After working from home for more than a year, we’ve gotten used to the absence of water-cooler gossip and desk lunches. Zoom calls are second nature now, and we’ve become masters of juggling work with kid (or cat) feedings, laundry, and cooking. Do we even know how to “office” anymore?
With—whisper it—light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we’re looking forward to a new era of working, one that might no longer involve daily commutes. As many companies pledge to continue their remote-work policies even after the pandemic is over, a number of destinations have also expanded their visa requirements, making it easier for people to move and work abroad. Swapping the kitchen table for a co-working desk in Bermuda or that faux-beachy Zoom backdrop for Hawaii’s palm trees is a real possibility.
Until then, there’s plenty of time to start preparing your remote-office kit with lightweight, multi-purpose tools and gadgets that will help you work smarter, not harder. And who’d be better suited to share gear recommendations than those walking the work-from-anywhere walk? We asked nine established digital nomads from London to Taiwan about their remote working must-haves.
1. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Buy now: $279, bose.com; amazon.com
The buzz of cafés and coworking spaces can be a pleasant ambient soundtrack, but sometimes deep focus requires absolute silence. The noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds by Bose can block out most surrounding noise while delivering crystal-clear sound quality, all in a small, weather-resistant gadget. For Alice Stenett, working remotely from the Maldives, they’re a travel essential. “They have an adjustable transparency setting, so I can easily choose when I want to tune out a bit more,” she says. “They’re most useful when I’m taking calls. I never have to ask anyone to repeat themselves while I sound like I’m working somewhere really quiet.”
>> Find more noise-canceling headphones recommendations from AFAR editors
2. Moft Laptop Stand
Buy now: $25, moft.us; amazon.com
The downside of working long days on a laptop? Neck pain and a hunched back. The solution? A laptop stand. The Moft Laptop Stand is an essential piece of Hong Kong–based hotel marketer Alistair Browne’s remote office kit. This foldable, barely-there stand sticks to the back of most laptops and can be used in two ergonomically friendly positions. “I’ve tried a few other versions, but none were quite as well-executed as the Moft,” he says. “If you want to slip your laptop in a slim sleeve or your backpack compartment but also want the practicality of an elevated screen, this is the best choice out there.” Added bonus: extra ventilation, especially useful when working in hot climates.
3. Google Fi
Buy now: From $16 for monthly plans, fi.google.com; amazon.com
Reliable internet is the lifeline of any remote worker, but when “remote” is really remote, it isn’t always a given. Cue the Google Fi sim card, compatible with a range of smartphones (including the Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, and iPhone), which can connect to networks in more than 200 countries, offers free international texting and—depending on your plan—up to 22 GB of data. “Just grabbing a local sim card at the airport has become increasingly more difficult with ID registration requirements,” says Mike Swigunski, who has worked from more than 85 countries since 2011 and wrote the Global Career Book. “Google Fi has been a game-changer. It works on multiple networks and automatically switches to the strongest one. I can also create a hot spot for my laptop, so I can truly work from anywhere.”
4. Aer City Sling
Buy now: $75, aersf.com; nordstrom.com
Durable, compact, and way cooler than a fanny pack, the City Sling bag by Aer comes in handy for days when you don’t need your bulky electronics. “It’s perfect for the times I’m moving around without my laptop,” says Amar Ghose, the globe-trotting CEO of ZenMaid who’s currently based on Koh Phangan in Thailand. “I take it to the gym, to lunch, and on day trips to carry my everyday essentials: mosquito spray, a backup set of headphones, and some extra cash that I can tuck away in its hidden pockets.”
5. Microsoft Modern Mobile Mouse
Buy now: $35, microsoft.com; amazon.com
Most laptops have a built-in trackpad, but for some tasks, that just won’t cut it. This is when a wireless mouse is useful. Chris Osborne, tech startup founder and long-time nomad, swears by his Microsoft Mobile Mouse, which connects via Bluetooth. “I’ve been using them for over a decade—I’m now on my second one,” he says. “They’re small, yet feel comfortable in my hand and have a high-quality finish. I prefer to use a mouse over a trackpad for speed. I’m able to complete tasks, especially those involving design or spreadsheets, so much faster.”
6. Moment Phone Lenses
Buy now: From $40, shopmoment.com; amazon.com
Smartphone cameras have gotten so advanced that professional content creators no longer have to rely on bulky camera systems. With Moment’s snap-on phone lenses, smartphones can (almost) rival the capabilities of traditional cameras. From wide-angle to macro for up-close photography, these lenses with cinema-quality glass deliver a full spectrum of focal lengths at a fraction of the size (and cost) of DSLR lenses. Grace Ban, a social media consultant based in Taiwan, uses them to shoot social content for clients around the globe. “Most people assume I shoot with a DSLR camera,” she says. “These lenses are easy to carry around at all times. You never know what you’ll want to capture, so it’s good to have them handy.”
7. Google Chromecast
Buy now: $30, store.google.com; bhphotovideo.com
“After a day of working from our 13-inch laptops, my boyfriend and I love to watch TV and movies on a bigger screen,” says Katie Lockhart, a nomadic travel and food journalist and copywriter, now traveling around Sri Lanka. With the nifty Google Chromecast, she can stream Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu from her phone or laptop onto her hotel’s TV. “It lets us stream anything to any screen with an HDMI port, no matter the hotel or villa we’re staying at. It’s also super small and lightweight, so it’s easy to pack and doesn’t add too much weight to our baggage total.”
8. Amazon Basics Packing Cubes
Buy now: $23 for a four-piece set, amazon.com
Keeping a year’s worth of clothes and mobile office gear organized in a single suitcase or backpack is challenging, but packing cubes can offer a bit of structure. Boaz Sasson, a traveling SEO consultant from Israel, tried rolling, folding, and stuffing clothes in his backpack, but through trial and error found Amazon’s packing cubes the most efficient. “The sizes are perfect, with a large cube for T-shirts and pants and a small cube for socks and underwear,” he says. “Even after five years, they still look and feel new. I’ve tried Eagle Creek cubes as well, but the size and shape are not as efficient—they feel over-engineered compared to the Amazon ones.”
9. Fosmon Digital Luggage Scale
Buy now: $8 (was $10), amazon.com
For nomads on the move, a souvenir here and a new T-shirt there can spike your luggage weight quickly, often leading to unwelcome surprises at the airport baggage scale. Stay one step ahead with a digital luggage scale, a little doodad to weigh your bags before you take off. “I no longer get charged outrageously expensive overweight fees at the airport,” says Taliya Maya, a Bali-based show producer and travel planner for Passport Heavy. “This scale is super tiny and affordable, and allows me to make sure I don’t overpack and over-shop during my travels—saving me tons of stress and money.”
>> Next: How to Travel While Doing Remote Work and Distance Learning
Chris Schalkx Chris Schalkx is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand.