A healthy work from home environment is more than just setting up a laptop on a desk. If you want a more functional space, you should try to keep it neat and clutter-free as well. Here are a few recommendations from our staff that will help you organize your desk and hopefully be more productive as a result.
We suggested getting an external monitor in a previous WFH guide, too, and for good reason. It seriously increases your screen real estate and is oftentimes easier on the eyes. However, not all monitors are height adjustable and they do take up quite a bit of desk space. A monitor stand or riser is a way to resolve that. A simple yet effective one is the Amazon Basics model, which has stackable legs for your desired height (up to 4-⅞ inches) plus an 11-inch wide storage space underneath to store your laptop or other knick knacks.
If, on the other hand, you want something a little more stylish, this bamboo monitor stand from SONGMICS is a particularly attractive one. It comes with compartments designed to fit your phone, coffee mug, stationary, notepads and more. There are also well-placed cut-outs to help manage your cords and cables. We should note that the height isn’t adjustable, but in my experience its 3.35-inch range was enough to raise our monitor to eye level. This particular model also works well as a laptop stand thanks to three holes designed for optimal heat ventilation.
If you really don’t want a monitor on your desk at all, consider a monitor arm. This is an especially good choice if you’re restless and need to change your monitor position frequently. One of our favorites is the Jarvis monitor arm by Fully, which features a 360-degree swivel. It has a removable VESA plate and a clamp mount, plus the option of mounting the arm to grommet holes if your desk has them. It accommodates 13- to 32-inch monitors and can support a max weight of 19.8 pounds.
If you’re using your laptop as-is on your desk or on your lap, you’re doing it wrong. Hunching your shoulders to look at your screen is harmful for your posture, which can lead to back, neck and arm pain if you’re not careful. Instead, you’ll want your screen to be at eye level, and if you don’t have an external monitor, that means elevating your laptop with a stand. This has the added benefit of giving you more desk space as well.
We particularly recommend the Rain Design iLevel2. The height is easily adjustable thanks to a front slider, and its tilted design is also great for keeping your laptop cool. Alternatively, a slightly more affordable option is Rain Design’s own mStand, which has a fixed height and a cable organizer in the back that helps keep wires tucked away. Plus, it’s available in four different colors: black, gold, silver and space gray.
A slightly more affordable option is the Amazon Basics Laptop Stand, and though it has a fixed height, there’s a cable organizer in the back that helps keep wires tucked away.
If you do own an external monitor but don’t have a lot of extra space, we recommend a vertical stand. This one from Omoton can hold your closed laptop upright, which goes a long way in keeping your desk organized. It has an adjustable width varying from 0.55 to 2.71 inches, which should fit most laptops. The stand itself is made from scratch-resistant anodized aluminum alloy and has a wide, heavy base that will prevent your laptop from tipping over.
Most laptops only have a limited number of ports, which could mean juggling multiple cables and cords. A dedicated docking station can help fix the clutter — we’ve recommended CalDigit’s TS3 Plus in the past, and now the company came out with an updated version of it: the Thunderbolt Station 4. It looks quite similar to the TS3 Plus from a design perspective, but there are a number of differences in its connectors. The TS4 supports up to 98W charging for your host machine and includes three Thunderbolt 4 ports, five USB-A ports, a 2.5GbE Gigabit Ethernet connector, microSD and regular SD card slots and more. The USB-C port on the front of the device supports 20W power, so you can connect something like an iPhone wireless charger and get the fastest charge possible. Some of its USB ports also support offline charging, which means they can power up phones and tablets even when the TS4 isn’t connected to its host device. It’s steep at $359, but it’s worthwhile if you want a highly capable docking station.
Another solid, and more affordable, option is the Lention 11-in-1 docking station. We like it because you can tuck it away beneath your laptop so it’s out of sight, and it gives a bit of a height boost as well. The Lention has ports for HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort, SD and Micro SD card readers, four USB ports (one USB-C, two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0), Ethernet and a 3.5mm audio jack.
A dedicated phone stand is a great way to keep your desk clutter-free while charging your handset at the same time. If you have a phone without wireless charging, we recommend the Lamicall stand, as it has a feeder hole for the charger cord on the back. The stand is made from a high-quality aluminum alloy and the cradle can be tilted back and forth for different viewing angles. If you like, you can position your phone horizontally to watch videos.
