I love my job (which is running a translation business, in case you're wondering) and being able to take it on the road, and I'm sure you do too. But I also know the struggle of sitting in the wrong position for hours, and maybe ending up with a back ache for the rest of the week.
I've just been on a quest to make my – and your – temporary and travel offices as ergonomic as possible, taking into account the fact that we can only put so much stuff into our bags. Turns out there are some amazing tools we can use to create a great workspace wherever we go.
Check what tools have made it to my top 5 office essentials!
Portable Laptop Stand
This really does make a difference! When you work with your laptop, obviously you need to look at the screen. The screen is usually a few too many inches below your natural eye level. This inevitably results in bad posture and, eventually, back and neck aches of all sorts.
I was already using a few different stands for my work-from-home sessions, but ultimately they were too bulky and heavy. I was also frustrated by some of these stands heights, as they didn't really match my eye level.
Last month, while preparing to set off on a trip to Greece (YASSOO to all our Greek peeps!), I started skimming through the gazillion stands available online... when I finally found the Holy Grail:
(Sorry... not a photographer 🤐)
Yes! It's ultra-portable, foldable, travel-friendly, very sturdy, can be adjusted at your preferred height (so you can work, use your tablet or read your favorite book) and takes up a very tiny spot in your bag. BOOM!
(For the record, I also tried this super cheap one. While it looks nice, and in spite of the good rating, in practice it's way too lose and there is no way to hold its legs or block it in a certain position, so it ends up being quite unstable and uncomfortable to work with.)
OK, this might be sort of obvious to a lot of people, but up until recently I've been working with my MacBook Air 13" trackpad only and could've done with a little extra speed and comfort.
If you need to click a thousand times as part of your daily routine, it's a game changer!
I wanted something wireless, portable, light, that wouldn't take up too much space in my laptop travel bag. I just happened to buy one when I was running some errands at a mall, but there are plenty of options online and most of them are ultra-cheap, whilst still of good quality.
Mine is actually pretty cool, as it doesn't come with that little USB thing that will occupy one of the few USB ports on my MacBook!
I haven't tried any of these, but you can definitely make an educated choice by filtering through your own requirements and checking users' ratings: check this list if you're from Europe, and this list if you're overseas (Amazon).
This is where you really get me raving! When I got my laptop stand I shared a picture on Facebook, and some friends told me I'd better get a keyboard or my wrists would be gone in no time.
Damn, how do I fit a keyboard in my travel bag?
The quest begins. My requirements, as you've by now guessed, are: portable, foldable, high-quality, reactive, light-weight, of proper size (= similar to my MacBook Air 13" keyboard size) and – since I'm Italian – with an Italian layout.
After hours and hours of skimming through the options available, this came out as the absolute winner:
I have had it for a couple days now and am just in LOVE with it. It's feather-light, can be folded in 3 parts, very reactive, keys have a nice feel to it (almost like my Mac keyboard) and not 'silicon like' (as opposed to most other foldable models I've run into).
You need to get used to the keys as some of them are slightly different, but that's a very easy process, and they are perfectly integrated with my Mac keyboard anyway. You can easily lower and increase the volume on your laptop or take a screenshot just like you would do on your machine's keyboard. It's backlit (3 colors and 2 intensity levels available) and just performs perfectly under every aspect.
You can tell its manufacturing process is of very high standards. Oh, and it's Bluetooth, which means you can use it with your phone! Raise your hands if you HATE writing emails from your smartphone ☝️☝️☝️☝️☝️
I'm 300% happy with this product! I bought mine from Amazon Italy (received it in 2 days), but the manufacturer is based in the US, so you can find the same model with a UK or US layout.
To be honest, I've never really thought about this and was happy with those iPhone earbuds, which kept getting entangled any time I'd put them away in my bag.
Then, one day, one of my fantastic translation clients sent me a freebie – their Method Wireless earbuds. I've been hooked ever since!
I've been using them for several months now and totally recommend them (I swear I'm not being paid to write this review 😅). They're ultra-light – in fact, sometimes I even forget I'm wearing them!
Super comfortable on the neck, the audio is of exceptional quality, basses are clear and powerful, noise isolating fit, and once you wear these, any other earbuds will feel uncomfortable in your ears. You can wear them for HOURS on end and they won't hurt. They're sweat-proof, too.
The battery lasts up to 9 hours and they charge quite fast. The Bluetooth range is up to 3 meters (10 feet), so you can finally get up and stretch or go grab a glass of water during your 2-hour long Skype call.
They're equipped with 3 buttons that let you pause/play tracks or take/receive calls, skip forward or go back to the previous track.
Also, you can easily dictate text on your computer without having to touch your keyboard WHILE you stand, sit down, work out or do whatever the heck you want.
All of this, at a very reasonable price! I wouldn't be able to work without them any longer.
This is the version I got – well, I love blue, what can I say – but you can check out the other colors available on Amazon.
Laptop Case & Keyboard Protection
I have a tendency to break my stuff. Yup, you read it right. If you also travel a lot, you know how important it is to keep your baby (aka laptop) safe at all costs (and prevent any liquids to get into it, like it happened to my brand new MacBook 2 months into my travels a few years ago... it still hurts 💔)
So my priority was to find the perfect case and keyboard protection. After skimming through the 1000s of options available, I found this and ordered one for myself (UK layout, but it's OK with me):
I love blue... you've been warned! But if you want different colors, you can check these out.
Arrived within a couple of days, it's PERFECT, very sturdy, and protects my baby–I mean, my Mac from all scratches and other nasty things. The keyboard protection isn't annoying too work with (some of these are just too 'silincony', which is why I also have a transparent and a black one that never make it out of the drawer).
When All's Said And Done...
Yes, these tools will make your laptop bag slightly heavier, but your laptop is your office and you'd better try to preserve it (and your own body)! I know it first hand – long gone are the days I was happy with my little, crappy laptop (although the office was pretty sweet).
Somewhere in Thailand
Now I know how important it is to create an ergonomic space, and a work environment that makes you as productive as possible, so you can focus on all the things you love in your life!
If you want to see more, browse through our TOOLS section, where we gathered much more useful stuff for you to travel and work in comfort and style. Stay tuned – I'll be reviewing 5 really cool gadgets in my next blog post!