Recently I refurnished my office with a new desk, office chair, sofa, bookcase and filing cabinet. While I also have a home office, I do 99% of my work in my small leased office (in an office sharing environment).
I didn’t stop there. I added a third monitor to my computer set up. Added some monitor stands for proper body alignment.
I then stocked up on sorely needed office supplies.
I also bought some better multi-media gadgets such as a professional mic and webcam.
Below I set out a checklist of the different types of office equipment you need or can get to outfit a fantastic office, whether in your home or in a commercial space.
Table of Contents
- A. Computer Technology
- B. Computer Accessories
- C. Business Machine
- D. Office Furniture
- E. Telephone
- F. Shredder
- G. Stationary
- H. Label printer
- I. Office Supplies
- J. Whiteboard
- K. Get-you-through-the-day stuff
- L. Obsolete Office Equipment
A. Computer Technology
If you could only get one item for an office, it would have to be a computer. It’s the heart of every office these days. You could literally run million-dollar businesses with a laptop. I exaggerate, but the point is, you will need a computer.
1. Multiple monitors
Multiple monitors is the most important item and suggestion in this list. If you don’t work with multiple monitors, you’re missing out on huge time-savings and getting way more done faster. When I ran a brick and mortar business, I bought every employee a second monitor because I knew they could get so much more done faster. I still can’t believe that most businesses don’t outfit all their employees with at least two monitors?
That said, there are definitely diminishing returns with three monitors. I use three and I like it but the improvements are nothing like going from one to two monitors. It also depends on your set up. If your main computer is a laptop, which is a small screen, then two additional larger monitors are well worth it.
2. Desktop computer
Most businesses still use a desktop computer. Some outfit employees with laptops, but desktop reigns supreme in the business world. The reason is that they cost less for the computing power.
I run my entire business on a laptop. I like it because I can take it everywhere I go (and I do – back and forth to my office and home). Any smallish biz can easily be run with a laptop. That said, I’m seriously considering getting a Mac desktop. I used to work at home but these days I pretty much only work in my office and I would like the additional computing power and larger screen.
Laptops are also ideal for anyone who travels for work frequently. Since it’s easy linking up any computer to a network, there’s no reason employees need to head out without a computer to meet with clients, vendors, suppliers, etc.
Tablets aren’t good for working. They’re fabulous for reading on the Web, watching streaming services, reading ebooks, sending emails in a pinch, playing games but not great for getting any real work done. I suppose a Microsoft Surface with a proper keyboard or iPad with keyboard could be okay, but it’s still small and lacks any real computing power.
5. Mobile Phone
Like a tablet, a mobile phone is not a good computer for working. It’s great, however, for communications and so it’s a vital piece of office equipment.
B. Computer Accessories
1. Monitor stand
I’m big on proper working body alignment. I’m tall (6′ 3″) and so I need my monitors slightly elevated so that I can look straight ahead instead of angling downward which can result in tech-neck.
Not everyone needs a monitor stand. Moreover, some monitors come with a stand that elevates them slightly. My suggestion is to try the monitor as-is and if you notice you have to look slightly downward, buy a stand. I bought the following inexpensive, but stylish stands from Amazon:
2. Laptop stand
I use a laptop to power everything and while I don’t use the laptop monitor much, I do sometimes and so I like it elevated. For that reason, I have a dedicated laptop stand which is as follows:
The mouse is a must-have computer accessory. While touchscreens are great and all, they simply are not as efficient as a mouse.
Most computers come with a keyboard, but IMO it’s good to have a great keyboard. I like the Mac keyboard with it’s flat keys. I loathe the clunky, thick keys that make up so many keyboards.
Many computers come with a built-in webcam and it’s decent enough but if you want something better, you need to buy a separate webcam. For another website I create screenshare video tutorials and so I wanted a better webcam for better video. I opted for the Logitech C922 (I’m very happy with it) which is as follows:
While many computers come with a built-in mic, the sound isn’t great. If you do any audio recording, you’ll want a good mic. You can get a headset USB mic or something more professional. I have a Logitech USB headset with mic as well as a Yeti Blue mic.
It’s probably not the best idea to try and run your internet piggybacking off some free Wifi somewhere. Instead, get your own dedicated Wifi network with router and ensure it’s properly secure. If you have several people working in your office, it’s a good idea to hire a tech person to network it together for you. I’m in an office sharing environment and my landlord employs a tech guy to handle all the networking.
C. Business Machine
One avenue is to invest in three-in-one business machine that prints, photocopies and scans. These are large and expensive. If you pump out any real document volume, this is a must-have piece of office equipment. My office (shared office arrangement) has this and while I don’t pump out much paperwork, when I do, it’s a great machine.
