Three seasoned work-from-home Canadians share their must-have office upgrades

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Open this photo in gallery: Dani Roche, a Toronto-based designer, has found herself spending more…

Open this photo in gallery:

Dani Roche, a Toronto-based designer, has found herself spending more on home-office accoutrements since she stopped using a shared work space two years ago.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Almost 25 per cent of Canadians either work from home full-time or have a hybrid work arrangement.

Yet many of our workspaces at home are still less than ideal, because they aren’t set up with ergonomics in mind or because they’re simply uninspired, and we often work from the couch or dining table, instead.

To inspire your next workstation upgrade, we asked three professionals who primarily work from home – a creative director, a CEO and a tech founder – to share the budget and splurge finds that have helped them make their perfect office.

Dani Roche, creative director and graphic designer

Dani Roche has been self-employed for seven years. Up until two years ago, she rented a live-work space that was sometimes shared during the day with part-time employees and contractors. Now, she is in a home office that’s a work-in-progress, with “a lot of natural light” but also “bad ventilation.”

Because she’s no longer in a shared space, Roche finds that she is more willing to invest in higher-end furniture pieces. “I’m buying things that I am obviously using for my office right now, but I can see myself moving around the house and using them in different ways.”

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Dani’s five must-haves

Roche likes the flexibility of working on her laptop, but also has a desktop computer with a larger screen for design work and video meetings. Apple iMac, from $1,699 through apple.com.

After a lot of research, she settled on the classic Aeron chair. “Spending a lot of time sitting down at screens, it was important to invest in something that would be ergonomically correct, and would help my posture,” says Roche. Herman Miller Aeron chair, from $1,810 through hermanmiller.com.

Roche uses a table that was designed by Swiss architect Fritz Haller and Paul Schaerer in 1963 as her office desk. “In an ideal world, I would have a full USM Haller office, but it’s quite expensive,” she says. “I find that the design of the pieces is so timeless.” USM Haller Table T69, $2,535 through grshop.com.

A vintage storage unit designed by Joe Colombo houses printer paper and notebooks. “But if I chose to move that piece outside of my office, I could use it in my living room for books or magazines, or as a display unit for a vase or flowers,” says Roche. BLine Boby Trolley, $825 through funsty.ca.

To store knickknacks, pens, receipts and more, Roche also likes HAY’s stackable plastic crates, which are available in a trendy range of colours. HAY Colour Crate, from $7.70 through finnishdesignshop.com.

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Since shifting to remote work during the pandemic, ‘I have loved it and never gone back,’ Paul Taylor says.Stacey Newman

Paul Taylor is the co-CEO of a consultancy focused on “advancing equity, justice and social change,” and also teaches courses on topics such as leadership and fundraising at Simon Fraser University. The consultancy, a four-day-work-week organization, doesn’t have an office, so Taylor works exclusively from home. “When I was at FoodShare, I was working on-site, although I had meetings taking me across every corner of the city,” says Taylor, who was executive director of the Toronto-based non-profit until this past January. “But once the pandemic hit, we went through that quick pivot, everybody working at home, and I have loved it and never gone back.”

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Paul’s five must-haves

Taylor uses his laptop for video calls, and has an external monitor primarily for e-mails. This way, when he’s in a meeting he can easily pull up documents or consult a resource without disrupting the flow of the video conversation. LG 24MK600M-B 24″ monitor, $195.99 through amazon.ca.

As a Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 honoree in 2020, he was given an ergonomic upholstered chair from Mississauga-based ergoCentric, which offers countless adjustments, including to the back height, headrest, armrest and lumbar support. ergoCentric Hybrid chair, $1,333 through ergocentric.com.

Because Taylor does some media and lot of podcast interviews, a good microphone has been essential. “A friend of mine insisted that I get a Yeti and it’s made for much clearer audio,” says Taylor. Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone, $129.98 through bestbuy.ca.

A small desk lamp for early mornings. “I’ve got a little IKEA lamp hidden away behind my monitor for when I start working early and I don’t want to turn on all the lights,” says Taylor. Ikea Navlinge LED lamp, $26.99 through ikea.ca.

He also recently purchased a portable tripod laptop stand which allows him to stand up during calls where he doesn’t need to take notes. “It’s my makeshift standing desk,” he explains. On-Stage LPT7000 laptop stand, $89.27 through amazon.ca.

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Avery Swartz, CEO of Camp Tech, often finds herself working from home, with the occasional off-site meeting.Jenna Marie Wakani

A tech writer and the founder and CEO of Camp Tech, Avery Swartz has been self-employed since 2007.

“I will work anywhere,” she says. “Most days right now I’m working from home, but I will also occasionally go to my neighbourhood coffee shop and I will sometimes go out for meetings.”

Her laptop is her go-to when she’s on the move, but when she is at home, she will “dock” her laptop and “go to the bigger, more comfortable setup” in her office. “This is for productivity, but also for ergonomics, so that I’m comfortable and can sit here for probably too many hours,” says Swartz.

In her office, she has a Herman Miller Aeron chair which she bought second-hand in a neighbourhood group on Facebook.

“Definitely looking at buying second-hand,” says Swartz. “A lot of people that set up home offices are now going back to their physical office and they might be selling off some of their stuff.”

For home-office savings, she also recommends online ‘Buy Nothing’ groups, shopping certified refurbished electronics, and looking at older, previous models of the item you need.

Open this photo in gallery:
Avery’s five must-haves

For Swartz, an external monitor is a must-have for its bigger screen space. Hers is a 28-inch older model from Dell. “I have my laptop literally right next to it, so I’ve got this dual screen setup,” says Swartz. Dell monitor, $339.99 through dell.com.

“I am in love with my external keyboard and it is so cute and so fantastic, and I tell everyone about it because it only cost $40,” she says. “The batteries last forever … and it has the ability to connect up to three different devices using Bluetooth.” Logitech K380 wireless keyboard, $48.99 through bestbuy.ca.

A high-definition webcam is key, says Swartz, “because we’re all on video calls these days.” This one clips on to the top of her external monitor. Logitech C922 webcam, $129.99 through logitech.com.

Swartz wears headphones when she’s on calls or to listen to music, even if she’s at home alone. “I think headphones are so much of just a personal preference; it’s based mostly on your own comfort and what fit feels right for you,” she says. Her best fit: Beats Fit Pro true wireless earbuds, $249.95 through apple.com.

Her office has plants and natural light, and Swartz finds it can be helpful to light a candle at her desk just as “a little indulgence.” “Especially in the winter, it’s really cozy and gives me a little sense of warmth,” she says. LOHN Oest candle, $56 through shoplohn.com.

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