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The best work-from-home and office essentials for graduates

Regardless of where they work, these gadgets will help them get it done.

Engadget

Remote and hybrid work is a real possibility for many recent graduates, as is schlepping it to an office every weekday. Some grads may be off to a career in welding and will be free of offices altogether. While we don't have the proper expertise to make recommendations for that latter category, the Engadget staff has decades of collective experience working from home and commuting to offices. These gadgets have helped us get through our workdays more efficiently and comfortably — and make good gifts for any budding professional.

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Even if your graduate already has an upgraded webcam, bad lighting can prevent them from putting their best face forward when speaking with colleagues on video calls. The LumeCube Edge Desk Light can fix that with its multiple brightness and warm-light settings, plus a bendable neck that makes it easy to adjust the light’s position. Since it’s quite flexible, they can use it for other things, too, including note-taking and live streaming. And we know they’ll appreciate its built-in USB-C and USB-A charging ports, which will let them conveniently power up their phone, earbuds and more while getting all of their work done. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer

$140 at Amazon

There’s a good chance your grad will have to take regular video conference calls at their new job, even if they go into the office from time to time. Sure, they could use their laptop’s built-in basic camera, but a webcam like the Logitech Brio 500 can help them put their best face forward on every call they take. The Brio 500 shoots 1080p video and they can customize aspects of their feed, including brightness, contrast and additive filters, by using the free Logi Tune software. But most of the time, the cam will do the hard work for them: it has remarkably good auto-light correction, which will help them look better in dark environments, noise-reducing dual microphones and auto-framing with RightSight. If the latter is enabled, your grad can shift in their chair and move around and the Brio 500 will adjust automatically to keep them in the center of the frame. And when they’re not on a call, there’s a handy shutter that covers the camera lens for extra privacy. — Valentina Palladino, Deputy Editor, Buying Advice

$100 at Amazon
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$130 at Staples$158 at Office Depot

In a world that runs on batteries, you can never be too far from a charger. A reliable charging station like the Anker 525 is a real convenience for topping up a smartphone, tablet, wireless mouse or any other device that may need refilling. It puts four charging ports within arm’s reach — two USB-C and two USB-A — and it measures less than five inches wide, so it’s compact enough to fit on a crowded desk. Those USB-C ports can supply up to a 67W charge, so this isn’t the most powerful station out there, but it’s still enough to charge many mobile devices and slim laptops at full speed. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Reporter, Buying Advice

$40 at Amazon
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$66 at Newegg
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Blocking out the world in an attempt to focus isn’t something that only new graduates do — but they, too, can benefit from having a little help in that area. Whether they’re going to work on a loud train or trying to finish prepping a presentation at home, a pair of ANC headphones like Sony’s WH-1000XM5 is one of the best gifts to help them stay in the zone. The XM5 are Sony’s latest flagship model and the best wireless headphones you can get right now by our standards. Sony packs so much into these cans: improved noise cancellation, excellent sound quality, handy touch controls and a 30-hour battery life, just to name a few things. Their redesigned design makes them even more comfortable to wear for hours on end, and their ability to connect to two devices at once means your giftee can easily switch from taking a call on their phone to listening to music on their laptop. — V.P.

$316 at Groupon
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$328 at Adorama$328 at Amazon

One of the most difficult obstacles with working from home is all the distractions. Even seasoned WFH folks can get sidetracked by temptations like TV, the internet or just easy access to the kitchen — any grad new to remote-work life could feel the same way. A potential solution to that is to use one of these multi-cube timers from Mooas as a productivity tool. Each side corresponds to different lengths of time; to start the timer, they’ll flip the cube so the desired time faces upwards. Flipping the LCD display upwards again will pause it, while turning the display downwards will stop the timer.

There are a number of ways to use them, but I like using the Pomodoro Technique with these. I’ll enable the 30 minute timer, which then encourages me to focus just on my work for the allotted time period. Once time is up, I give myself a five minute rest, and then I start it over again. Your giftee can also use them as a reminder to stand up and stretch every so often. These timers come in a variety of colors, each with different time pre-sets, so be sure to pick the one with the time lengths you think your loved one will want. — N.L.

