8 smart ways to upgrade your home office on a budget this winter

When I moved across the country to start a new job in March, I didn’t think I’d be working from home for more than a few weeks. But here we are, nine months in, and my workspace (aka my kitchen counter) is where I spend 70% of my day. I eat dinner in the same spot I work, write, and read. 

It’s not clear if and when I will be returning to my physical office. Even when the vaccine is widely distributed, some companies are offering the flexibility to work from home forever. Others have abandoned their headquarters in favor of smaller satellite offices. 

So, with all the uncertainty surrounding the future of work, I figured it might be worthwhile to invest in a few items to improve my remote work experience. Here’s how I’ve upgraded so far. 

Noise cancelling headphones

My girlfriend and I were not prepared to work within a few feet of each other. At first, the overlapping meetings and random appearances in the corner of each other’s Zoom calls were humorous. Like many pandemic-related challenges, the act got old quick. 

Noise cancelling headphones have been a revelation. 

Not only are they helpful to stay focused when she’s talking on a call, but I can get into a creative flow much faster. My audio is clearer, environmental distractions are reduced, and they last most of the day without needing a recharge. 

Reliable lighting

A ring light was my first pandemic purchase. I still had meetings after 3 PM and the apartment would start to get really dark once the sun moved to the other side of our building. My workspace only has a single overhead light, which is too harsh on a dark background. With a ring light, I can turn the lights off and professionally illuminate my face.

Yes, it felt weird at first. However, especially when meeting with clients, it looks way better than someone with artificial light blasting through the screen. I purchased this one and I can’t recommend it enough. 

Reusable water bottle

I never thought I’d miss the kitchen water cooler at work. It was an easy way to stretch my legs and a simple reminder to stay hydrated throughout the day. For some reason, despite sitting within an arm’s reach from the kitchen sink, I found myself to be drinking far less water.

Although it doesn’t sound like a home office “upgrade,” having a physical water bottle on my desk serves as a gentle reminder to actually drink water. The best part? You can buy an insulated stainless steel water bottle on Amazon for less than $30. 

Index card filing cabinet

This was a habit I adopted long before the lockdown. I use 3×5 index cards to write down my daily tasks, take notes during calls, and record thoughts during the day.

I also have a small index card filing system like this one to organize each card by topic. For $20, you can replace a big, bulky cabinet with a small box that sits nicely on your desk. 

Diffuser and essential oils

‘Tis the season of wellness. The self-care market is booming–and for good reason. People are taking mental health seriously, constantly searching for tools to melt stress and improve productivity.

Personally, a diffuser has been one of the best additions to our apartment. It’s an affordable, versatile, and convenient piece of equipment that gives the room a calmer, pleasant-smelling ambiance. 

Especially as we head into colder months, some essential oils including eucalyptus and peppermint help open the airways and ease congestion. 

Foam roller or lacrosse ball

As someone who lives a very fitness-focused lifestyle, foam rollers have been a staple piece of equipment in my life. I would always foam roll to relieve muscle tightness, inflammation, and increase range of motion.

Recently, foam rolling has become a routine part of my afternoon. I am getting up far less than I did in the office leading to a stiff back and tight shoulders.

Use a  foam roller or a lacrosse ball to loosen tight muscles and knots. Trust me, it will make remote work a lot more comfortable. 


According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, plants in your home or office can make you feel more comfortable, soothed, and natural.

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, plants offer another reminder to get up and walk around. 

Plus, some lush greenery will do wonders for your drab Zoom background. 

Ergonomic keyboard

The last item is also the only one on this list I have yet to purchase.

Although I have yet to experience much wrist pain, which is strange since I spend the entire day typing, I have read of others who are feeling the effects of an increased workload.

This ergonomic keyboard was highly recommended on several other websites, claiming to “to position wrists and forearms in a natural, relaxed position.” 

Final thoughts

Little changes go a long way. Even staying hydrated and having the room smell like citrus or lavender has made working from home far more enjoyable.

I’m not usually one to buy into trends, however, there are tons of brilliant recommendations out there that are really beneficial. I wouldn’t have bought a ring light without seeing someone on YouTube talk about it. Now, I get compliments on how well light my video meetings are. 

Try and find a few things that boost your mood, comfort, and productivity. You can buy everything mentioned above for around $100. Trust me, an investment in your work from home setup is worth it.