20 New-Normal Essentials for Returning to the Office
Yeah, totally not sharing pens anymore.
Back at the office full-time? Just started a hybrid sched? Slated to head back to the office soon? Whatever the case, you know things will look different at work. After a lengthy chapter at home, you may be looking forward to getting more organized at the office and infusing your workspace with some color and fun. It’s also safe to say that cleanliness is the new cool, so you probably want to invest in some staples that will give you an added sense of health safety at the office. Below, our favorite fun and functional finds for office life. Cube mate who you can always count on to laugh at your dad jokes, not included.
Freshly, $8 a meal
Oh wait, you have to think about lunch again. If you can’t deal with the thought of prepping an office lunch, try this handy prepared meal service that offers more than 40 options per week, running from “takeout twists” to plant-based hits. Your perfect lunch al desko is just one three-minute microwave session away. P.S. Tell your office manager about Freshly for Business. Since family-style catering will likely be on hold for a while with the ick factor, this program delivering single-serve meals for the whole office is ideal, and employers can sign up to subsidize the cost of all or part of meals for their team.
The perfect desk plant is low maintenance, pretty, and not so big they dominate your space. This darling trio delivers on all three fronts (though you may want to split them up and put one or two on a shelf or your windowsill). The set arrives with tiny Sansevieria, ZZ, and Hoya plants, all three of which will adapt to any available light and require minimal watering. If you’ve got an office to yourself, splurge on the Money Tree ($169), which is said to bring on prosperity according to Feng Shui principles.
Loftie Alarm Clock, $149
Oh man, no more hitting the snooze bar ad nauseam. Getting back into the commuting groove will be so much better with this wellness-focused alarm clock and white noise machine extraordinaire. The Lottie offers features such as a dimmable display, nightlight, two-phase alarm, guided meditations, sleep playlists, relaxing sounds, and more, all designed to usher you off to the restorative, mythical Land of Rest and have you waking up refreshed and rejuvenated.
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, $10 for pack of three*
Whether you’re using these on a conference room table, keyboards, desks, closet handles, or other frequently touched surfaces, rest assured that these wipes kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria on finished wood, sealed granite, and stainless steel when used as directed. These fresh scent cleaning wipes are also available in convenient to-go packs, which are great to stash in your bag so you have them whenever you’re on the move.
*Price as of publish date
Fitbit Charge 5, $180
Just because you’re back at the office doesn’t mean you have to give up all those self-care routines you implemented at home like carving out time for brisk walks, meditation breaks, and deep breathing exercises. Fitbit’s latest release lasts up to seven days on one charge and has a dizzying array of health, fitness, and wellness tools, including a daily stress management score, detailed sleep metrics, a built-in GPS if you go for a lunch break run, and much more. You’ll also get call, text, calendar, and other smartphone app notifications on your wrist, a helpful feature while sitting in a meeting and not wanting to be rude and check your phone.
SmileDirectClub Clear Aligner Treatment, $1,950 or $250 down payment $89 a month for 24 monthly payments
For the glorious day when you can flash your pearly whites sans masks with co-workers IRL, treat yourself to custom aligners that will make your smile more winsome than ever. Even if you're not headed back to the office quite yet, you've likely spent more than your fair share of hours overanalyzing your face on Zoom, so why not get a leg up in your grin game now? Treatment is overseen by a dentist or orthodontist, and you can even request a prescription for an impression kit so you can get started at home if you don't live near or want to visit one of SDC's SmileShops. The brand offers a LifetimeSmileGuarantee
and if you're unsatisfied with your treatment within the first 30 days, you're eligible for a free refund.
After all this time working at home, you’re not about to give up working with good light. This adjustable lamp works with 60 watt bulbs (try Globe smart bulbs, so you can control the brightness and color) and gives your desk a pop of mid-century modern pizzazz, to boot. Perch it alongside two plants on the Athena Plant Stand ($99) to add even more style — and so you can display some greenery — inside your office space.
Look, taking vitamins and supplements is no replacement for a nutritious diet, but we’ll take all the extra health and immunity support we can get these days. After taking a quiz about your health, you can order the right assortment of vitamins, supplements, protein powders, and collagen for you. The personalized vitamin packs and powders store nicely on your desk or kitchen counter, if you prefer to take ‘em before you leave for the day, and you can adjust your monthly routine as needed. Pass the ashwagandha for stress support and elderberry and vitamin D for immunity, please.
You didn’t think you’d make it through the list without reading about a state-of-the-art air purifier, now did you? This powerful air purifier from Levoit, America’s #1 selling air purifier brand, is our top pick thanks to its ability to capture 99.99% of bacteria and viruses, intuitive user interface, and attractive design. Bonus: It’s super quiet, so you don’t need to worry about it humming while you work.