However, if you don’t do much printing, scanning and/or photocopying, buying lower-priced individual options are good.
I’ve bought all kinds of printers over the years, but the best one is a basic $200 laser printer that doesn’t print color. It’s a workhorse. We’ve had our current one for years and it works great. In fact, most offices with a business machine should have one of these in the event the main printer breaks down.
Scanning is pretty much a necessary task these days as many businesses digitize everything and so you want some form of a scanner in your office. If you seldom scan, you can get by running over to Staples and have them do it for you, but you’ll tire of this pretty fast.
Scanners range in price – it boils down to how much you do. If you do it daily and scan large documents, you want a high-speed scanner. If you do one-off docs here and there, a simple, low-cost scanner will do the job.
Small individual photocopiers, in my experience, aren’t very good but they can do the job. If you photocopy in any volume, it’s worth investing in a large upright business machine.
D. Office Furniture
Unless it’s you and a laptop, you need some furniture. The bare minimum you should have is a desk with chair. Of course, there is much more you can buy. Here’s a list of considerations:
There are so many types of desks you can choose from. I like large desk surfaces to accommodate multiple monitors. You can choose from tiny single-computer desks to huge office furniture systems. Also see our anatomy of a desk illustrations here.
I spent the most money on my office chair because I want to be comfortable and sit ergonomically. I opted for the Herman Miller Aeron chair, but there are many other office chair options. I admit that the Herman Miller chair isn’t the prettiest, but in this case I opted for form over function.
3. Filing cabinet(s)
While I don’t have a lot to file, I do have accounting and legal documents that I need to hold on to for a few years so I bought a small filing cabinet. Some businesses need rows and rows of filing cabinets while some, like mine, can get away with a single, small two-drawer option. Learn about office storage options here.
While not necessary, it can spruce up your office and offers a place to store things like books (go figure). I have a nice floor-to-ceiling bookcase from Structube.
Also not a necessity, but if you have the space and money, it’s a great addition to any office. I’ve long wanted a small sofa and finally got it.
6. Meeting table and chairs
If you meet with clients in your office, it’s hard to do so at desks with computers these days so having a small side table with chairs can be a great addition.
If you’re in a position to choose ceiling lighting, my preference is dimmable recessed lighting.
If you do any sort of multi-media, you will want a lighting kit.
8. Wall Art
While we work hard in offices, there’s no reason you can’t dress it up with some wall art such as canvas wall art. It’s nice to work in a nice environment. I bought a large map for the wall. You can also add plants, side tables, a rug – pretty much anything that spruces up a home can be incorporated into an office.
If you entertain clients, it might be worth going circa Mad Men and putting in a minibar loaded with all the goodies such as scotch, vodka, rum, etc. Some wine and beer can be a nice touch. While drinking in the office is not really done anymore, it’s not totally taboo.
I have a telephone that came with my office lease, but it’s not hooked up. I run my biz with my mobile phone. But then I don’t get many calls. I don’t have employees in my office (they work remotely). Therefore I don’t require a landline phone.
However, if you run a business that fields many calls, a landline is a must. Mobile phones are great, but the sound still isn’t as good, crisp or consistent as a landline. Moreover, with today’s landline phones, you can get some sophisticated options with multiple lines, speakerphones, etc.
I don’t have a shredder because I use a service once a year. More and more businesses are opting to use a shredding service a few times each year instead of shredding their own documents. Shredding is time-consuming and if you have a lot of shredding to do, a small unit isn’t up to the task. The commercial shredders can motor through mountains of paper quickly and they recycle it properly.
The only downside to using a shredding service is you have to store your documents until they show up. If you’re a paper-intensive business, you end up paying for storage space which can get costly (or it’s a hassle moving it all to cheaper storage spaces such as a storage locker).
If, however, you don’t shred much but need to do so once in a while, a small office shredder will do the job. Many home offices can get by with this.
Yup, I still have a stack of legal pads in my office. Sometimes, I find it helpful to make notes with pen and paper. I also have a box of envelopes for the rare instances where I must mail something. Many businesses such as law firms, banks, insurance companies, financial business send out snail mail to customers and clients. In this case, you need proper letterhead and envelopes.
If you print, you should buy two to three feet of printer paper.
2. Envelopes and/or shipping boxes
If you send out snail mail and/or ship stuff, have a variety of envelopes on hand as well as boxes for shipping. Packing material can come in handy as well when you need to send out some delicate item like a Fabergé egg.
