The popularisation of working from home has been an unexpected side effect of COVID-19 and meant a flurry of activity last year as we all bought office chairs, printers and motivational posters to adorn our kitchens and living rooms. Entering 2021, however, many Kiwis decided that they weren’t through with working from home and that one or two or five days a week could be spent in the home office. This is the guide for you.
We’re going to run through four of our most popular working from home accessories from 2020 and 2021, excellent for upgrading your home office or making you just that bit more productive as a student. And remember, for advice on acceptable tax deductions, see the IRDs working from home guide. (Note: Earjobs can do many things for you, but we can’t provide tax advice — sorry!)
There’s nothing worse than the back and forth exchange of “Can you hear me now?” that greets every conference call or Zoom meeting. It’s true too that the built-in microphones on our laptops and desktops can sometimes leave us sounding tinny (or interrupted by the traffic next door). A simple set of ear phones with a built-in in-line mic allow for clear and professional sounding audio every time, allowing you to spend less time troubleshooting and more charming your clients. This is where the Plugfones Guardian Plus comes in. It’s a great solution for home offices, with further application when gaming, using dictation software or just skyping friends.
Both the audio input and output come through the attached 3.5mm jack. It plugs right into the headphone jack of your desktop and laptop allowing you to quickly talk and hear without having to disconnect your existing speakers or audio devices. The Guardian Plus is super light and comfortable, with noise cancelling foam or silicone ear tips that insulate you for clear listening every time.
As an added bonus, the Plugfones Guardian Plus is an audio solution with hearing protection for riding a motorbike, using power tools, or any other situation where loud noises are expected. The foam tips are rated to 29 NRR, while the silicone protect to 27 NRR, allowing high levels of hearing protection while still respecting your comfort and material preferences. A rugged control panel on the cord allows you to pause, play, and skip during music listening too — great for controlling your music while multitasking.
Too often, we find ourselves working in noisy environments and resort to loud music to drown it out. While this might seem like a solution in the short term, studies indicate that listening to music decreases your concentration and that listening to music too many hours a week can cause irreparable hearing damage. While there’s nothing wrong with music, it can’t be the only solution in your toolbox.
A set of medium strength high-fidelity ear plugs is a great alternative, providing the same benefits in terms of dampening noisy working environments, without causing damage to your ears. The MusicMate Pro is a medium strength plug, blocking out about 23 decibels of sound when properly fitted. This is generally sufficient for blocking noisy neighbours, street noise, or anything else that can make your home office a nightmare of disruption.
With a narrower tip than the original MusicMate, the newly designed pro model is maximally ergonomic for a comfortable and secure fit for all ear types. Once in place, it stays secure for longer, allowing you to work without any irritating slips. They’re soft and flexible and made with a clear body, designed for super subtle wear — nobody will notice you’ve got them in!
The MusicMate Pro is made of a hypoallergenic silicone, can be wiped clean with a damp cloth, and comes with a secure keyring case, great for portability if you’re working from a cafe, library or co-working space.
White noise machines are becoming more and more popular as an ambient solution for disruptive environmental noise. Similar in principle to listening to rain sounds on YouTube or turning on the fan for the soothing sound it creates, a white noise machine creates a pleasant hushing noise that works to drown out or dampen disruptive external noises.
One of the best white noise machines is the LectroFan, a digital fan and white noise solution that includes twenty different, digitally produced, non-repeating sounds. Unlike a fan or those rainy playlists, white noise covers all the available noise in the audible spectrum, making it more efficient at dampening sounds, allowing you to block out disruptions at lower volumes, creating the best possible workspace.
The multi-band parametric EQ speaker ensures consistent sound quality and clarity at all volumes, with none of the clipping or static that defines cheaper white noise machines that simply use pre-recorded loops. The variety of sounds make this appropriate for a variety of uses: you can have sounds you use to create an appropriate office space, sounds for meditation, and sounds for sleep.
It’s powered by either a USB power cord or the included wall adapter. It comes in two colours: white and black; and has a small, subtle body (10x5cm) that blends in among your other office furniture. It’s simple to operate: a single volume operator, separate buttons to cycle through sounds, and includes a sixty minute auto-off for using it as a sleep timer.
In some situations, however, you don’t want to dampen or block out sound. Maybe a lot of your work involves phone or video conferencing, maybe you just want to remain aware of what else is happening in your house. That doesn’t mean you should still be subject to the stress and disruption of irritating noise. Introducing: the Calmer. The Flare Calmer is a hearing accessory, not an ear plug, it doesn’t block any sound but rather softens how sound enters the ear. This might sound a little abstract, but users report feeling less stressed, less irritable, and healthier when worn — particularly when worn in environments that are noisy.
It works by providing a soft, smooth surface for sound waves to bounce off. While ordinarily sound enters the ear through reverberating off the ear canal, the Calmer works almost like a jumping castle, creating a cushion that minimises distortion. Flare suggests that, when properly worn, the Calmer promotes a “reduction in unwanted energy (distortion) between the frequencies of roughly 2 kHz - 8 kHz”, preventing the human stress response that accompanies environmental noise. Many customers with sound sensitivity, hyperacusis, sensory processing, misophonia or tinnitus also report improvements with the Calmer, though your mileage may vary.
Each set of the Calmer is made from a soft-touch durable silicone, no latex, and hypoallergenic and comfortable. They’re designed for long term wear — some people wear them all the time — so they’re going to remain flexible and soft even over extended periods. Because they fit just inside the ear canal and are hollow, they’re almost invisible when worn — by far the most subtle hearing accessory that we offer. It comes in two sizes, the Standard which fits most, and the Mini for individuals with shallow or narrow ear canals.
The Calmer also comes in a Calmer Night model, optimised for the comfiest night’s sleep with an even softer silicone.
Please note: the Calmer is NOT an ear plug, it doesn’t provide sound blocking.