Loop Experience, $25
If you’re going back into the office soon, you may be lamenting the end of noise-free work sessions at home. Behold: Loop Experience earplugs, which reduce noise by 20 decibels by combining an acoustic channel and filter for natural sound. The result? You can stay in the zone while you work, but still hear when someone calls your name to chat. (Humans? What are those?)
Long gone are the days of sharing pens, les sighs. Stock up on your personal stash and set the bar high with this ergonomic writing instrument (so much so, it’s been given a nod by the Arthritis Foundation for its ease-of use and a recent study conducted by Georgia Tech found it to be two times more comfortable than a standard ballpoint pen) that’s both retractable and refillable. For another option we like, try Pilot’s FriXion Clicker erasable gel ink pens ($17 for 10).
Alas, gathering around the water cooler may be a thing of the past. This 32-ounce, dishwasher-safe water bottle keeps your water cold all day thanks to double-wall insulation, so you can fill it up at home, and stay hydrated throughout the day at work. It comes with a filter to keep water tasting great, and is available in a slew of colors.
Many of us have anxiety about getting back out there. Give yourself some extra peace of mind by buying a few of these COVID-19 antigen self tests from Abbott. With results in just 15 minutes from the convenience of home, you can check your status without the time and stress involved with going to a testing site or urgent care clinic. No prescription is needed and the simple test requires a quick, shallow nasal swab.
Yogibo Max, $269
After a year-plus of getting things done from your couch or bed, surely your boss doesn’t expect you to sit in a stiff chair in a conference room, right? Flag this bean bag recliner to your office manager, so common spaces can be spruced up with a few for people to use when they need a break from being upright. We also love the YogaBo Ball Chair ($89), an ergonomic inflatable ball chair to encourage good posture, and the Traybo 2.0 ($59), a desk you can use on your lap around the office if you need a break from the ole cube.
Rocketbook: Orbit, from $40
We’ll be the first to admit we’re kinda giddy about test-driving this smart reusable legal pad. Not only does it save you from wasting paper, but the eco-friendly product lets you seamlessly send your handwritten notes to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Slack. It’s available in an “executive” and “letter” size in black, teal, stone, and midnight blue, and the top-bound, magnetic binding is a welcome feature for oft-overlooked lefties when you need to grab a different Page Pack with various planning, organizational, and open-ended templates. Each Orbit includes a lined dot-grid page pack, Pilot FriXion pen, and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
It’s normal to have anxiety about returning to the office. That’s why we’ll be sporting this scientifically-validated tech wearable that you can wear on your wrist or ankle. Using gentle vibrations, you can set the accessory for various time and intensity increments in modes like “clear and focused” and “social and open,” to help support your sense of wellbeing. At the end of the day, cue up the “relax and unwind” mode and prepare to zen out.
We’re totally going to use this all the darn time. Crafted from naturally antimicrobial 260 copper alloy, this handy gadget lets you go about daily tasks without touching high-touch surfaces directly. The Swiss Army Knife of the Covid-19 era, the carabiner is also a clean contact hook, button pusher, stylus, and bottle opener. Attach it to your key ring or backpack, or use the removable pocket clip to secure it to your pocket, so you always have it at the ready.
Yeah, that coffee cup you left on your desk a year-and-a-half ago when you thought you’d be headed home for two weeks is likely mildewed ten times over. Treat yourself to Greens Steel's new durable stainless steel coffee cup, it’s ideal for your commute and refueling sessions throughout the day thanks to its thermal insulation that keeps iced and hot drinks at their temperature longer.
OCTO Respirator Mask, $89
Many of us are on edge about taking public transportation or returning to office environments again. For an added sense of health safety, up your mask game with this respirator mask that provides bi-lateral protection (that’s said to be superior to the gold standard N95 masks), offers excellent breathability for all-day wear, and won’t fog your glasses up (hallelujah). They’re available in black, blue, and white, and you can even slap stickers or other design accessories on them to make folks smile.
DeskTime, from $95 per month
If you’re anything like us, focusing ain’t what it used to be. With many opposing forces demanding our attention in tandem during these pandemic times, staying productive can feel like an uphill battle. That’s where this handy time-tracking and productivity software comes in, allowing individuals, teams, and companies to log their work hours and measure productivity and efficiency. Now, as some return to the office or begin hybrid work models, let this software boost productivity by 30% and help you stay organized. Bring this up to your office manager or boss as a great asset for the team, or spring for the pro ($95) or premium ($124) versions if you run your own company. You can register for a free trial here.