Let's just go With that out of the way: For the past several years, I've contributed the "Best Gifts For Frequent Travelers" segment to TechCrunch's annual gift guide. I love it. My favorite gift guide was easy to write, and it was a crowd favorite too. But I am no longer a frequent traveler. I've left New York City exactly once since March. Chances are, that special person doesn't travel much in your life either.
In honor of this new sedentary life to which we have all grown accustomed in the past eight or nine months, I bring you the exact opposite. This, friends, is the gift guide for those who have come to create office space in their homes. For everyone who blurs the important lines between work and private life.
The transition wasn't easy for everyone, but here are a handful of gifts that can make the transition easier and turn a person's home office into a … well, home, I think. They're not necessarily the funniest gifts, but chances are someone in your life can really take advantage of them.
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Hyken Mesh Task Chair
I never really appreciated the value of a good office chair until this pandemic. I was fortunate enough to work for a company that Herman Millers considers a necessary expense. I honestly can't remember what kind of shabby Amazon bargain chair I've held onto for the past few years, but a month or two later I rolled it onto the donation pile.
The truth resides in conventional wisdom that when it comes to office chairs, you get what you pay for. Indeed, it is an investment. But there are offers to be had. I did not spend an arm or a leg so I am not going to encourage you to do so. After doing good research, I ended up on this animal from Staples. It's big and comfortable, and offers great full-body support that won't make you sore after eight hours in front of the computer (I mean, get up and exercise at least once an hour for your health and health).
The best part is that it's almost shockingly affordable.
Price: $ 169-200 from Amazon, depending on the color
Do you remember how I told you that I wouldn't encourage you to spend an arm and a leg on the chair? Think of this as a gift for the person in your life who has been really good this year. If a good office chair is an investment, a computer is the lifeline. For example, I wouldn't recommend an iMac to a 3D designer, but for many or most, Apple's ease of use cannot really argue with it all in one.
Apple updated the system earlier this year with some improved features, including an improved webcam in particular – this is obviously an important upgrade these days. There are no external monitors to handle and minimal futzing is required immediately. Of course, there's going to be a big Apple Silicon redesign in the next year or two, but that won't do you much good in the meantime.
Price: Starting at $ 1,019 from Apple
Much like the office chair, webcams were one of the things I really didn't pay much attention to before the pandemic. But the truth is this: Built-in webcams as a category suck. There are exceptions, of course, but unlike smartphone manufacturers, cameras were an afterthought almost everywhere at PC manufacturers. I suspect there's a good chance this will change for good in the next year or so, but for now, you really want to avoid using your computer's built-in camera for those all-important Zoom meetings if you can.
There are a ton of options out there, and you can get a decent webcam for a reasonable price – Logitech is usually a pretty solid choice. This time, however, I'll give the award to Razer. The game company delivered a clever and versatile camera. It has an adjustable clip / stand, it can record video at 1080p @ 30FPS / 720p @ 60FPS, and best of all, it has a light ring built in. It won't replace a pro-level camera, of course, if it has a lot of conference appearances or appears frequently on CNN. However, if they want to liven up a Zoom call or two, this is a great choice.
Price: $ 100 from Razer
RØDE NT-USB Mini
Okay, as a longtime podcaster, I thought about this long before the pandemic started. The truth is, decent headphones should make a good meeting microphone. But when conference calls are central to workdays, a good microphone is a great way to improve this game. And hey, everyone starts a podcast these days, right?
RØDE has some great USB microphone options. The NT-USB Mini wouldn't be the first (or possibly even the tenth) choice for podcasts. But its price and size make it a good option for expanding meetings and other calls. It also has the advantage of size and a detachable stand which makes it a good travel companion when we can travel again.
Price: $ 100 from Amazon
Cubii Pro desk, elliptical
When I lived in Queens, New York at the height of the pandemic, dealing with my personal health issues, I basically didn't leave my apartment in April or May. Cubii Elliptical training is not a substitute for full-body exercise, but it is a nice addition if you are home tied for some reason.
I may have to put it back under my desk when the weather turns cold. There's also a mobile component that tracks progress and integrates with third-party trackers like Apple Health.
Price: $ 349 from Amazon
Headphones are required for working from home. However, I would also recommend getting a reasonably decent speaker for your desk. A smart speaker is probably the path of least resistance when listening to streaming services like Spotify, and Nest Audio is probably the best-rounded one. Google The wizard is great for all of the smart things and the new hardware sounds really solid.
Price: $ 100 from Amazon
Did I have to spend $ 200 on a seltzer maker? No of course not. Do I regret spending $ 200 on a seltzer maker? Also no. Aarke's system looks great, is solidly built, and pulling down the hand crank is extremely satisfactory. Hydration is important, friends. Special mention of the LARQ UV disinfection bottle. After all, you will need something to drink the carbonated water from.
Price: $ 200 from Aarke
Really good customizable lighting for the entire office
Bonus entry, this one from TechCrunch editor Greg Kumparak:
I've been working from home for a few years now and honestly, the most important change I've made this year is the huge improvement in the lighting situation in my home office. Natural and artificial lighting is of enormous importance for our daily feeling. The ability to customize the lighting exactly to your liking is one of the big problems when working from home. No more flickering fluorescent lights! Would you like to make the lights purple and blue? You do you
With smart lighting, you can do fancy things, such as: B. shift the colors to those that make you alert / productive, or tone them down as evening approaches. During the California forest fires, when smoke and haze turned the sky a terrible orange, I shifted all of my light so it was much bluer than it otherwise would be to help my brain realize it was afternoon and not, as it seemed, an impossibly long sunrise.
Philips Hue lights are generally a good choice. They offer a lot of flexibility and options. The downside is that they are generally more expensive. I also don't expect Philips to end support for the Hue line or go out of business anytime soon. New competition has come to the market at lower prices, but I always hesitate about how well they will be supported in the years to come.
However, if they already have other smart lights in their home, try to stick with the same brand. It makes it a lot easier not to have to deal with new hubs, apps, etc.
Price: $ 90 for a starter pack of two Philips Hue color changing bulbs from Amazon