If you do have a phone with wireless charging, we strongly recommend using a wireless charger so you don’t have to mess around with pesky cords. The Anker PowerWave Stand is a good option as it supports 10W high-speed charging with the latest Samsung Galaxy handsets and 5W charging with the iPhone 12. We especially like how affordable it is ($16 as of this writing), though keep in mind that you need to supply your own power brick.
If you want to charge an iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch all at once, consider a multi-device charger. One of our favorites is the Mophie 3-in-1 wireless charging stand, thanks to its compact form factor. We like that it has a small divot that was designed perfectly to hold an AirPods case so that there’s no risk of misalignment. Another excellent choice is the Logitech Powered 3-in-1 Dock, which could potentially be great for couples or those of you who own two handsets. That’s because the flat surface area for the AirPods case can also be used to charge a second phone.
For those with an iPhone with MagSafe capabilities (the iPhone 12 or higher), we also like Belkin’s 3-in-1 Wireless Charger. The iPhone attaches to it automatically without the need for alignment, and you can swivel it from portrait to landscape. Plus, it offers up to 15 watts of fast wireless charging.
If you want something more affordable, this Anker MagGo charging station is a solid option as well. It only has a single magnetic charging pad on the front for your phone, but it does have a bunch of ports – three AC outlets, two USB-C ports and two USB-A ports – for charging other devices.
One way to really save some space is to get a lamp with a wireless charger built into the base. The IKEA Hektar has a classic look with a 5W induction charger, plus an extra USB port so you can charge two devices at once. Alternatively, this LED desk lamp by AFROG packs in a lot of features in a relatively small footprint. It has a wireless charger, a USB charging port, five lighting modes with seven levels of brightness plus a 30 or 60 minute shutoff timer.
For a more futuristic design, the Taotronics LED desk lamp’s slim style might be more your speed. It supports fast charging up to 7.5 watts (for iPhones) or 10 watts (for Samsung Galaxy phones) an extra USB port on the side; five different color temperatures; and an option for a one-hour dimmable desk lamp timer that’ll turn off when you go to bed.
Standing desk converter
For those who want to get into standing desks but don’t have the money or space, a standing desk converter is a great alternative. It can convert any table into a work space, plus it provides additional storage underneath. The Cora from Fully is one that we like a lot, thanks to its sturdy aluminum frame. Lifting or lowering it is as easy as pressing the handles on either side, and it’s super lightweight so you can easily move your workspace out of sight at the end of the workday.
A slightly more affordable alternative is the Flexispot 31-inch standing desk converter. It’s not quite as attractive as the Cora, but it’s still pretty sturdy. Plus, it comes with a removable keyboard tray, which not only frees up space on the desktop, but also improves your posture when typing either when standing or sitting.
Like most people, you probably have a mess of cords dangling behind your desk. A simple way to overcome that is with a few simple cable management tools. The easiest would be to use either twist ties or Velcro wrap ties like these, which are strong, reusable and affordable.
Another option is to use a cord management organizer like these cable clips. They let you organize seven cables with a single clip, which you can then attach to your desk or wall with a self-adhesive backing. You’ll never have to worry about the cord falling behind the desk.
One common eyesore in most homes are those overflowing power strips with cables strewn all over the place. A cable management box like this one from D-Line can help keep all of it contained in one attractive unit and make areas under your desk easier to clean. The box comes in white or black, has three cord entry and exit points and is large enough to fit most power strips.
Over-the-ear headphones provide superior sound, but can take up a good deal of space on your desk when not in use. Instead, try hanging them on a headphone stand which, aside from keeping your space tidy, can also protect your headphones from getting scratches. This affordable one from Lamicall is made out of aluminum and ABS plastic and has a low center of gravity, which makes for a more stable base. It also has a simple and stylish “bird-shaped” look that will add a nice touch of flair to your desk space.
Alternatively, you can also choose to keep your headphones out of sight entirely with an under-desk hook like the Anchor, which has space for two sets of headphones. It’s made out of premium silicone and secures safely to your desk with 3M adhesive strips. There are optional screw mounts if you want to make the placement a little more permanent.
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