"Back" To "School"

Work Essentials To Help Navigate Every Confusing New Hybrid Setup

Illustration by Genie Espinosa
The time, it seems, has finally come for the big commute back to the least for some of us...and only on some days...maybe...? While each employee's return to in-person work is different, it's fair to say that the post-pandemic professional world will look and feel unfamiliar to us all in more ways than one — especially since we're not exactly post anything at the moment. Whether you're staying put on the sofa for the foreseeable future, navigating a new mix of onsite and remote life, or have plans to leave your home office for good, we're here to suggest a few work essentials that will help you make the most sense out of every confusing hybrid-work setup.
Broken down into the four common levels of "in-person-ness" you'll experience this fall, our guide includes products that best serve each of those work designations — from fully remote to fully onsite and everything in between. It's a lot to keep track of, which is why we've kept our recommendations streamlined to just two goods for each category. Whether it's the best home-office investment (a very good desk chair), the most portable workstation gear for your hot desk (a folding Bluetooth keyboard), the savviest commuter accessory (a roomy bag), or the shared-space necessity (a breathable face mask and sanitizer set), the work essentials below are here to support you and your health.
The pandemic is still ongoing, and our understanding of the best safety practices is continuing to evolve. For the latest recommendations and guidelines, we suggest visiting COVID-related resources provided by your local health department, the WHO, and the CDC, and staying up-to-date about your rights in the workplace. For more news about COVID and how it affects our lives, check out Refinery29's reporting on the pandemic here.

Fully Remote Work Essentials

Home Office Chair

The home office chair has definitely had a moment over the past year and a half. It's even become somewhat of a household staple for employees who have settled into working from home for the long haul. If that's you, it's past time to upgrade your workspace with a stand-out swivel seat that's easy on the eyes and on the back. We've even found some that are easy on the wallet too.


Trust us when we tell you that if you don't have one already, a good monitor can completely transform your current WFH setup. Laptops don't usually offer lots of display space, so adding a second screen can let you stretch out, digitally, which can be a stress reliever. Plus, your back and neck will thank you now that you're no longer hunched over. Many laptops already have a built-in port designed to hook you up to an extra monitor, making this a pretty hassle-free upgrade, and we've even found some top-rated styles starting at around $100.

Mostly Remote Work Essentials

Lumbar-Support Pillow

Since you'll still be spending most of your time working out of that all-too-familiar home office situation, you should be thinking about how to amp up your back support. Opt for a lumbar pillow that can be easily attached and removed from your seat so you don't have to sacrifice the support on days you have to show up to the office IRL.

Standing Desk Converter

If there's anything those ample hours in our makeshift office spaces have taught us, it's that standing desk converters are at-home all-stars. The compact and convertible units elevate a wide range of surfaces (think dinner tables, dressers, countertops, coffee tables, and more) and can be stowed away on the days you're in the office. This way, you can ensure your house still feels like an actual home when you're off the clock.

Mostly Onsite Work Essentials

Folding Keyboard

For those who will be back to the office for the majority of the week, may we suggest a BYOK (Bring Your Own Keyboard) arrangement? The only fingers and germs you have to worry about coming into contact with are your own. The foldable options below don't take up a lot of room on your desk or in your bag, and they can connect to computers, tablets, or even mobile phones.

Commuter Bag

Going back to work means getting back into the groove of that AM/PM commute. Whether this will require you to dust off your MetroCard, your bike, or your commuter shoes, be sure to gear up with the right tote, messenger bag, or backpack to comfortably fit and transport your IRL office essentials.

Fully Onsite Work Essentials

Breathable Face Masks

While guidance on indoor mask-wearing continues to changes along with the ever-evolving Covid situation in this country, be prepared to keep yourself and others safe in the office by stocking up on the best breathable options for all-day wear.

Sanitizing Wipes

For the full-time office goers among us, keep your stuff and your surroundings as clean as possible by coming prepared with a bounty of handy sanitizing wipes. Nothing says "it's good to be back!" like an ample supply of cleaning essentials for you and for whichever colleagues might be in need. So stuff your backpack or laptop bag with individually wrapped antibacterial wipes and/or keep a bigger pack at your office. They'll thank you for it later.
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