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Working in a shared space: 12 modern desk accessories to try

Carve out some personal space at the office with noise-cancelling headphones, an updated coffee routine, cute desk accessories and lunch kits for grown-ups.
Getty Images Artur Debat
Personal-use accessories like reusable cutlery and a tea pot can cut down on the number of communal items one uses at the office.

As some industries trickle back to office life, many people are focused on how to make safe COVID-era adjustments. Communal items (like mugs, coffee maker, and even cutlery sets) are off-limits of course, so outfitting a desk with some personal-use accessories can help with comfort, mood, privacy and social distancing.

BUT FIRST, COFFEE

Transitioning from work-from-home back to office life but don’t want go back to the morning coffee run? This five-star-rated stainless steel Secura French press requires very hot (but not quite boiling) water and coffee grinds and could be the best desk mate ever invented. It has a built-in filter, double-walled construction (so it gets warm, but not hot, on the outside) and is dishwasher safe. Many positive reviews note the practicality of steel, which doesn’t shatter like glass can and keeps coffee hot for around an hour. (For a dark ground roast, this Kicking Horse blend is a top seller on Amazon.)

Who it's ideal for: Someone who wants more than one cup of really great coffee a day.

Why we're endorsing it: Price, construction, usability.

Where it could use improvements: Like all French presses, this one requires very hot water so a kettle would be necessary.

Size/weight/dimensions: 34oz.

If the coffee order needs to come a little quicker, the top-selling instant option in Canada is gas station-standard Van Houtte and there’s plenty of Starbucks VIA Instant options, like Columbia or Pike Place roast and pumpkin spice latte.

Who it's ideal for: Someone who wants their coffee right now.

Why we're endorsing it: Price and convenience; brand trust.

Where it could use improvements: Be mindful when choosing options on Amazon as there is sometimes price inflation with different vendors.

Size/weight/dimensions: Eight count/unit.

LUNCH FOR ONE

Pre-COVID, the most dangerous part about eating lunch at work was the possibility of it being nicked from the communal fridge. Now, it’s essential to keep glassware, cutlery and plates washed and separated from others.

This three-piece utensil set comes in fun colours like purple and blue, comes with a carrying case, includes a set of chopsticks, and is made from stainless steel (so it won’t rust and is sturdier than its plastic counterparts). 

Who it's ideal for: People who want cutlery that isn’t one-use plastic or easy-to-break bamboo.

Why we're endorsing it: Fresh colours, stainless-steel material.

Where it could use improvements: There’s no knife in the set.

Size/weight/dimensions: 27.3 x 7.11 x 4.5 cm.

If noodle soup is a lunch staple, this ceramic bowl is much more fun than a Styrofoam container. Dishwasher and microwave-safe, it holds one pack of noodles without overflowing, and is also great for oatmeal, hot cereal and cold noodle salads. 

Who it's ideal for: People who know their way around a pack of instant noodles.  

Why we're endorsing it: Every season is soup season; fun design and practical material.

Where it could use improvements: Unclear if the lid is secure.

Size/weight/dimensions: 27oz.

(For more portable lunch containers, check out some of our recommendations.)

AFTERNOON TEA TIME

For those who prefer a hot cup of tea over coffee, this two-tone tea pot from David’s Tea can be used with loose leaf (there’s a removable stainless steel filter) or tea bags. 

Who it's ideal for: Daily tea drinkers.

Why we're endorsing it: Modern design and brand trust.

Where it could use improvements: Not dishwasher or microwave-safe.

Size/weight/dimensions: 32oz.

There’s no shortage of ultra-tough travel mugs that can be shot out of a cannon and not spill a drop of liquid. For those who want a more tactile and modern option, these Hasami ceramic mugs are crafted in Japan.

Who it's ideal for: Someone who likes modern ceramics.

Why we're endorsing it: Thoughtful construction, clean lines and earth tones.

Where it could use improvements: As each item is unique, may not be exactly as pictured.

Size/weight/dimensions: 15oz.

DROWN OUT THE OFFICE DRONES

If you can’t listen to your desk neighbour talk about their cat’s eczema one more time, then consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. For a cost-efficient pair that uses Bluetooth technology, these Soundcore by Ankler over-ear headphones have memory foam ear cups and have up to 40 hours of use between charging (just enough for an average work week).

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who wants to lessen noise-induced distractions.

Why we're endorsing it: User reviews and price point.

Where it could use improvements: This isn’t for people passionate about high-end audio products.

Size/weight/dimensions: ‎19.5 x 18 x 7.8 cm.

WATER COOLER BREAK

Like coffee mugs, there’s no shortage of reusable water bottles (but it’s incredibly difficult to find one made in Canada). Better Basics is a B.C.-based company that creates low-waste and eco-conscious products, like all-purpose cleaner and reusable hand soap pumps. This sleek water bottle is double insulated and, if interested, the manufacturing information can be traced.

(For a selection of bigger water bottles, check out some of our recommendations.)

LET THERE BE LIGHT

If moving into an artificially-lit space or a change in season induces sluggishness (especially the 3 p.m. slump), this Verilux Happy Light has four brightness levels, three tints and is UV-free. It works with a plug (no USB) and has a shut-off timer.

Who it's ideal for: Anyone who wants a portable pick-me-up.

Why we're endorsing it: Price, user reviews and portability.

Where it could use improvements: This is a light and does not provide Vitamin D.

Size/weight/dimensions: ‎20.6 x 19.61 x 10.11 cm.

PENCIL CASES FOR GROWN-UPS

A cactus-shaped pencil holder isn’t exactly essential but in this case, cuteness trumps pragmatism. Get one (or all three colours) and create a little cactus colony that takes up very little space.

Who it's ideal for: Someone with a lot of markers, pencils and pens.

Why we're endorsing it: Adorable and inexpensive.

Where it could use improvements: It’s pretty tiny.

Size/weight/dimensions: 4.5” height.

To keep clutter at bay, this small desk organizer can hold miscellaneous supplies like scissors, paper clips, thumbtacks, chords, notebooks, erasers, rulers and lip balm.

Who it's ideal for: People who like to keep everything in one spot.

Why we're endorsing it: No assembly required, inexpensive.

Where it could use improvements: It’s small so paper items (like mail) likely won’t fit.

Size/weight/dimensions: 4.2” (height) x 4.5” (width) x 6.3” (length).

REFRESH AT YOUR DESK

Spraying water on your face at work might seem a little odd but if the French endorse it, who are we to disagree? Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray has multiple hydrotherapy uses (makeup primer, soothes and refreshes dry skin, calms redness and irritation) and the light mist of spring water feels really nice.

Who it's ideal for: Someone who wants a physical refresh.

Why we're endorsing it: Soothing, scent-free and hypoallergenic (which makes it safe for office spaces).

Where it could use improvements: It’s easy to go through a lot of spray in a humid environment.

Size/weight/dimensions: 50mL.