Work-life for many of us has changed radically in the past year. Rather than spending two hours commuting, your commute is now 20 steps. Rather than getting dressed up (or at least wearing adult pants), clothing consists of pajama pants and a T-shirt. Do you even remember the last time you laced up a pair of shoes?
Well, in case that level of effort is too much for you, we’ve put together a list of essential Alexa gear for your home office. OK, OK. Perhaps “essential” is a bit much when it really means not having to move your fingers two inches. But, you know, cavemen turned on their own light bulbs. We just command Alexa to do it.
Rather than running down all the Amazon Alexa devices (although I include a few), the traditional smart bulbs and smart plugs, I set out to find Alexa-compatible gear that might be a bit unexpected, possibly even delightful, and most definitely a bit ridiculous and unnecessary.
Let’s dig in.
Our living room has been sporting the brightest Hue bulbs we could find, which were great for mood, but terrible if we wanted to read or do any work. My wife and I needed more light, and we reached the point where we actually considered putting a bunch of Hue bulbs together in a cluster.
Then I found these lamps. They’re great. They only work at 2.4Ghz, which necessitated some fiddling with my router, but that’s often the case with lighting. We compared the light level from these to our Hues, and a Hue bulb at 100% matched once of these lights at 20%. We bought four.
No, I definitely don’t have one of these. There’s way too much bling there for me. But if you want a bright, colorful floor lamp, this might be for you.
It stands about waist height, so it’s not super tall. And while it makes a nice general-use Alexa-controlled lamp, I was thinking that you can probably use these in a studio or workshop, or any place where a long bar of light would be more helpful than a point light source.
I have a bunch of small remote-controlled fans that look like this. But this is in a whole different league. I rely on my fans in my office, work areas, and bedroom to keep air circulating, and the remote control is a necessity when I don’t want to get up.
But while I can tell my fans to oscillate using the remote control, I’ve lost or broken that remote a few times. I also can’t adjust the up/down angle of the fan remotely. With the Geek Aire (gotta love that name, as long as you don’t think about it too much), you can control up/down as well as left/right. It’s got a ton of modes, and it’s all controlled by Alexa.
I mean, seriously, are you a caveperson? Lifting your hand and pointing your remote control? Why bother when you can just speak a command?
These are ideal for both a corporate lobby and a home office. In the lobby, you can arrange them as if they were very large pixels and brighten up the space or even display your corporate logo. At home, you can use them to brighten a dark corner, reflect your mood, or even hook them up with IFTTT to have them change color based on triggers ranging from a new order to a new email, or even whether it’s going to rain.
A few months ago, I did a review and video of the Yale Assure Lever smart lock. This lock is different from many you may have seen, because it doesn’t come with a dead bolt and is intended for interior security. It’s a way of making sure the kids don’t get access to potentially fragile or dangerous items, or allows you to comply with “locked room” clauses that are often part of a non-disclosure agreement.
This lock works with the August smart lock system, which means that it can be locked by your phone, your Apple Watch, and even Alexa. The Alexa feature is great because if you’re on the other side of the house and suddenly have guests (does anyone ever have guests anymore?) or contractors in the house, you can secure the room without running to the door to do so. You can also check status by simply asking Alexa.
A microwave is almost a small office cliche. Commuters who bring lunch to work can go into the break room and heat it up in the office microwave. But at home? Do you really need a microwave in your home office? After all, the kitchen is just across the house (unless your home office is in the kitchen as mine was for a year). Then the microwave is four steps away.
I guess it depends. My current home office is upstairs and I do have a microwave in it. The microwave came with the house and honestly, I’ve yet to use it. But I have definitely thought about zapping up a bag of popcorn, putting my mic on mute, and sitting back to watch some of the particularly entertaining disagreements play themselves out in Zoom meetings.
In all seriousness, if you’re doing a “going to work in your office” thing where you try to carve out space away from the family for a few hours a day, having an in-office microwave isn’t a bad idea. Amazon’s basic Microwave responds to Alexa and you can give it commands on how to cook your food. The only thing missing is the ability to remove a package from the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and deliver it to your desk. But the AmazonBasics Alexa Robot is probably a 2022 release.