$19 at Amazon

After a decade spent typing in front of a computer, I started looking for ways to make my body hate me less come Friday afternoon. You can get your grad working more ergonomically from the jump with Logitech’s ERGO K860 wireless ergonomic keyboard. It’s a full sized keyboard complete with a number pad and wrist rest, plus it has keys that gently shift outwards to create a more natural hand position for typing. That subtle change lets the elbows move away from the ribs and keeps a straighter line from forearm to middle knuckle, which generally feels much less straining. It also connects via Bluetooth quickly, pairs with Macs and PCs and can switch between three different devices with a press of a button. — Amy Skorheim, Reporter, Buying Advice

$110 at B&H Photo
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$121 at Amazon$121 at Walmart
Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Laptop speakers are fine for playing music while you work, but to do lofi chill hop beats justice, your grad may appreciate a quality speaker. We’re big fans of Sonos’ latest, the Era 100. Deputy editor Nate Ingraham gave it an 88 in his review, praising its loud, room-filling sound that combines heavy bass with a defined higher end. It looks great on a shelf thanks to its clean, compact design and it comes in white or black, so you can match it to your home’s aesthetic. It has a line-in port for turntable or other auxiliary connections, and is one of Sonos’ first plug-in models that includes Bluetooth connectivity. However, most people will likely use Wi-Fi connectivity and Sonos’ app to control their streaming services of choice. — A.S.

$249 at Sonos

This is not so much a battery for casual use as it is portable fuel for an off-site workstation. The Mophie Powerstation Pro AC packs a 27,000mAh capacity, which translates to multiple charges for small devices and enough oomph to power up larger machines like laptops. At the same time, it still falls within TSA requirements for carry-on luggage. In our tests it not only juiced up a MacBook Pro, it powered a printer, LED lights and a speaker — very handy if your grad’s job takes them away from their desk and into the field. — A.S.

$164 at Amazon
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$200 at Adorama$200 at Verizon
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

A keyboard is one of the few things your grad (and you) might have to use for hours every day, so why not make it as pleasing as possible? If your giftee is willing to jump on the mechanical keyboard bandwagon, the Keychron V3 Max is a fantastic value for just under $100. It’s a wireless model that makes keystrokes feel soft and springy without sounding overly loud or harsh. Its keycaps are crisp and comfortable shaped, and it’s configurable with a few different switch types, all of which are easy to swap out if the (nerdy) mood strikes. While its casing is mostly made of plastic, it doesn’t flex under pressure or feel especially cheap. Note that the V3 Max has a tenkeyless layout; if you want a full-size model or something smaller, there are other V Max models that should work just as well. — J.D.

$94 at Keychron

If your grad’s first gig is hybrid, freelance or in-office, there’s a good chance they’ll be on the move a lot. Daypacks and laptop bags specifically designed for work are easy to carry like a standard backpack, but include enough pockets and pouches to organize the necessities of a modern work day. We like Bellroy’s Transit Workpack because it has dedicated spaces for a laptop, headphones, wallet, tech organizers and even a change of clothes. If you go for the larger 28-liter size, a pair of shoes will fit too. We also appreciate that the sleek profile hides the water bottle pocket on the side so the bag looks like something meant for the office rather than a hike. – A.S.

$199 at Bellroy

Some advice if you end up buying the Go Stand for your grad: snag one for yourself, too. This clever folding stand holds a phone or tablet at an adjustable angle, so the screen is easy to read, sans an awkward balancing act. I use one daily to keep my phone visible on my desk and I find it works better than any stand built into a phone or tablet case. It folds to a tiny flat wedge that fits in a pocket when not in use, and it has a nice rubberized, non-skid texture. I ended up buying a second one when my family kept stealing mine. – A.S.

$20 at Elevation Lab

A dedicated footrest can help your legs feel more comfortable during those long stretches of sitting in your desk chair. The ErgoFoam Adjustable Foot Rest is a good example: It strikes the right balance between cushy and firm, and its velvety, gently arched frame encourages your legs to rest at an angle that feels natural. This model has a removable, two-inch base that you can take off if you find the standard height uncomfortable. It can also be flipped over and used as a foot rocker if you want to move your feet around while working. None of this is a substitute for periodically getting up and moving over the course of the day, but when that’s not feasible, it can help. — J.D.

$40 at Amazon

An ergonomic mouse is one of those investments that can add at least a little bit of comfort to your grad’s work time. Clunky name aside, the Razer Basilisk V3 X HyperSpeed is a great choice. While it’s marketed toward gamers, its contoured shape, ample thumb rest and easy-to-reach buttons should feel comfortable in anyone’s hands. (Provided they’re a righty, at least.) Its scroll wheel is quiet and precise, and all of its buttons — including a programmable pair on the left side — have a satisfying sense of travel. The mouse itself is made from a sturdy matte plastic with grippy rubberized sides. This is a wireless mouse that runs off a single AA battery, so it’s a little heavy for fast-paced games, but it can last hundreds of hours before needing a change. There’s a dash of RGB lighting on the scroll wheel, too, but that’s simple to turn off if that’s not their thing. — J.D.

