Working is rarely more enjoyable than free time, but the best office gadgets and toys can make it significantly less of a drag.
They’re usually the kind of thing you don’t give much of a thought when you’re in the office proper, but once you’re home and attempting to create your own work area, you begin to notice their absence. The big items — a desk, a chair, a laptop — are obvious, but they’re just the starting point.
Almost everyone is spending more time working from home now, and it’s important to create a workspace that allows you to be productive and comfortable. Even more crucially, however, the best office toys and gadgets help define your workspace as being for work, while the rest of your home is for non-work. Maybe that’ll get you to stop checking your email at 10pm. (Seriously, stop that.)
If you’re looking for something to keep your kids entertained while you’re hard at work in your home office, then our guide to the best STEM toys (opens in new tab) can help you out, with a range of educational toys for toddlers and kids.
Best office toys and gadgets for productivity
Despite the digitization of everything, there are some times it’s easier (and more satisfying) to simply jot something down in a notebook. The problem is that then you have to convert those analog notes into digital form, thus negating whatever efficiency advantage you gained in the first place. Enter the reMarkable, a tablet and stylus that mimics the feel of writing on paper with remarkable (ha!) accuracy.
The reMarkable 2.0 is as easy to use as its analog counterpart; just a few taps are necessary to create a new notebook, copy/paste text, or markup an image. The upgraded stylus has an “eraser” on the end that makes cleaning up mistakes intuitive and fast, and digital brush options will delight anyone who needs to whip up a quick sketch. Best of all, everything in the reMarkable can then be emailed or uploaded directly from the device.
The typical knowledge worker has certain sites, documents, and apps they have to access frequently enough to make them bookmarkable — or even just constantly open in a browser tab.
The Stream Deck Mini an elegant, satisfying, and fun replacement for those methods. Originally designed for streamers who need to access many kinds of tools without breaking the flow of their show, the Stream Deck is a collection of hot keys that does whatever you personally need it to do. Rather than hunt through folders for that client’s information or simply leaving Photoshop open at all times, poke one of the Stream Deck’s chunky buttons to get what you need.
We could make the case that having much-used materials appear at the press of a button frees up a surprising amount of brain cycles (and it does) but it’s also just plain fun. Creating custom icons for each button adds a tiny bit of delight to otherwise routine work interactions, especially if they’re animated gifs. So, yes, this is really little more than a physical collection of bookmarks and macros, but pushing fat buttons is one of life’s small pleasures. Indulge.
Leaving your phone plugged in all day is a sure way to avoid the constant war with a draining battery, but it’s also very inconvenient. A charging pad is a more user-friendly option, but it’s tough to give precious desk or office space over to something that only serves one function, and only some of the time. Enter the phone charging mouse pad, which justifies its footprint by serving two ongoing needs. If your phone needs a boost, just drop it next to your mouse while you work.
The one caveat (and to be fair, it’s a big one) is that not all designs work with all kinds of phones, so it’ll be important to do your research to make sure your handset is compatible. On the other hand, some models are large enough to charge a laptop, should you care to use it for that when not mousing around.
We’ve suggested the JCREN wireless charging mouse pad, but there are plenty of different models out there that you can check out.
A sudden power outage can destroy hours of work with one swift zap and depending on the nature of the outage, it can fry your equipment, too. You likely already have your electrical devices plugged into a surge protector of some sort (and if you don’t, you should) but taking that one step further with a backup battery gives you the protection you need to save everything before shutting down.
A unit like the CyberPower CP1000AVRLCD might seem like overkill, but you’ll be thanking your foresight if and when you ever need it. The LCD interface is easy to use and the alarm beep makes a power outage impossible to miss. It’s a little on the larger side, but worth dedicating a corner of your desk or office to.
If you need something smaller (or bigger) than the CyberPower model we showed here, there are plenty of options on the market for surge protectors, battery backups, and combination units.
This entry could easily go either in productivity or comfort, because a good keyboard provides both. Your computer came with a keyboard, of course, but a mechanical or semi-mechanical keyboard provides options you may not have realized exist. With customizable key mapping that works with either PC or Macs, keyboards like the Fujitsu HHKB ease pressure on key joints, placing high-usage keys and shortcuts within immediate reach.
More importantly, they make the most wonderfully satisfying clacky noises as you type. There’s something so comforting about that sound as your fingers fly across the keys. Be warned, though — mechanical keyboard culture is a rabbit hole from which you may never return.
Best office toys and gadgets for comfort
Air quality is something you don’t really think about until it’s made your life miserable. Pet dander, seasonal allergens, even wildfire smoke — the stuff you suck into your lungs impacts your comfort in numerous ways. Having an air purifier in your home, or at least the rooms of your home where you spend the most time is an easy way to dramatically improve your quality of life.
The Coway Air Purifier is self-regulating, which means it’s only running when it detects contaminants in the air. Its sleek design prevents it from being an eyesore and its quiet hum is easy on the ears. Replacing the filters is a snap, too; just be prepared to be horrified at how filthy the old ones get. You were breathing all that stuff! Ugh!
The model we’ve suggested is probably going to sit near your desk rather than on it, as it’s quite a big boy. There are smaller air purifiers out there though.
While you can absolutely use the Govee Aura smart table lamp as, you know, a thing to make your desk area brighter, that’s not really its best use case. The Aura comes with many pre-set designs like “Forest” or “Sweet” that change color to evoke a certain mood or ambiance. It can also react to ambient sounds, pairing a light show with music.
Changing the Aura’s display can be done in a very basic on the unit itself; for real customization, you must use the companion app. The app also allows you to create your own color schemes and animations, or download new ones from the Aura community. It will light up your workspace a little but it will light up your soul a lot.
“It’s a clock.” That’s your excuse for having this game system on your desk in full view. And indeed, it is a clock, and a cute one! It’ll show you the time in big blocky digits, which is nice. But it’s perhaps the ultimate fidget toy, given that it’s also a faithful reproduction of the original Super Mario Bros. game.
The one big downside to the Super Mario Game & Watch is that it doesn’t come with its own stand, leaving you to devise a handy display method on your own. If you’re not big into Mario, no worries: There’s one for The Legend of Zelda (opens in new tab), too.
if you’re confused about the name, it’s because this is a remake of a 1980s product, and back then you could get away with calling a 5-inch long piece of plastic a watch. The 80s were a wild time.
Why is microwaved coffee so gross? This is the question that has baffled physicists for years. Ok, not really, but once coffee goes cold it’s surprisingly hard to warm it back up to a place of palatability. The secret, of course, is to simply drink it before it goes cold, but that’s not always possible when you’re working from home.
The solution? The Ember Smart Coffee Mug, which works battery powered mug (you heard us) that pairs with a charging coaster and app to keep your warm beverage at exactly the right temperature. Is it a lot of money to spend on warmth? Perhaps. But you deserve it. (And just look at the copper version (opens in new tab)!)
Being properly hydrated is good for your skin, your internal organs, and your brain, and yet you almost certainly don’t drink enough water. It can be a surprisingly hard thing to keep track of over the course of the day, which is why making a conscious choice to improve your water drinking habits is a smart decision.
Enter the smart water bottle, which tracks your consumption and prompts you to take a nice healthy swig every now and again. Different models offer different benefits; choose whichever suits your lifestyle.
If you’re at your desk most of the day it likely won’t matter if the bottle is a little on the heavy side. If you normally don’t drink water because it doesn’t taste like anything, select a bottle that lets you add fruit or other flavoring. Just drink more water (opens in new tab)!