When we moved into this fixer-upper house, there was no heating or air conditioning in half the house. Instead, the previous owner just put a space heater in every room. One of our biggest projects on moving in was installing HVAC throughout the building. When we did so, I made sure to include support for a smart thermostat and I chose the Nest.
My office is upstairs and the Nest thermostat that controls this portion of the house is downstairs. While I certainly could run downstairs to set the heat, that interrupts my workflow. Instead, I use Alexa. In the summer, I ask Alexa what the temperature is upstairs to decide if I need to pre-cool the office before I go up. When in my office, I tell my desktop Echo to raise or lower the temperature depending on my comfort level.
This is a pretty sweet router for home office work, but I’m not entirely convinced D-Link’s marketing folks thought through the implications of “reboot the router” as a selling point. So what are we really looking at here? This is a powerful router that can participate in a mesh network, giving your home more overall coverage and reducing Wi-Fi dead zones. D-Link is D-Link. They’ve been making good stuff for years.
It’s the Alexa control that amuses me. Yes, you can reboot the router. You can also tell Alexa to enable or disable guest access. But oddly enough, you can’t command Alexa to block the kids once they’ve passed their bedtime. You also can’t tell Alexa to prioritize your work computer’s video stream instead of the kids or family watching Netflix.
It’s a solid device, but Alexa control has a way to go.
It’s probably time to recommend an Echo device for your home office. I have the hockey puck-sized Echo Dot, but the Echo Show probably would be a better fit. My office is in the back of the house and upstairs, so being able to see who is at the door (see Ring, next) would be something of a win (more on that next, too).
The new Echo Show 10 is more than twice the price of this device, and that one eerily follows you around, so I’m not a fan. Having an Alexa in your office can be helpful in other ways, too. For example, I just tried spelling “eerie” and was way off. So I asked Alexa and got the right spelling. I use her for math help when my hands are on the keyboard, for facts and information, and to add things to my lists. Office Alexa is a big help.
I’m recommending the smaller Echo Show 5 because it has a nice screen and doesn’t take too much space on your desk.
I had the Ring installed in my previous house and it worked pretty well. It still took 20-30 seconds to get a picture on the screen, but it worked. Most of the time, I was able to respond to a ring before the delivery person lost patience and left.
In my new house, where I really need to have something like the Ring, it doesn’t work as well. I’m at the far end of the house, upstairs in my office and I’ve found that the ring can take upwards of 60 seconds to show whoever’s at the door. It’s still helpful, because I can talk to that person socially distanced from across the house. But.. the slow speed does mean that some delivery folks are long gone before the Ring successfully establishes a connection.
OK, so strictly speaking, this isn’t exactly an office-related product. But you’re working at home and everyone’s gotta eat, right? Having a smart kitchen faucet — a $430 smart kitchen faucet — seems like a necessity, or it will once you learn about it.
Imagine walking up to your sink and asking Alexa to turn on the water. Or imagine asking for precisely one teaspoon of water, or a cup of water at precisely 100 degrees. This faucet can do all that. Do you need it? Well, that’s a matter of perspective. Do I have one? No. Is it something you needed to know about merely to reinforce either your faith in human progress or your observation that we’re all going to hell together?
Of course it is. I’m here for you. I really am.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the smart heater is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
It’s the pandemic, don’t ya know
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
With apologies to Dean Martin, this is an Alexa-powered space heater. This allows you to place the heater under your desk, behind you in a strategically perfect location, or anywhere else in your office where you want to stay warm. Control it via an app or by Alexa. And stay warm and safe this winter.
How we chose
As always, I started with items I’m familiar with and really like. Then I simply dug through Amazon’s listings, looking for highly rated items I could picture in a home office. After finding thousands of lighting choices, I decided to settle on just a few. Then it was time to go farther afield, looking for cooling, heating, fans, and even a wildly expensive but somehow not-overpriced-for-what-it-does faucet.
The bottom line is that Alexa is becoming ubiquitous. Where you choose to put her to work is up to you. Before I leave you today, there’s this: “Alexa, sing digital intelligence.” You’re welcome.
Tell us about your Alexa devices and how you’re using them in the comments below.