As a smart home reviewer, I have a lot of smart speakers and smart displays in my home. But the only one that gets a permanent spot on my desk is the Google Nest Hub (first-gen, without a camera). Ever since I got this smart display way back in 2018, it’s been a staple there thanks to its matte screen that provides glanceable info without being distracting. I use it as a clock primarily — its full-screen clock display is easy to read out of the corner of my eye when on a video call. It’s also useful as a Pomodoro-style timer — I can set a 40-minute timer with a voice command to crack on with some focused work. But perhaps my favorite feature is that I can connect it to a video doorbell, so when someone comes to the front door, I can see and talk to the visitor without having to get up from my desk. – Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, reviewer
I also love the Pomodoro method, and I sometimes even remember to use it. My office contains a dozen devices that can set a 25-minute timer, but they can also do a thousand other (distracting) things. Even Pomodoro apps do too much.
This retro-looking analog kitchen timer has lived on my desk for five years. It’s just a timer. It ticks while it’s counting and ends with a hideous mechanical ring, like the alarm clocks of yore. No bleeps, no bloops, no notifications, and no mistaking it for anything else. It’s perfect. – Nathan Edwards, senior reviews editor
I got this as a birthday present from my partner this year after several months of arguing over our sleeping arrangements. Something about me trailing the charging cables for my devices in the bed being “dangerous” and “extremely uncomfortable”… Anyway, after begrudgingly acknowledging my poor charging habits, I have to admit that having this on my desk has had benefits outside of not garroting myself mid-slumber.
My iPhone, Apple Watch, and wireless earbuds rarely run out of juice, as I no longer fall asleep before plugging them in. I’ve also taken to using the charger’s upright positioning for phones to my advantage — serving as a desk clock, a tiny display for Slack or Discord, and as a hub to remotely control the various smart devices around my home. It helps me separate the device from being my phone and instead helps me build the habit of it being another tool to boost my productivity. – Jess Weatherbed, news writer
I have been working on setting up a second desk at my home, and in the process, I now have two different desk mats that I love. Keeb-heads (keyboard enthusiasts) swear that a desk mat improves the sound of their mechanical keyboards, and while it may make some small faintly audible difference, a desk mat is just a fun way to decorate and personalize your space — and they’re cooler than just a standalone mouse pad.
Desk mats have become fairly ubiquitous, so if you’re partial to certain styles or themes (geometric, space, cute stuff, superheroes, anime, gaming, etc.), you can probably find something you like out there. Some sites and small vendors include desk mats as part of limited-run group buys, so you can get something quite unique, but there’s plenty of cool stuff on offer all the time at Amazon, Aliexpress, or sites that sell keyboard stuff. Just be aware that for every cool design there are probably just as many ultra-cringey ones — some of which venture into a weird obsession with orientalism. (Not everything needs to have katakana on it, folks!) So yeah, maybe steer clear of that, but find the right size and design for your space, preferably 3mm or thicker so it doesn’t feel cheap and thin. – Antonio G. Di Benedetto, commerce writer
Listen, I work from home, and sure, there are other benefits — no commute, for instance — but even as I am typing this, the cat has sat down in my lap, after walking back and forth behind my monitor several times. She is purring. You may think, but I am a dog person, and dogs are fine, too, but they aren’t going to get on your desk unless you screwed up somewhere. Also, in my experience, they are less likely to walk all over your keyboard and send odd Slack messages. I could tell you that pets lower blood pressure and may have other health benefits, but who cares, honestly. Get you a little buddy, and I promise it’ll make work better and funnier. – Elizabeth Lopatto, senior reporter