especially, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.

If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.

Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over, but some large companies like AT&T provide plans for less than $25 a month when bundled with internet services. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.

A woman takes a work from home call while wearing a headset at her home office.
Getty Images

Headset and Microphone

Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, a noise-canceling headset can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or phone calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.

“For telecommuting, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the noises of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.

Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.

“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-cancelling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”

The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model.

If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.

Desk

It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require a desk. It’s kind of a given.

But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices.

So it’s good to consider your size and storage limitations when shopping around.

“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a stand-up desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.”

Schmidt recommended the xec-FIT desk, which runs for around $300, but you can find adjustable desks for half that price on Amazon.

What about portability?

“A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.

An office desk and chair are shown in this photo. Both a desk and office chair are essential items to purchase when working from home.
Getty Images

Office chair

If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when it comes to sitting for hours at a time.

“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive.

His go-to chair is from Aeron. The model he suggested will cost you up to $500, but Kinports said it’s worth every penny.

For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.

“It’s the little things that can cause distractions and discomfort,” Kinports said. “Make sure you invest in exactly what you need to achieve your best focus everyday.”

Dual Monitors

Monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries. But as a writer, I find dual monitors extremely beneficial. They help me stay organized by separating tabs and tasks to certain screens.

“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”

PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2021, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use. And in most home offices, desk space is a luxury. Consider adding a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.

The Little Extras

Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable enough to work in every day may require a few more touches of comfort. You may not need any of the following items to get started, but you’ll likely want to incorporate some of these extras into your home office eventually:

  • Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
  • Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
  • Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it.
  • Shelving or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.

If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover home-office costs, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.

And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.

Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Cord-Cutters Guide: The Best Alternatives to Cable TV

Maybe you first heard the term whispered in hushed corridors at work or in a back-alley near your house, but now there’s no escaping the fact that “cord cutting” has gone mainstream. And it’s no wonder why. The monthly cost of cable TV in this country now averages more than ever before: a whopping $123 per household. But thanks to à la carte streaming services and the disruptive technology that’s taken over the living room in recent years, it’s easier than ever to save serious cash. Cancel your cable subscription, and join the growing ranks of cord-cutters streaming their shows.

Four out of five Americans still pay cable companies for hundreds of channels they’ll never watch. You don’t need to be one of them. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the shows you love without paying an arm and leg.

Cord cutting 101

Although millennials are leading the charge in the cord-cutting movement, anyone with a decent Wi-Fi connection can take advantage of the many available cable TV alternatives. And the soaring number of streaming services on the market means you can watch just about any TV show and sporting event in existence without going through a cable company.

If you watch a lot of shows on your local stations—think ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX—you can tune into them for free. These channels are publicly broadcast and the signals are easy to pick up in most metropolitan areas. All you need is a good HD antenna, which you can score for under $40 on Amazon. Depending on the terrain in your area and your proximity to TV towers, one type of antenna might be better for you than another. But once you’re set up, you’ll be able to enjoy the latest episode of Modern Family with the same crisp picture you were getting through your cable company, minus the monthly bill.

"À la carte streaming services and the disruptive technology taking over the living room make it easier than ever to save serious cash." MintLife Blog

Living the stream

Unless you’ve been held captive in an Indiana bunker for the past 15 years, you likely already know about the three biggest names in streaming: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Each of these services lets you watch hundreds of movies and television shows plus tons of original content you won’t find anywhere else. Both Hulu and Amazon offer a large selection of TV shows—with new episodes available a day after they air on cable—while Netflix has a vast library of movies and binge-worthy original series awaiting your eager eyeballs.

Aside from those streaming behemoths, an increasing number of cable channels have launched their own independent services. HBO Now is at the high-end of this category, but many stations offer the ability to stream their shows for free, albeit with a few commercial breaks. And then there’s Dish Network’s newly launched Sling TV service, which streams a variety of live cable channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month.

Plus, there are more niche streaming services, such as MUBI, which focuses on independent and foreign films, and the forthcoming FilmStruck platform, which will soon showcase an extensive library of cult-classics and art-house flicks.

With the exception of Sling TV and HBO Now, the latter of which is available for $15 per month, prices for these services start at under $10 apiece. It’s easy to mix-and-match providers as none of these companies require contracts. You can even share login info with a friend down the block or sibling on the other side of the country, without worrying about anyone getting on your case.

Think outside the (cable) box

A ton of devices are available to help you cut the cable, with more tools debuting all the time. As of now, there are basically two routes you can choose: streaming sticks or streaming boxes.

Streaming sticks, which include the Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, aren’t much bigger than a pack of gum, and they plug right into your TV’s HDMI port. You can then use your smartphone, laptop or—in Roku’s case—a remote control to launch hundreds of steaming apps. These devices are available for well under $50 apiece, and, on their own, don’t require a monthly fee.

Streaming boxes, on the other hand, such as Apple TV, Android TV and the Roku Player, as well as newer Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles, offer all of the advantages of the streaming sticks, plus the ability to install more apps. These boxes vary in price, but again, aren’t tied to any monthly fees. For serious TV watchers interested in cutting the cord, these boxes are the way to go.

Breaking the news

When you’re ready to cut the cable, invest the money you save on boosting your internet speed. To get the highest quality picture with the least amount of buffering, you need a connection that’s at least 10 Mbps.

Another way to shave a few bucks off your monthly bill is to shell out some money for a modem of your own. Many cable companies charge a monthly fee for renting a modem, but in the long run, it’s far more economical to buy one outright.

Are your utility bills bogging you down? Embrace the cord-cutter lifestyle and never pay for cable again. Not sure where you stand financially? Sign up for a free Mint.com account and get an instant overview of your money. See you on the couch!

List of cable TV alternatives

Streaming service

Monthly fee

Known for

Netflix

$7.99

TV shows, movies, and Netflix exclusives
Hulu

$7.99

New TV episodes a day after they air on cable
Amazon Instant Video

$8.99

Hundreds of old and new movies and shows
HBO Now

$14.99

First-run films, Game of Thrones
Showtime

$10.99

Original series (Homeland, Masters of Sex)
STARZ

$8.99

Modern movie library and exclusive originals
CBS All Access

$5.99

7,500 episodes of classic and new CBS shows
MUBI

$5.99

Cult-classics, foreign and independent films
Sling.TV

$20

Dozens of live cable channels, including ESPN
Crackle

FREE

Funny, feel-good shows and movies
FilmStruck

TBD

Turner Classic Movies and Criterion Collection

Streaming sticks and boxes

Device

Price

Known for

Chromecast

$30

Stream video from your laptop or smartphone
Roku Streaming Stick

$50

Portable tool with tons of popular apps
Roku Player

$50-$100

Enhanced picture quality, solid remote control
Amazon Fire Stick

$40

Best for users in the Amazon ecosystem
Apple TV

$149

Easiest way to play iTunes purchases on your TV
Android TV

$100

Access Android apps, Chromecast built-in
XBOX One or PlayStation 4

$200-$400

Play games, some streaming services built-in
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Source: mint.intuit.com