$60 at Amazon
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$60 at Walmart$75 at Macy's

Hunching to stare at a desk-level laptop is hard on anyone’s back and neck. You can help protect your grad’s posture, and possibly alleviate back pain, with a Roost laptop stand that raises nearly any laptop to eye level. I’ve used a previous generation Roost for about four years running and it still works like it did when it was brand new. It folds down to a skinny stick and fits in any pack that can hold a laptop. Once unfurled, it can accommodate nearly any notebook, including larger ones like a 16-inch MacBook Pro. One thing to note is that your grad won’t be able to use their computer’s trackpad or keys when the stand is in use, so they’ll need an external keyboard and mouse. – A.S.

$90 at Roost
Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

There are endless brands selling standing desks now, and Uplift makes some of the best ones. The V2 model I bought has made my workdays far more comfortable. After two and a half years, it still raises up and lowers down multiple times a day, all week long without complaint. If your grad will be working from home, a standing desk will make a difference since experts advise incorporating some movement throughout the day. That said, this is no small investment and the amount of customization Uplift offers verges on overwhelming. If you don’t know exactly what your grad might want, you may be better off skipping the surprise and ordering the unit with them. If that’s not possible, the company does offer gift certificates. – A.S.

$599 at Uplift

Is a surge protector a sexy gift? No. But as someone who primarily works from home, it’s one of the mundane gadgets that I find myself needing regularly (and buying spares often). Any recent graduate who’s working partly or primarily from home will appreciate one of these from Anker. This model provides 12 additional outlets, plus two USB-A and one USB-C port to handle a few smaller gadgets without the need for an adapter. The attached five-foot cable is also convenient since it’ll let them place the bulk of the protector in the right spot, say next to their desk or behind a couch, without needing an extension cord to do so. And unlike other surge protectors, Anker built in a decent amount of space between each outlet — roughly 1.5 inches, which means they can still use most of those bulky adapters that came with their gear without overlapping another outlet. — V.P.

$30 at Amazon
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$30 at Newegg

If your giftee is going to be stuck at their desk all day, you can make their music and podcasts more enjoyable with a good set of desktop speakers. The Creative Pebble Pro is a solid first upgrade for those on a tighter budget. It’s an obvious step up over the thin speakers built into most laptops and monitors, and it doesn’t hog up too much room on a desk. The globe-shaped speakers are still too small to provide the kind of wide soundstage or deep bass that larger options do, but they don’t distort at higher volumes and can play audio over Bluetooth, USB-C or a 3.5mm cable. They also have a modicum of customizable RGB lighting. If you can spend into triple figures, the higher-end Pebble X Plus offers similar convenience and includes a subwoofer for improved bass response. — J.D

$50 at Amazon
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$68 at antonline$94 at Newegg

As you accumulate more papers, accessories and random tchotchkes at your desk, it’s easy for your workspace to become cluttered. Stuffing some of that mess into a dedicated organizer is a simple way to save space and make your environment feel less chaotic. The Sorbus Bamboo Desk Organizer should help here: It’s about a foot wide and offers three drawers for tucking away smaller accessories like notepads, jewelry or charging cables, plus a top shelf space for more essential items you want to keep in view. The light wood finish shouldn’t look out of place on most desktops, either. — J.D.

$37 at Groupon
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$40 at Amazon$43 at Kohl's

If you plan to work in front of a monitor for most of the work week, you should make sure it’s positioned around eye level to avoid excess strain on your neck and back. The stand that comes with your monitor might be flexible enough as it is, but if not, consider a monitor arm. It’ll give your display a wider range of motion, and it can save desk space to boot.

Ergotron’s LX Desk Monitor is a well-regarded take on this idea. Its aluminum frame lets you comfortably move a VESA-compatible monitor in any direction and supports panels up to 34 inches and 25 pounds. When it’s hooked up, the arm can lift your screen up to 17.3 inches above a desk surface, pull it forward about 25 inches, tilt it 75 degrees and rotate or pan it a full 360 degrees. It’s fairly simple to set up, too, plus it comes with a 10-year warranty. Just note that if you’re a little over six feet tall, you should get the “Tall Pole” model instead. — J.D.

$194 at Amazon