If you have employees, it’s a good idea to outfit them with notepads for taking phone messages or scribbling down notes. I always have a notepad next to me just in case I need to jot something down. It’s old school but handy.
4. Business cards
I’m embarrassed to say, but I don’t yet have business cards yet have been in business for 7 years. I don’t really need them, but most businesses do.
5. Stamps (or postage machine)
If you mail the odd letter, a roll of stamps will do. If you send out stacks of mail daily, get a postage machine that you can load up with funds as needed.
If you send out snail mail regularly, it’s handy to have a scale to weigh correspondence so you know exactly how much postage to apply.
H. Label printer
If you do send out snail mail daily, it’s worth investing in a label printer which makes it easier to print envelopes. While most photocopiers can be configured to print on envelopes, you might find it easier and faster to print on labels.
I. Office Supplies
When I recently refurnished my office, I loaded up on office supplies. There are all kinds of goodies you can buy to outfit your desk with. Take a stroll in the aisles of Staples and before you know it, you’ll have armfuls of supplies you think you might need. I’m a bit of an office supply junkie.
1. Pens and pencils
I don’t use pens much but do once in a while and when needed, I like good pens. I love the uni-ball pens.
2. Stapler, paperclips and other clips
While I don’t have too much paper, the little bit I get I like to organize with clips and paperclips. It makes life a lot easier and helps avoid losing important documents. Every office needs a basket of items to clip
Scissors are a must-have office supply, more for opening boxes than anything else. I loathe trying to open boxes sealed with tape.
4. Three-hole punch
If you use binders for storing docs, you definitely want a good 3-hole punch.
I always have a pack or two of AA batteries for various office equipment like my mouse. There’s nothing worse than having your mouse battery die and having no batteries on hand.
Fortunately, I have no need for binders, but many businesses still organize and store documents in binders. If this is the case, it’s good to have some binder inventory on hand.
Tape is probably not something you’ll need regularly, but when needed, it’s nice to have.
8. Paper trays
People love organization knick knacks and that’s where paper trays can come in. You know what I’m talking about – the infamous in and out trays which over time become a massive stack of random paperwork.
I bought a whiteboard and mounted it on the wall because I find it helpful for sketching to-do lists and other things on it that I can see quickly at a glance. There’s a guy next to me with a huge 5′ x 3′ whiteboard on his wall loaded with all kinds of lists.
The whiteboard can be a very handy item in an office. Try it, you’ll like it.
K. Get-you-through-the-day stuff
1. Coffee maker
I’m fortunate in that our office sharing space includes free coffee with a coffee maker (that I don’t have to deal with) but if you aren’t so lucky, save loads of money from buying $5 Starbucks drinks and buy a small coffee maker.
2. Mug and coaster
Obviously you need something to drink your hot drinks with, so go buy a fun mug with coaster.
3. Music with headphones
I have an Apple Music subscription which is simply awesome for listening to tunes at work. Apple Podcasts are another good option. If you work in an office with other people, you probably want headphones so you don’t annoy them with your Metallica.
Most of my bookcase is dedicated to displaying artwork from my young boys. It reminds me of them and nicely spruces up the place. Photos of family and friends is another great option just to give you a nice reminder of loved ones while slaving away in the salt mines.
Again, my office sharing space includes a kitchen with fridge. If your office doesn’t have a fridge, it can be useful to get a mini-fridge for storing beverages and lunch (last night’s meatloaf).
L. Obsolete Office Equipment
You might have some of the following, but generally the following were once-upon-a-time necessities that have been replaced with new tech.
Actually, there’s a resurgence in typewriters, but that’s more for writers than offices.
Actually, we have a physical paper calendar at home where we schedule everything but for work I use a Google calendar. I think most offices rely on digital calendars that can be shared, integrated with mobile devices, send out reminders and basically do so much more than the old-school paper calendar.
3. Fax machine
I liken the fax machine to DVDs. It was a temporary tool that bridged old tech to today’s tech. The fax machine bridged snail mail to email. DVDs bridged VHS to streaming.
Pretty much every mobile device has a calculator. Google “calculator” and one magically shows up. We have calculators at our immediate disposal so cluttering up your office with one isn’t necessary.
40 years ago, ashtrays were commonplace in offices just like the Mad Men ad agency. These days, it’s illegal to smoke in offices so the ubiquitous ashtray is history.
6. Other possible obsolete office stuff
Actually, much of what I set out could be obsolete and is in many offices. As some offices go paperless, anything to do with paper (printer, filing cabinets, binders, etc.) are obsolete. That said, the paperless office never really materialized to the degree it was suggested it would before computers reached critical mass.