School’s in session! Well. School at home. The pressure is on for kids to go back to campus, but with Covid spikes showing up at every university and school district dashboards around the country lighting up with cases within days of opening, it seems that there was a very good reason why we shut down schools in the spring.
So maybe that “kids don’t get Covid” trope was really more of a “we didn’t shove kids together, so they didn’t catch Covid from each other.”
School at home isn’t easy for the kids or for you. But at the very least you can make a comfortable, happy, and most of all, safe space for your kids to ease back into the school year.
Humanscale Nova Light
Good lighting is crucial to a productive workspace. The Nova light from Humanscale is an LED lamp that can dim with a touch and even turn itself off when it stops detecting motion. It’s impressively bright, so you don’t have to get additional lighting to fill a workspace. What I really like about the Nova light though is that you can customize it with a wireless charging base. The charging base comes with a Qi-enabled wireless charger built right in so you can pop your phone down and charge up while you work. The dual USB ports in the front of the base are perfect for keeping your peripherals topped off (like maybe the next entries on this list).
As I hinted above, the Nova light is fully customizable, with a number of finishes and bases to choose from. You don’t even have to get a base if you just want to clamp the Nova to the side of your workspace. The Nova light starts at $379, with the charging base it’ll set you back $499. You can find out more information or customize one yourself on the Humanscale site.
Razer Productivity Suite
The Razer Productivity Suite comes from a partnership between Razer and Humanscale. The three products in the line, the Razer Pro Click mouse, Razer Pro Type keyboard, and Razer Pro Glide mousing surface are all done up in a lovely white and aluminium color scheme and feature soft-touch surfaces for all day comfort.
The Pro Click is a soft grey and white mouse that just looks inviting (and matches perfectly with any Humanscale desk gear you already have). Grasping it feels natural (assuming you’re right-handed, sorry lefities). The mouse is tilted at a 45-degree angle and has a large swoop on the left side of the mouse for your thumb to rest on. The soft-touch materials make the Pro Click feel better than any other mouse I’ve used from Razer.
Typical for Razer, the mouse buttons are clicky and responsive (and reprogrammable via the Razer Synapse 3 app). With a 16,000 DPI optical sensor, the Pro Click is unerringly accurate. Battery-wise, you’ve got 400 hours of connectivity, so feel free to pair the Pro Click with all of your devices (you can connect and switch between four) and mouse away.
The Pro Type is a gorgeous keyboard. With crisp white keycaps, fronted by a razor-thin font, it commands attention as soon as you turn it on. The white LEDs backlight the keys and provide a brilliant ambient glow that reflects off the metal deck. It’s a stunning effect.
Those brilliant white LEDs come at a price, however. With the LEDs turned on, you’ll only get about 12 hours of battery life. Without them on, you can get around 80 hours (depending on how you’re connected). You’ll want to make sure you’re switching the keyboard off when it’s not in use and plugging it in at the end of your work day.
The Pro Type uses silent orange mechanical switches. They’re nicely tactile without being overly clicky. If you’ve ever gotten nasty looks for using a mechanical keyboard at the office, then you’ll definitely want to check the Pro Type out. The keys are rated for 80 million keystrokes…or over 4 years of constant use (assuming you bang out about 6,000 words per day, every day).
The Pro Click is $99 and the Pro Type is $139. You can pick up both on the Razer Productivity landing page.
A crucial part of the entire “learning from home” concept is where you’re sitting. Too rigid and you get sore and fidgety. Too comfortable and you’re falling asleep during lectures. Then there’s the issue that most home office chairs look like home office chairs.
Humanscale’s seating options are numerous, but I particularly like the Trea. Visually, its soft, sculptural curves compliment any space it’s in. The optional cushion comes in a wide variety of materials and colors so you can choose something that stands out or blends in to your decor.
The Trea isn’t permanently adjustable, so it doesn’t have any levers or buttons. However, there are hidden pivots in the chair that allow you to recline slightly just by leaning back. It’s just the right amount of relief for when you’ve been sitting at attention for a long period of time.
You’ll want to measure before you pick up the Trea to make sure it’s the right height for your workspace. If you need something adjustable (or in black), you might want to check out the newest work-from-home exclusive World One Task chair.
Otterbox’s latest edition to their “Anti-Yuck” collection is HomeSoap. This UV-C sanitizer is impressively large, with a 13-inch wide interior that’s big enough even for large tablets. I prefer the large cavity of the HomeSoap to smaller sanitizers because I can toss in my entire every-day-carry as soon as I walk in—wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses. They all go in. And with the unit set to automatically start its 10-minute sanitation cycle as soon as you close the door, it minimizes the amount of things you have to touch before you wash your hands (you are still washing your hands when you come home, right? Good).
Once the cycle starts, the HomeSoap blasts your gear with UV-C rays on all sides, killing 99.9% of bacteria and germs. If you prefer triggering the HomeSoap’s sanitation cycle manually, you can easily set it to do just that. The touch-sensitive “button” is flush with the unit (so there are no cracks for germs to hide) and lets you switch between automatic and manual modes. You can also end the cycle early with a tap. Opening the door will pause a cycle already in progress.
There are two USB ports built into the interior as well in case you really need to use that 10-minute cycle to charge whatever might be inside.
If you’re not ready to give up that much countertop real-estate to a sanitizer, the PhoneSoap Pro is also available. This unit is big enough to accommodate phones with chunky cases and most pocketable items. It offers the same 360-degree 99.9% sanitation of the HomeSoap.
You can pick up a HomeSoap from the Otterbox site for $199. The PhoneSoap Pro is $119.
Concentration is key when it comes to distance learning, so is being able to be heard clearly. That’s why a good pair of noise cancelling headphones should be on your must-have list. Sony’s latest, the WH-1000XM4 has the best noise detection and cancellation yet of any over-the-ear headphones I’ve tried. These add Sony’s Edge-AI that rebuilds audio that’s lost during digital compression (because you’ve got to have study music as well). It uses Sony’s proprietary QN1 processor (whose sole purpose is noise cancellation) as well as an algorithm developed to eliminate noise in real time. It’s great at blocking out conversation and background noise—perfect for when you and your virtual schooler are both on conference calls. The WH-1000XM4 is even smart enough to detect how your personal sonic profile changes when you’re wearing glasses and adjusts accordingly.
But all of the technical details fade into the background as soon as you put them on. You’ll be so focused on how insanely quiet they make everything. It’s like stepping from crowded school halls and into the library. And, if you’re actually doing that, these headphones are smart enough to detect when you’re walking , when you’re commuting, and adjusts the level of cancellation automatically. You can even use the Headphones app to have the WH-100XM4 focus on voices so that you won’t miss people trying to catch your attention. You can also pair the WH-100XM4 with multiple devices, letting you stay connected to your laptop (for Zoom calls) and your phone (for everything else). Are they expensive? Yes. Will you be happy you paid every cent? Also yes.