Work from home: Build a super-functional home office for $1,200

This article was originally published on March 16, 2020. Back then, we were just entering the pandemic and we’re saying things like “More and more companies are sending workers home, possibly for two months or more.”

Two months or more. It seems so quaint now. Here in early August, we’re immersed in a debate about whether school children are going back to physical classrooms and both presidential conventions have been cancelled (at least for most in-person activities). For those fortunate enough to both have a job and have a job that lets them work from home, we’re looking at digging into a new normal.

For those of us who have worked from home for years, even decades as I have, it’s mostly business as usual. But for those newly sent home to set up shop, it’s an uphill climb. Back in March, I put together this list of working from home resources for those with a moderate budget. 

Pandemic inflation

But here’s the thing: In March, these exact items clocked in at just about a buck over $1,000. Just four and half months later, inflation has definitely set in. These same items total $1,231 — more than a 20 percent increase! 

There were a few items that didn’t go up in price and two that actually went down by a few bucks. But then there are the items that had huge increases. You’ll see: for each item, we’ve listed both the March and August pricing. It’s not pretty, but I guess it could be worse. Or maybe it will be. We’ll come back in another few months and see whether the cost of building a home office goes up even more. Stay tuned.

Also: How to build a budget home office for under $300

In this build, we’re assuming you’re starting with a laptop and a smartphone. Beyond that, we’ve chosen items that will get you going.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn an affiliate commission from some of the products featured on this page. ZDNet and the author were not compensated for this independent review.

Running total: $12.99

prime.jpg

CNET

Amazon Prime is Amazon’s membership program. It normally costs $119 for a year (which is way worth it to many of us), but to keep within our thousand dollar budget, we’re going to recommend you sign up for just one month at $12.99. This will get you access to free shipping, and when you’re ordering expensive-to-ship items like desks and chairs, it’s a great way to save.

Also: Why Amazon is the king of innovation: Prime power

If you’re on a budget, the best way to go is sign up, order your stuff, wait for it to be delivered, then cancel your plan. That way, you won’t get dinged for another $12.99 the following month. That said, we also recommend watching some of the great video on Prime Video. Although it’s totally not historically accurate, I quite enjoyed The Aeronauts.

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Running total: $227.99

desk.jpg

Sauder
  • Price in March: $193.87
  • Price in August: $215.00

If you’re serious about working from home, I strongly recommend an L-shaped desk. This gives you ample room for two monitors, and all the other resources you’ll need to be heavily productive.

Also: Best standing desks

I’m specifically recommending this desk because it’s one of the few in this price range that doesn’t have glass surfaces. I’ve ordered glass desks before and there’s almost always been a chip or a broken piece that needed weeks for replacement. If you’re setting up an emergency home office, you don’t have weeks. I also like this because I’ve had other Sauder products, this one has a file drawer and a couple of handy shelves.

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Running total: $392.82

chair.jpg

Amazon
  • Price in March: $111.99
  • Price in August: $164.83

I’ve had this chair for a couple of years and if it survived my football player-sized body, it’ll probably work for you, too. It’s reasonably comfortable and has all the features you’d expect in an office chair.

Also: Best office chairs

I like this style because I’m a big fan of a head rest in my office chairs. I find that after hours of working, the ability to lean back and rest my head is a boon to productivity. It’s also attractive and easy enough to put together.

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Running total: $433.56

footrest.jpg

Fellowes
  • Price in March: $37.04
  • Price in August: $40.74

The last thing anyone wants to do is run to a doctor, even a chiropractor. The problem is, hours of desk sitting can be painful. One way to mitigate that pain is with a foot rest, which can help you maintain correct posture, improve circulation, and reduce back problems.

The footrest we’ve chosen is an updated version of the Fellowes foot rest that’s been in offices for years. This one is robust, has both tilt and height adjustments, and can be locked in place if that’s your preference.

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Running total: $831.55

monitor.jpg

Dell
  • Price in March: $275.98
  • Price in August: $397.99

Dell has always made excellent monitors and this is no exception. It’s a QHD (which means it supports up to 2560×1440), has excellent response time, all the ports you might need, and a very nice adjustable stand. Let’s talk about those ports for a minute. There are extra USB ports, so we’re configuring this build to use your monitor as a USB hub and docking station, thereby saving you a few bucks.

I’m only including one of these in my recommendation in order to keep you within the thousand dollar budget. But if you can afford it, I strongly recommend you get two. Dual-monitor setups will substantially increase your productivity. Here’s another option: if you want dual-monitors and you want to stay within the budget, consider my budget monitor recommendation from our budget office build. It’s only a 24-inch 1080p TV, but it will do the job — and at $85, you can buy two and still have some budget to spare.

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Running total: $931.54

keyboard.jpg

Logitech
  • No increase from March to August!

I’ve long been a happy user of Logitech keyboards and have them scattered among the six computers I use on a daily basis. One of the most valuable features of this keyboard (and the ones I have here at my home office) is the ability to switch between different machines. This allows you to have multiple machines and use only one keyboard and mouse (the mouse I’m about to recommend also supports multiple machines).

This particular keyboard is illuminated, has a full numerical keypad, and is labeled so it’s fully functional whether you’re a Windows, Linux, or Mac user.

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Running total: $991.53

mouse.jpg

Logitech
  • No price increase March to August

We’re dipping back into the Logitech well for our mouse recommendation. I have a bunch of the previous MX Anywhere mice (I’m using one right now) and they’re great. This MX Anywhere mouse also works with multiple machines, so you can jump between boxes whenever you wish.

One of the reason I’m recommending them is you can use one Logitech Unifying receiver with both this mouse and the keyboard I previously recommended. While both support Bluetooth, I’ve occasionally run into trouble with Bluetooth input devices and the Unifying receiver has always been problem-free.

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Running total: $1,008.52

speakers.jpg

Amazon
  • Price in March: $17.67
  • Price in August: $16.99 – DECREASE!

The Dell monitor we recommended earlier is great, but it doesn’t have speakers. We’re assuming you’re setting up an office to get work done, and not to play Triple-A games or blast out entertainment. So we decided to save you a little money and recommend this nice little pair of affordable AmazonBasics speakers.

They won’t win any awards for sound, but you’ll be able to hear YouTube videos and webcasts clearly. And if you’re at work, that’s pretty much all you need. They’re USB-powered, so just plug them into the back of your monitor in dock mode, and you’re good to go.

Another option is use an Amazon Alexa device as your speakers. You can pair an Echo Dot with your computer via Bluetooth, or an Echo or Echo Studio using 3.5 mm cable.

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Running total: $1,071.02

ups.jpg

APC
  • Price in March: $59.99
  • Price in August: $62.50

True story: these devices saved me thousands of dollars when I lived in hurricane country back in Florida. We had some really terrible power fluctuations and they gave their lives so my expensive computer hardware could live.

I used this exact model as well as its slightly beefier 850VA big brother. Let’s be clear. You must have a UPS attached to your computer and monitor. It’s not a matter of if a power surge or fluctuation will wreak havoc, it’s a matter of when. I’ve been there. It happens.

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Running total: $1,200.91

printer.jpg

HP
  • Price in March: $99.89
  • Price in August: $129.89

I’ve talked about this before in my budget home office setup article. When you need a printer for work, you’re going to need a printer for work right now. The same applies to copying and scanning. You might go months without a critical need to scan something in, and then suddenly, you sure as heck do.

My recommendation for the small home office is this nice little powerhouse. It’s not a super-fast machine, but it’s not all that slow either. It will print color and black and white. It will scan, copy, and print. Not only that, when your ink runs low, the automatic Dash Replenishment service will send you ink before you even know you’re out.

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Running total: $1,231.35

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3M
  • Price in March: $32.05
  • Price in August: $30.44 – DECREASE!

These ear muffs pop the top of our thousand dollar budget by a little over a buck. It’s worth it. This is the set of ear muffs I have and they are incredibly useful. I use them when the laser cutter is operating and when I’m operating power tools. But that’s not why I recommend them.

When you work at home, unexpected things happen and uncontrollable events occur. If you’re on a deadline and the house is filled with noise (and trust me, this will happen whether you want it to or not), having a pair of ear muffs like these can save your deadline. There are cheaper models, but these have been battle-tested in my life, and I can recommend them solidly.

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There’s a lot of additional gear you might want, especially if you want to do video conferencing from your home office. That gear didn’t fit into our budget, but we’ll be back with more extensive home office options and some specialized gear builds for specialized projects.

In the meantime, stay safe. We’re all a bit freaked out about COVID-19, but I’ve been impressed by how many people are not only just taking this seriously, but taking the steps necessary to stay safe.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR HOME OFFICE

So there you go. These items will get you up and running quickly and keep you on a $1,000 budget. Once you get settled, tell us how you set up your space. Feel free to share any ideas, comments, and suggestions in the comments below.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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